As a native of Bakersfield and a fourth-generation family business owner, I am writing to express my full support of the Kern Community College District’s bond proposal, Measure J, and to underscore the significance of Measure J on local educational and workforce development.
The $502.8-million bond is paramount in updating infrastructure across the KCCD’s three campuses, Bakersfield College, Porterville College and Cerro Coso Community College.
Yes, this updated infrastructure is necessary to have a prepared and competitive local workforce. However, when I reflect on the value of the bond, I see more than a capital infusion into outdated infrastructure. I see a decision that will impact our community for years to come. A vote Yes on Measure J is necessary for the following reasons:
• Update campuses to support 21st century needs and growth: For Bakersfield College alone, new funds are necessary to upgrade outdated buildings constructed in the 1950s on the largest campus in KCCD. BC’s current buildings have old bomb shelters, storage spaces and areas that need to be removed and rebuilt to make way for more students and programs. Yes, you read this correctly, bomb shelters take up needed space.
It is time to renovate and rebuild BC to increase space for learning. As Kern County’s population grows, the outdated infrastructure has now reached a critical situation and is not equipped to meet these demands.
• Build on success stories and expand its Veteran Resource Center program: Kern County needs job training to support the current needs of our businesses and employers. Often employers stress the desire to hire locally but struggle to find qualified local candidates. KCCD is providing job training in primary job growth areas such as professional and business services, education and healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and government.
In addition, Measure J will also support the expansion of a Veteran Resource Center, which provides support services to veterans as they explore new careers or continue their education.
• Use funds efficiently to rebuild: The measure will require citizen oversight and yearly audits to ensure that all funds are used locally, effectively, and as promised. The projects funded by Measure J were chosen following the development of an extensive KCCD Master Plan which assessed current and future needs and laid out a roadmap for how to meet them.
BC will use 84 percent of the funds for major capital outlays like remodeling and constructing new buildings like the science and engineering building and a new agriculture center. The rest will be used for areas like technology, energy efficiency, and modernization.
• Supports the outlying communities: As Kern County has grown, so have the needs of our outlying communities. Measure J will invest in improving infrastructure and learning spaces in Delano. For Arvin, Lamont and Greenfield, KCCD will invest in creating classrooms and learning spaces for local residents. Having a local educational facility in a rural community is transformative.
The decision is paramount. KCCD trains and educates more than 40,000 residents per year, which in turn fuel our economy by “growing our own” entrepreneur and employee success stories. For our community, voting Yes on Measure J is a direct investment in our workforce of the future. This is paramount for Kern County in order to diversify and grow our economy.
It is time to bring our community colleges into the 21st century.
J.P. Lake is chairman of the board of a private school.