Orange County Awarded $15 Million to Create Career Pathways that Prepare Students for the 21st Century Workforce

For Immediate Release: 
May 30, 2014

The California Department of Education has awarded the Orange County Career Pathways Partnership (OCCPP) a $15 million California Career Pathways Trust grant to create a countywide, self-sustaining infrastructure that builds, supports, and expands rigorous and innovative career pathways for students from kindergarten through college.

OCCPP is the first countywide consortium comprised of fifteen Orange County school districts; nine community colleges; University of California, Irvine; California State University, Fullerton; four Regional Occupation Programs; three Workforce Investment Boards; VitalLink, and over 100 business and industry partners. Led by the Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) and Saddleback College, OCCPP is one of twelve recipients awarded a $15 million grant and represents the largest regional consortium in the state.

OCCPP will make career pathway programs accessible to Orange County students from all academic, socio-economic, and achievement levels ranging from Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students, to alternative education students, foster youth, and students with physical and learning disabilities. These programs will also align career courses with rigorous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), California Academic Standards, and Career Technical Education Model Standards instruction that provide real-world application of career concepts, linking the content to industry needs.

Al Mijares, Ph.D., County Superintendent of Schools, stated, “This grant award is a recognition of the collaboration that has been forged among K-12 education, higher education, businesses, and community partners in Orange County. The funding will empower OCCPP to achieve the vision of a countywide infrastructure to better prepare students for the 21st century workplace and will provide a model for other counties and regional level programs. This initiative will further equip Orange County students to lead the nation in college and career readiness and success.”

Students in the pathway programs will participate in career exploration and on-the-job training that prepare them to earn certificates, associate degrees, baccalaureate degrees, and advanced degrees in three target sectors: Health Care/Biotechnology; Engineering/Advanced Manufacturing/Design; and Information Communication Technology/Digital Media.  The goal of this initiative is to enroll 17,000 Orange County students in career pathways in these sectors by 2017-18.

Dr. Tod A. Burnett, President of Saddleback College, stated, “This partnership is an unprecedented effort to form an effective and lasting countywide partnership to improve career pathways for all students that strengthen our local economy.  We thank all of our K-12, college, university, business, and industry partners for their outstanding commitment to this effort.”

Andrew Munoz, Executive Director of the Orange County Workforce Investment Board, stated, "The business community is excited about the opportunity presented with this grant award. OCCPP has developed a true countywide approach to develop long-term strategies that will effectively prepare students entering the workforce.  Orange County businesses are eager to assist in creating real connections between the classroom and today's workplace."