Message from Brandon Jewell | Director of Industry Engagement
“When life gives you lemons, learn to juggle!”
When the shelter-in-place order hit last spring, I admit it was difficult for me to understand how best to do my job, which is to connect teachers and their students to local employers to help young people explore and prepare for career opportunities here in Sonoma County. This is a crucial part of CTE curriculum because it helps students understand the real-world relevance to both the academic and hands-on learning they’re doing in class.
As April 1 rolled around, it was clear that school-community engagement was going to look different than ever before. But CTE Foundation was committed to finding a way to spark students’ interest through engaging opportunities.
I began by recording one-on-one interviews with local employers to help students explore careers from home. These were a hit for students and teachers, but we at CTE Foundation wanted to do more to actively engage students and allow them to interact with employers.
Over the summer, we conceptualized a year’s worth of virtual activities with a focus on local career opportunities. In October, we partnered with the Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Sonoma County Office of Education and local employers to design five live activities including virtual facility tours, manufacturing demonstrations and panel discussions.
There is no substitute for in-person learning, but we’ve discovered that virtual activities allow us to impact more students per activity than we ever could in person. Instead of a single class with 25 students, hundreds of students can engage with one activity! These virtual experiences provide an opportunity to be live and interactive, but recordings are available on YouTube, allowing students to learn on their own time.
Thanks to partnerships with local employers, these activities are made for and by local people, connecting students to career opportunities in Sonoma County and providing an important distinction between any other videos or learning activities found online.
November is Construction Month and we’ve partnered with the North Coast Builders Exchange to bring more live virtual activities to students. We look forward to bringing teachers and students a full school year of live and interactive virtual activities that offer the unique opportunity to connect with and learn from local employers.
We’d love you to get involved. Reach out to me to learn how you can support these virtual activities. To see all of the past and future activities, visit www.CTESonomaCounty.org/VirtualCCL.
–Brandon Jewell, Director of Industry Engagement, CTE Foundation
Industry partners in construction and engineering have been sharing their educational and career pathways with students through interviews, virtual tours and panels.
Check out all the virtual activities available here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Santa Rosa, California (April 23, 2020) – With education as we know it flipped upside down, Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation is pivoting to address the challenges that the shelter-in-place order has created for learning. Following extensive conversations with partners and funded programs, CTE Foundation is implementing three initiatives to support students and educators during home-based remote learning.
- Maker Kit Grant Program: It is well documented that instructors are struggling with the unexpected shift to teaching students from their homes, but CTE teachers have a particularly tough challenge due to the “real-world,” hands-on approach that the career technical education model delivers. Through surveys of high school CTE teachers and work-based learning coordinators in Sonoma County, CTE Foundation has identified that teachers are struggling to get materials to their students to support maker, engineering, construction and design curriculum. To address the need, CTE Foundation is offering grants for currently funded CTE courses to provide custom supply kits that support teachers’ instructional plans and allow for quality hands-on activities and learning from home.
- Multi-disciplinary Project Teams: CTE Foundation is partnering with Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) to support three high school interdisciplinary teams between now and the end of school year to create innovative remote learning experiences for students. Teacher teams at Healdsburg, Windsor and Rancho Cotate High Schools will collaborate to create projects that address material in each respective subject area and work with students and industry mentors to solve authentic community problems. “Mandatory remote learning in our schools poses significant challenges,” says Chuck Wade, program coordinator at SCOE. “But it also removes some traditional barriers – like bell schedules – to allow for true multi-disciplinary project development. We’re seeing this as an opportunity to support innovative and relevant learning for our students during the Covid-19 lockdown and I think it will carry beyond this crisis.”
Girls Tinker Academy Going Virtual: This two-week summer academy for middle school girls that introduces Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) concepts through maker activities is currently being redesigned to go virtual. Sonoma State University Assistant Professor Natalie Hobson, who designed and has led the Girls Tinker Academy for the past two years, is researching best practices and assembling materials to support girls’ hands-on exploring at home. “It’s not a time to be canceling programs like this. Girls need support more than ever to pursue STEM education and career pathways,” says Natalie. “By reimagining this program amidst this crisis, we can keep them engaged and connected to their peers and to learning.”
Funding to support these new initiatives is provided in part from a $15,000 grant from Sonoma County Vintners Foundation. The Vintners Foundation announced the awards last month and informed recipients they would be allowed to “repurpose” their funding as needed to address urgent issues related to Covid-19. In addition, CTE Foundation is continuing fundraising efforts through the crisis to support and expand these and other ongoing initiatives.
“We are grateful to the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation for allowing us to utilize the grant to address the very real and urgent needs of our educational system,” said CTE Foundation CEO Kathy Goodacre. “Our aim is to fulfill our mission to innovate the education-to-career experience for students, which includes pivoting our support in response to emerging needs. Career technical education is proven to increase student engagement which through these initiatives we hope to provide the support our kids need to remain connected and learning during this unprecedented time.”
Santa Rosa, California (October 25, 2019) – STEMhub, a web-based platform designed as a dynamic resource for women and girls interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and careers is now live.
STEMhub is the first online resource to serve as a clearinghouse for women and girls in the North Bay to learn about regional STEM-related opportunities such as classes, meetups, events, seminars, careers and conferences. It is designed to connect “learners” – those interested in pursuing STEM education or career pathways – with “mentors” who are already working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Nationally and in California, the demand for a skilled STEM workforce is growing and STEM jobs offer higher salaries than non-STEM jobs. Women working in STEM jobs earn, on average, 33% more than those in other fields, yet women account for only 24% of the STEM workforce. Women’s under-representation in STEM fields begins early, with gender gaps in STEM interests beginning in middle school and growing throughout high school, college and career.
To address these challenges, the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation launched Community WISE (Women Investing in STEM Equity) in 2017, a coalition of individuals and organizations wishing to invest in support structures for women and girls in STEM. CWISE has been working strategically for two years to identify innovative solutions that enrich learning experiences and inform career exploration such that more North Bay women and girls will be encouraged to pursue STEM education and careers. An example of this effort includes the successful Girls Tinker Academy, a two-week summer camp that utilizes maker principles and activities to introduce and teach STEM concepts (see Press Democrat article from June 30, 2019).
“STEMhub is a way for us to both broaden and deepen our impact for girls in the North Bay by allowing us to engage with potentially thousands of women and girls instead of just dozens,” said Amber Figueroa, associate executive director at CTE Foundation. “We’re really excited about the mentor component because research shows that when women and girls are introduced to strong STEM role models who are women, a career in these fields becomes as attractive and attainable as any other.”
The STEMhub web platform uses gaming strategy in its design and offers “badges” to learners for participating in various local STEM events, connecting with other learners and mentors, and for building a mentorship relationship. Learners are separated into pathways according to their current level of STEM participation and can move to other paths depending on their engagement with the platform. Once learners become more experienced in their chosen STEM fields, they receive a certificate from the platform, and they are encouraged to apply for mentorship on STEMhub to help other young women find their own way in any STEM field.
With direction from the CWISE Steering Committee, STEMhub platform development has been led by Dr. Julia Mossbridge, a scientist, technologist, and author who puts together technology teams. “This launch is really thrilling for me,” Mossbridge gushed. “I’ve been in this field for twenty years and this is the first time I’ve worked with an all-woman team, believe it or not. I’m not saying it’s better; I’ve worked with excellent men too, but for this project there is of course a feeling of commitment among these women. This experience reinforces my belief that we need more women in STEM not because it’s simply ‘fair’ or ‘equitable,’ but because we need people who think in many different ways to solve difficult problems, and my team has done just that.”
STEMhub is a community driven resource web-page, so community members with a background or experience in STEM – or simply with a passion for supporting women and girls to pursue STEM education or careers – are invited to begin populating the site with community events and mentor profiles. Simply log on to stem-hub.com to add community events or register as a mentor.
For more information, visit stem-hub.com and ctesonomacounty.org/cwise.
Santa Rosa, California (March 13, 2019) – The Career Technical Education (CTE)
Foundation Sonoma County has launched its newest initiative in partnership with
the county’s largest employers and education institutions. The Sonoma Corps is
a pilot program recruiting high school students in their senior year to prepare
them for a “gap year” work experience internship following graduation. Beginning in Fall 2019, up to 20 seniors from Piner
High, identified through a competitive application process, will attend
semi-weekly classes to develop work-readiness and technical skills, meet
employers, and explore how personal interests can lead to lucrative careers
with Sonoma County employers. Upon high school graduation, participants will be
assigned to a year-long paid internship based on their learning objectives and
aligned to economic development needs in the county. After successful
completion of gap-year internships, participants will be awarded scholarships
for tuition at a post-secondary institution, preferably into education pathway
programs at SRJC and SSU.
across the country are increasingly opting to postpone
their traditional academic plans and participate in a gap year experience, a break between high school and college that might include
travel, work or volunteering before continuing academic studies. The
trend supports increased demand for structured
gap year programs, which allow young people to explore their interests and
ultimately enter their post-secondary school more energized and focused. Data shows
how students who had internships where they could apply
the knowledge and skills they were learning in the classroom are more likely to find full-time employment
after college and to be engaged in their work.[i]
The Sonoma Corps concept was developed to further a
key strategy of Strategic Sonoma’s “grow our own” approach when addressing
local workforce shortages. In its competitive assessment, Strategic Sonoma
sites the demand for workers with mechanical and technical skills, stating,
“Education-dependent technology jobs grew 36% over the past decade – compared
to only 3% overall growth.”
program manager at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board and Sonoma
Corps steering committee member, sees that many in-demand jobs increasingly
require skills and knowledge that go beyond entry-level skills.
“For at least a
decade, we have seen local companies struggle increasingly to recruit and
retain skilled employees,” Brown said. “The 2017 fires exacerbated this problem
and it’s crucial that we develop a pipeline to train young people for careers
that will keep them in the region and support the growth of our local economy.”
population is aging faster than the national average – 28% of our local
workforce was over the age 55 in 2016 – and rapidly losing residents under 25
years old due to the region’s high cost of living and perceived lack of
opportunities to earn a living wage. Concurrently, many high school graduates
find themselves unprepared to enter college – financially, emotionally, and
academically – and instead languish in transfer programs with little direction
or motivation to persevere in their studies. These same students also lack
relevant skills for efficient transition to in-demand, skilled, high-wage jobs
which would allow them to stay local.
has a proven track record in creating and funding programs that create pathways
to careers and post-secondary education,” said Jim Happ, president of Labcon
and Sonoma Corps steering committee member. “This initiative leverages CTEF’s experience
with other successful programs like the North Bay Construction Corps and expands
growth of a skilled workforce pipeline for the industries that drive our local
economy. I look forward to participating in and growing the program so that we
can continue hiring skilled workers from our community.”
About Sonoma Corps
Developed in partnership with public and private stakeholders, Sonoma
Corps is a gap year program for high school students. Several industry partners are involved in the design
and implementation of the program, and have signed up to host a “gap year”
intern with their company, including: County of Sonoma General Services
Department; E&J Gallo; Keysight Technologies; Labcon; Straus Family
Creamery; and Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART). In addition to major
employers, key education stakeholders have pledged support to bring Sonoma
Corps to fruition: Jerry Miller, Senior Dean, Career & Technical Education
and Economic Development at Santa Rosa Junior College; Lisa Vollendorf, Provost
at Sonoma State University; and Stephen Jackson, Director, CTE Partnerships at
Sonoma County Office of Education. Jen Klose, President of Santa Rosa City
Schools Board (the largest district in the County with six high schools,
including Piner) is a close collaborator on Sonoma Corps, and will be
instrumental in its pilot implementation, evaluation and model development.
Finally, Ethan Brown, Program Manager at the Economic Development Board will
represent the Strategic Sonoma coalition on the Committee. Steering Committee
activities launched February 11, 2019. All partners named above gathered to
discuss motivations for joining the effort, come to agreement on program goals
and desired outcomes, and provide input on the ideal candidate for the program.
Monthly meetings have been set for the year to guide program development,
including senior-year course curriculum, gap-year internship structure, student
recruitment and wrap-around support planning.
About Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation
The Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation, founded
in 2013, works to improve the economic outlook for Sonoma County’s youth by
investing resources in a coordinated system of college and career readiness
programs that lead to high-wage, high-demand, and high-skilled jobs in the county.
The aim is to significantly improve overall student success and achievement
through innovative educational programs that simultaneously mirror local
economic trends and workforce demand. This is accomplished by gathering input
from local employers about the skills gap and workforce training needs to help
guide and coordinate opportunities to build a constructive connection between
educational institutions and industry leaders while retaining the flexibility
to respond to the challenges and needs faced by both.
to Work and Working to Learn, the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce Foundation (USCCF), June 20, 2017, https://www.uschamberfoundation.org/reports/learning-work-working-learn