Bakersfield College celebrated its newly granted $1 million in funding for its rural initiatives programs in north Kern — Delano, McFarland, Wasco and Shafter — June 3 alongside Assembly Member Rudy Salas, KCCD Chancellor Tom Burke and trustee Romeo Agbalog, among others. Salas presented the check to Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian, Burke and Agbalog.
“Assembly Member Rudy Salas is a champion who moves mountains for our community. His portfolio of accomplishments in the assembly and his support of education in Kern County is remarkable,” said Christian. “On behalf of the Bakersfield College faculty, staff and students, we are thankful for the opportunities made possible by this $1 million, including pivotal expansions and investments in rural initiatives, HVAC programs for north Kern, implementation of a mobile welding program and expansion of the industrial automation baccalaureate program.”
Salas, of the 32nd District, represents part of the city of Bakersfield, as well as the rural cities of Arvin, Delano, Hanford, Shafter, McFarland, Wasco, voiced his support in Sacramento for Central Valley representation in the new California budget. He has been a consistent supporter of educational initiatives, especially those affecting the more rural areas of Kern County.
“This is a budget that delivers for the Central Valley, bringing funding to improve public health and public safety and investing in job training and education. To help train and grow our workforce, the budget allocates $1 million to Bakersfield College for expanded workforce development programs. Together, we are working to keep the valley strong,” said Salas.
The college has launched a series of rural initiatives, targeting BC’s surrounding communities to equip more residents with workforce skills through college education. Programs include the Wonderful Company’s Summer Agriculture camps and Chevron’s Project Lead the Way workshops while partnerships with the Kern High School District, Delano Joint Union High School District and The Wonderful Academy also prove to be game changers leading to increased higher educational attainment in Kern County.
Building on the successes of the main campus, Bakersfield College evaluated programs that would make the biggest impact on rural communities. Through workforce development analysis, a strategic plan was developed to expand offerings in these areas.
Funding will support expansion and creation of career technical education courses and open pathways for students to complete their education in through BC’s rural initiatives programs including:
• Launch of the first HVAC certificate and Associate of Science degree programs in fall 2018 targeting north Kern, which includes the cities of Delano, Shafter Wasco and McFarland.
• Establishment of a new chemistry course designed to satisfy the local general education science requirement for CTE degrees.
• Expansion of the Bachelor of Science in industrial automation to the Delano campus for the north Kern community.
• Expansion of the mobile welding program to provide a broader welding program to Arvin/Lamont and other rural areas.
• Expansion of the Rural Initiatives Distance Education project.
Bakersfield College’s student headcount has grown significantly in local rural communities, most likely a result of the college’s mission to bring college closer to home for its students. This past May, 38 Wonderful Academy high school students in Delano received their associate degree concurrently with their high school diploma.
“I am very excited to work with Bakersfield College on its mission to bring BC closer to home,” said Agbalog. “These workforce development programs are opening doors in underserved areas. The North Kern students enrolled in BC courses have exploded, growing 79 percent between 2013-2017. A skilled workforce is essential to a vibrant economy in Kern County. Assembly Member Salas has brought a critical resource to these communities that will positively impact families and generations to come.”
Tamara Baker is the community relations program manager at Bakersfield College, with a focus on Measure J. She previously worked at Kern Economic Development Corporation as the manager of research & marketing.