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Making The Connection: Community College To Career

Making the Connection: Community College to Career

October 26, 2018

Last June, the Leadership Group kicked off the Community College to Career (CC2C) initiative. The goal: strengthen and diversify our local STEM workforce, and grow our middle class.

As the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project has shown, the percentage of California-grown STEM talent working in Silicon Valley is small and declining – 20% in 2014, 18% in 2015 – by far the lowest percentage among comparable US innovation regions. At the same time, our Silicon Valley innovation companies are struggling to meet diversity goals: women occupy only 30 percent of Silicon Valley tech jobs, with Latinos and African Americans filling these positions at four percent and two percent respectively.

So why are we working with community colleges to address these challenges?

In short, the CC’s have:

  1. Pure numbers – 2.1 million students, 60% of all CA undergraduates.
  2. Diversity – Silicon Valley community college campuses are 53% women; 71% students of color, with some local colleges over 80%.
  3. Talent – 48% of UC STEM grads transferred from CA community colleges.
  4. Industry alignment – unlike the UC and CSU systems, California CCs are mandated to align their training to fit industry needs, so they have the willingness and capacity to work with our members.
  5. Residence – Our CC students have deep roots in the Bay Area, and less housing sticker shock. This means lower recruiting costs and higher retention rates.

CC2C partners member employers and colleges on a range of activities, from mentorships, guest lectures, shadow days and internships, to direct-hire and incumbent-worker training. One of the most effective ways our members engage: ensuring colleges are providing relevant, up-to-date industry training.

With the goal of creating a continuous feedback loop between industry and education, in 2018 we are bringing together community college leaders and member companies to discuss employer needs and college training capacities in three industry sectors: Healthcare/Biotech, Technology (ICT/Cybersecurity), and Energy & Environment.

For our December 12 discussion, generously hosted by XL Construction, we will bring in the California Community College Chancellor’s Office sector leads in:

Advanced Transportation & Logistics, Energy, Construction & Utilities, and Agriculture, and Water & Environmental Technologies.

To provide best-practice models for our members, these community college leads will be joined by employer partners who already have strong relationships with local community colleges.

Initial results from our first two workforce conversations in Healthcare/Biotech and Technology this September are encouraging. The forums engaged 19 senior human resources and corporate responsibility leads from member companies, as well as representatives from 14 colleges. And the face-to-face, honest conversations afforded participants the chance both to answer basic employer questions such as “who do I contact at a college?” and “where do I find programs preparing students to work in my sector?” as well as tackle more complex partnership opportunities – “how can we create industry-sector-, or even company-specific cohorts?,”and “how can we work together to speed up the curriculum development process?”

One central takeaway – if our region aspires to fill more STEM positions with local, diverse talent, community colleges and industry require a much higher degree of coordination. Through CC2C, the Leadership Group is leveraging its longstanding relationships with both sectors to act as a communication hub, convening, translating, and shining the spotlight on models of industry-education engagement worth emulating.

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