The California Community College system plays a fundamental role in preparing our communities for the future that we collectively want and need. In 2017, the Public Policy Institute of California reported that “California needs 1.1 Million more workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2030 to keep up with economic demand” and with that goal in mind, Bakersfield College and local leadership has stepped up to the plate.
In preparation for this imperative skilled-workforce need, three years ago Bakersfield College launched a series of rural initiatives targeting the more isolated communities within BC’s service area. With the support and collaboration of both Supervisor Leticia Perez and Michael Turnipseed, Bakersfield College and the Kern High School District partnered to develop a game changing proposal. The outcome has resulted in the expansion of dual enrollment, career and technical education, and the early college program at Arvin High School.
The 1+1+2=Game Changer program was designed to provide three educational pathways for Arvin High School students interested in pursuing higher education once they graduate from high school. At the end of the Game Changer program, high school students would have completed a full year of college-level general education courses, and require just one more year at BC to complete one of multiple available pathways.
The advanced leadership of Kern Board of Supervisors including Supervisor Leticia Perez, approved the $400,000 which kicked-off this partnership and has led to a substantial growth in our local college-going culture. During the 2015-16 academic year, BC offered 26 sections to 603 enrolled students in Arvin. The following year in 2016-17, the program nearly doubled to offer 43 sections to 1,161 enrolled students.
Meanwhile, the Rural Initiative Distance Education (RIDE) program, also funded by the Game Changer provides interactive broadcasts and smart classrooms at high school sites in Arvin and Delano to extend capacity and college course offerings to high school students in these communities. To support these rural students, a BC counselor is on site at Arvin High School twice a week to provide campus-wide support serving approximately 1,000 AHS students and over 300 Arvin-Lamont residents attending BC.
In 2017, the Early College Project expanded pathways for 9th grade students that could potentially lead to an Associate’s degree by or before high school graduation. This past May, Bakersfield College also graduated the first class of 38 Wonderful Early College students to receive their Associates degree in Agriculture Business a number of weeks before earning their high school diploma. BC currently has 60 high school students in Arvin on track to do the same.
Stepping up to the plate to prepare a skilled workforce demands reaching out above and beyond the rural high schools. The Workforce Investment Board in partnership with America’s Job Center of California (AJCC) and local community colleges have come together to connect dislocated workers and job seekers with the targeted industry training necessary to build a pipeline of skilled workers who bring home living and family sustaining wages. For example, in 2014 Supervisor Perez hosted a job fair for the soon-to-open Outlets at Tejon where the Kern Community College District provided training opportunities for the attendees and participants.
As we approach the three year anniversary of a wise investment known as a Game Changer, BC’s relationship with our surrounding rural communities continues to grow and the opportunities for local students are increasing tremendously.
With the recent announcement from Assemblymember Rudy Salas, who championed for and secured $1 million in grant funding to expand workforce development, through the support of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, local leaders and industry partners, it is an exciting time to be a rural Renegade.
Abel Guzman is the director of rural initiatives at Bakersfield College. The views expressed are his own.