The Renegades received a hefty sum of money from one of their advocates in the state Assembly: Rudy Salas.

The assemblyman joined Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian to celebrate and discuss the $1 million in funding secured in the 2019-20 state budget for workforce development programs at the college. Salas presented a large check to Christian and BC students during a news conference Monday.

"BC affects so many families and students across the entire valley. Coming to Bakersfield College with this money, we knew it would have a huge impact," Salas said. "What Dr. Christian is doing with her students and faculty is making a tidal wave of changes in our community."

The additional $1 million in funding will be used to:

● Expand the Industrial Automation Program at the Bakersfield College Delano Center by funding completion of the Computer Integrated Manufacturing and Advanced Programmable Logic Controller labs

● Provide resources for BC’s program by funding courses in Basic Electronics and Programmable Logic Controllers in Wasco

● Pay for equipment and supplies for all four courses at McFarland High School to establish a cohort of high school students pursuing a Bakersfield College Certificate of Achievement in Industrial Automation

● Pave the way for improved health care skills in Kern’s rural communities through the creation and expansion of health career pathways in North Kern.

This marks the second year in a row that Salas has secured $1 million for the program.

Salas explained he reached out to Christian through text message when he was speaking to state leaders and asked her to provide programs that would benefit from funding. She had a full list ready in a few hours.

"What Rudy Salas was looking for was, what I call, 'shovel ready projects.' He wanted to bring in the million dollars, but he didn’t want the money to wait for planning," Christian said. "We have well-developed and detailed plans and we can turn it around and put students in classes with an infusion of dollars."

Some of the workforce development programs available at Bakersfield College include environmental control technology (HVAC), automotive, ag business and construction.

During Monday's event, attendees watched a video from BC student Moises Marin De Luna who planned to address the crowd in person, but had to attend his shift in a grape field. He enjoyed taking apart electronics as a young child, and he realized he wanted to pursue technology one way or another. However, going to school, maintaining a job and paying bills was difficult, so he had to leave school. 

His brother encouraged him to go back to school a few years later, and he saw it was the right move to make. 

"I told them I would try one class and see how it goes because I don't feel capable," he said in the video. "I took Mr. Larson's AC/DC class and realized it was so easy for me because I pretty much knew everything."

Pursuing one of the available workforce development programs available has shown him he can have a career outside the grape fields. 

"I didn't know Bakersfield College industrial automation had a bachelor's degree. I was going toward a certificate but since they have the bachelor's degree now, I'm going toward it," he said. "The bachelor's degree will open so many opportunities for me."

North Kern Career Technical Education classes associated with the funding realized nearly 1,400 enrollments in disciplines including agriculture, electronics, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, industrial automation/industrial drawing and welding, according to a BC annual outcomes report published in May. This represents more than one-third of the more than 3,700 CTE enrollments in North Kern.

The $1 million will also go toward rural communities in Kern County such as Arvin, Shafter and Wasco, many of which have Early College programs implemented in high schools.

McFarland High School Principal Justin Derrick explained all 303 incoming ninth-graders this year will be on a pathway to earn between nine and 60 units toward completing a college degree and/or certificate by the time they graduate high school.

Rob Cobb, from the Wasco Union High School District, also said 47 high school graduates received an associate's degree in Wonderful's agriculture business or agriculture mechanics programs in addition to their high school diploma this past school year. 

Having these workforce programs available to students of all ages just makes sense, Christian said. 

"We’re able to respond quickly to an emerging workforce. Amazon is coming here and we need a workforce. Now we are ready to turn it around immediately and be able to provide that specific customized workforce training," she said.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

(2) comments


does Amazon really need trained HVAC technicians?......VOX...Amazon is already dealing with serious complaints from employees, who describe harrowing work conditions at Amazon’s warehouses in the United States and across the world. In July, Amazon workers in Europe went on strike to protest what they describe as hot, windowless, soul-crushing work environments. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has repeatedly attacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for paying warehouse employees so little that US taxpayers end up bearing the cost of their welfare benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid.


Amazon isn't the only corporation with employees on food stamps and the reason why is part time workers. Minimum wage at Amazon is real close to double that of federal requirements. Full timers also receive health and retirement benefits. I'm sure anyone picking produce would trade with them in a minute. Bernie's right that the Federal minimum is too low, but 15 bucks an hour with full benefits for a job requiring little skill and you just started isn't outrageous. Not having air conditioning, and or, a bad working environment is another story.

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