What’s New and What’s Next: An Orange County Career Education Dean Roundup Programs

October 31, 2019
Collage fo OC CE Deans

There’s little doubt that California’s community colleges deliver tremendous bang for the buck, both in terms of the increased salaries earned by graduates and the value those graduates bring to the regional economy. But don’t take our word for it, just look at the data.

The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office Salary Surfer website measures student salaries two years prior to receiving certificates or degrees, and then two and five years after completion. The results: Average salaries for those who complete a certificate program increased from $31,130 to $43,202 two years after completion, an increase of 38.8 percent. Five years after, salaries increased to $53,334—an additional 23.5 percent.

For students earning degrees, the average increases are even more impressive: two years after graduation, students report an average 59.7 percent increase in salaries, adding another 26.1 percent five years after graduation.

Salary increases vary by industry, of course. But because Orange County’s community colleges are focused on turning out graduates in in-demand fields, most programs boast significant student outcomes while supplying industries with the skilled workforce they need to thrive.

At Santiago Canyon College, for example, graduates of the Drywall and Insulation program see an average earnings increase of almost 48 percent, while those in Accounting enjoy a 45 percent boost in pay. Similarly, Saddleback College Registered Nursing graduates can expect a median earnings uptick of 122 percent. Golden West College students who graduate with certificates in Business Administration or Business and Commerce saw increased earnings of 173 and 76 percent, respectively.

To celebrate these continued successes, we talked to the deans of Orange County’s nine community colleges to find out why career education is important, what keeps them coming to work, and what exciting career education programs they’re working on. Read on to learn more about how these exceptional deans and their colleges are helping build brighter futures for everyone!

Coastline College

Dr. Nancy S. Jones, Dean of Career and Technical Education

What new career education project are you most excited about?

The faculty are working on several projects that will soon be available to students, including curriculum development for Data Analytics, Cyber Forensics/Incidence Response, Process Control Technician, and potentially new aspects of Entrepreneurship.  

What career education program did you wish more people knew about?

There are actually two programs that I would like to highlight: Process Technology, that provides students with the skills to work in the control room of an oil refinery. We work closely with the South Bay WIB and the local unions to provide a pathway to high paying jobs. The other is Emergency Management/Homeland Security—this is a critical pathway for helping cities and other institutions protect the public in times of disaster.  

Cypress College

Dr. Kathleen Reiland, Dean, Career Technical Education

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of being a career education dean is when I get emails from students who have just been hired in a field they love and were never quite sure they could achieve, but they prevailed.

Why is career education important?

Career education is often the path out of poverty for students who do not have the time and resources for four-year colleges. We have found in our own programs that many of our instructors attended two-year colleges, learned a skill, and went to work, only to return to a four-year college to earn advanced degrees once they could afford them. After successful careers in the industry, they come to teach at a community as a way of giving back to future students seeking careers that they might never have imagined for themselves. 

Fullerton College

Carlos Ayon, Interim Dean, Business, Computer Information Systems, and Economic Workforce Development

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of working as a dean in the area of career education is collaborating with our faculty and external partners to design curriculum and programs that prepare our students to secure employment and succeed in the workforce. It is so rewarding to see our students chart a path through our courses, secure internships, and move on to employment and future successes!

What new career education project are you most excited about?

Our computer gaming program was recently launched and has been well received by our students. We have seen steady increases in enrollments and the formation of a computer gaming student organization. We even offer a course at a local junior high school. This interest and excitement from our students, in tandem with the established industry needs, really highlights this program as an area for growth.

Golden West College

Christopher Whiteside, Executive Dean, Business and Career Education

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part is meeting the students in our programs and being able to share my experiences in their areas of study and motivating students. Most students are eager to learn that I have work experience and/or additional education related to many of the programs we have at Golden West College. An example I frequently share with our Automotive Technology students is that I grew up rebuilding classic cars and that my family owned a repair shop where I worked occasionally. I share the most difficult repair jobs I undertook and it is exciting to connect with the students at a very personal level. This connection then allows me to share my career progression and dispel the idea that I have been an administrator my whole life and speak to the student from a position of knowledge and support.

What new career education project are you most excited about?

I do not have one but many non-credit career education programs at Golden West College. Why non-credit you ask? The courses are tuition-free and lead to rapid skill development and employability. Students, in a short amount of time, can gain essential skills and certificates for employment or transition smoothly into our credit-earning programs to earn a degree. It’s like I tell our students, “Bring your commitment to succeed, and you will.”

Irvine Valley College

Debbie Vanschoelandt, Dean of Career and Continuing Education, and Integrated Design, Engineering and Automation (IDEA)

What is your favorite part of your job as a career education dean?

Creating educational and employment opportunities for students while working with faculty who are passionate about their programs and the success of students.  

Why is career education important?

Career education is important because not all students share the same journey. It is critical education provide an opportunity for all students, no matter their end goal. Career education provides students with opportunities to expand their knowledge and skills in order to gain employment or improve their current employment in the form of wage gain or promotion. 

Orange Coast College

Lisa Knuppel, Dean, Career and Technical Education/Career Services

What new career education project are you most excited about?

I am excited about the many ways we are innovating and creating career education programs that are aimed at helping students thrive in a workforce that is rapidly evolving through technology. One such program is our Drone and Automation program, which is training students to operate and use drone and unmanned automation technology in a vast array of different sectors, from construction to public safety to agriculture and more. I am equally excited about our new Immersive Media (AR/VR) program, which is ramping up to educate students in the versatile skills necessary to produce and use augmented and virtual reality technology. We have strong working partnerships with huge industry movers with big-brand names and our local high school districts, who recognize the current and future value of these skills in the workforce in almost every sector, from education to industrial technologies to film and computer gaming and more.   

Why is career education important?

Career education is not just important—it’s crucial to a healthy, growing, diverse community. Every student has a unique set of life circumstances, personal goals, and talents that will influence their career path, and there is no single program of study or pathway that works for everyone. Career education programs are one important piece of the overall education “menu” of opportunities that community colleges can offer to help students find a career that fits them and their goals. CE programs allow people to get into the workforce more quickly and build their career from within the industry, earning while they’re learning.   

Saddleback College 

Kari Irwin, Assistant Dean, Career Technical Education

What is your favorite part of your job?

I love learning and working with a wide variety of high-quality, industry related programs! With 40 career programs at our college, there is never a dull day. I’m always learning about new technologies, future trends, and cutting-edge careers. Who wouldn’t love that!

What new career education project are you most excited about?

I’m very excited to be working with the Sustainable Horticulture & Landscape Design program, who is partnering this year with the Child Development program. The Landscape Design students are designing outdoor learning spaces for young children in which they will participate in planting and maintaining gardening areas. Some of the garden areas will have the primary purpose of providing a space which connects children to learning experiences in a natural setting. Other spaces will be designed for children to plant and grow edibles, which will be incorporated into their daily nutrition. The Child Development and Education students, along with the CDC staff, will assess the plans with regard to developmentally appropriate spaces for each age group and will participate in the implementation of the plans. The Outdoor Learning & Gardening project incorporates cross-discipline collaboration and provides students with real-world experience.

Santa Ana College 

Dr. Larisa Sergeyeva, Dean, Human Services and Technology

What career education program did you wish more people knew about?

There are so many! Here are a couple. The automation industry is rapidly evolving with advancements in technology. Our Robotic Welding program not only teaches a student the requirements of welding, but also trains them in computer programming.

Our Fashion Design and Merchandising program has unique printing and embroidery capabilities. We have classes that teach students how to create designs, and then we have equipment to get their art on an actual garment by either screen-printing or direct-to-garment printing.

What new career education project are you most excited about?

Again, so many! Our Fashion department is introducing 3D technology this spring semester. We are partnering with Tuka Tech 3D software to train students in this innovative program. Students will learn how to design a garment and create a 3D avatar sample of it. Here is a link with some visuals of the process: https://tukatech.com/tuka3d/​. This new technology will allow designers to really see the design and fit of their garments without having to pay for expensive and timely first samples—it’s going to be an industry disrupter! 

Santiago Canyon College

Elizabeth Arteaga, Interim Dean, Business and Career Education

What new career education project are you most excited about?

Santiago Canyon College (SCC) is the host of the Energy Construction & Utilities (Automation Pathway ) project through the Strong Workforce Regional Program.  Santiago Canyon College is developing an Automation Fundamental Certificate to meet the need of industry and is working with the other six colleges in Orange County for curriculum alignment. Each program and each school have their own existing courses or will create new courses that align with the general scope of this Automation Fundamentals Program.  The participating colleges include Cypress with their HVACR and Mechatronics programs, Fullerton College with their Construction and Theme Park Technician programs, Santiago Canyon College with our Water/Water Management and Robotics programs, Saddleback College with their Electronics programs, Irvine Valley College with their Electrical, Industrial Electronics and Mechatronics programs, and Orange Coast College with their HVACR and Electronic programs.

Why is career education important?

Career and Education give students the academic, technical and employability skills needed for postsecondary and workplace success. Career Education classes provide students the ability to learn the skills in order to help them gain and maintain a job in the future.  They are given real-world examples and gives the student what’s needed to succeed for life: technical skills, academic skills and employability skills. In addition, career and education helps students see how what they’re learning applies to the needs of employers.  Regardless of whether students are headed for college or the workforce, this type of education will help them prepare for the future. In fact, college-bound students can get job experiences to help them define their career plans, identify an appropriate course of study and help pay for tuition.  Just think of the benefits the student will receive by gaining not only a solid foundation in academics, but also hands-on, technical experience and know-how.