The inaugural OC Pathways Showcase was held yesterday at the Orange County Great Park to celebrate the first year of OC Pathways, a grant program initiated in 2014 by the California Department of Education that connects educators and industry leaders to equip students for college and career success. Led by Saddleback College and the Orange County Department of Education, OC Pathways comprises 14 school districts, nine community colleges, multiple universities, numerous regional agencies, and scores of industry and community partners working together to prepare Orange County students for high-demand, high-skill, and high-wage careers.
The OC Pathways Showcase, entitled “Equipping Students for the Global Innovation Economy,” highlighted college and high school students who have held internships in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields made possible by the grant. Leah Jamison, a Saddleback student in the U.S. Department of Education-funded Bridge to Engineering program, participated in a student panel moderated by Dr. Tod A. Burnett, Saddleback College President, and Dr. Al Mijares, Orange County Superintendent of Schools. The keynote speaker was Leland Melvin, a NASA Astronaut and former NFL football player, who shared his life experiences, noting that perseverance, especially after learning from failure, contributed to his career success.
In his opening comments, Dr. Burnett welcomed Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell of (District 70) and Assemblymember Matthew Harper (District 74), as well as numerous community college trustees, school board members, and local officials. Dr. Burnett stated, “We are creating a county-wide infrastructure to ensure that all pathways programs are aligned and meeting the workforce needs of business and industry. We are developing strong connections within our region to ensure that students and educators gain first-hand industry experience through multiple forms of work-based learning. ” Dr. Mijares said, “I believe that we can attribute our initial accomplishments, and the great accomplishments ahead, to the unparalleled levels of collaboration between Orange County secondary and post-secondary partners that have been forged by OC pathways.”
OC Pathways accomplishments for 2015 include:
· More than 8,600 high school students participated in OC Pathways programs across three industry sectors (health care/biotechnology, engineering/advanced manufacturing, and information technology/digital media
· Of the 108 high school pathway programs receiving OC Pathways funding, 48 – or 44 percent – are newly established. Of those, 29 are in the high-growth field of information communications technology
· More than 12,500 community college students were enrolled in OC Pathways industry sectors during the project’s first year, earning more than 600 certificates and 85 degrees
· Of the 38 community college programs receiving OC Pathways funding, half are newly created. Seven of the new pathways are in the digital media arts industry sector
· More than 2,500 high school students participated in one or more work-based learning experiences associated with OC Pathways
· In year one, articulation agreements allowing high school students to receive community college credit for taking career technical education courses through OC Pathways programs increased by 13 percent
The OC Pathways Showcase was sponsored by Saddleback College, Orange County Department of Education, United Way, OC Stem Initiative, Orange County Workforce Investment Board, and Growth Sector. For more information on OC Pathways and a list of partners, visit www.ocpathways.com.