The panel included Dr. Lisa Vollendorf, provost at Sonoma State University; Lauralyn Larsen, faculty coordinator for Workforce Experience and Internships at Santa Rosa Junior College, and Timothy Zalunardo, director teaching and learning with Santa Rosa City Schools. The presentation began with introductions and an overview of the topic by Kathy Goodacre, executive director with the Career Technical Education (CTE) Foundation.

She said with a mission to innovate the education-to-career experience to strengthen economic development and student success in Sonoma County, a number of education and workforce alignment partners have come together to achieve eight goals. These goals include:

  • Forging connections between educational institutions and industry leaders;
  • Incentivizing schools with seed funding for new and enhanced CTE;
  • Aligning key economic drivers and local workforce development;
  • Ensuring that grants are complementary to state funding;
  • Allowing schools to experiment with innovative ideas;
  • Finding connections to careers and local employers;
  • Emphasizing work-ready skills development; and
  • Establishing clear pathways to post-secondary education.

Goodacre reviewed the successes of the CTE Foundation, such as establishing 132 new or enhanced CTE programs since 2013 with 9,124 students engaged, plus providing $2.78 million in grants to schools. She noted that 78 percent of the CTE sections launched by CTE Foundation funding have been sustained by local school districts.

She described CTE as applicable for all students and involves a rigorous academic and technical course of study through real world learning.

“This prepares students for a range of career options. CTE students show higher graduation rates and are more likely to complete post-secondary education and training programs better preparing them to be college and career ready.”

Goodacre described a hypothetical portrait of students by first asking what are the skills, behaviors and mindsets every Sonoma County graduate should exhibit in order to thrive in this ever changing 21st century landscape?

“Our hopes and aspirations for all county students are that they show curiosity, empathy, communication skills, collaboration, ethics and initiative. These are traits that typically lead to success in the world of work today.”

Tim Zulunardo referred to the size of the student population in Santa Rosa City Schools, with a current enrollment of nearly 16,000 students. He said CTE pathways include culinary arts, public safety, auto technology, construction technology, agriculture, health science, biotechnology as well as geospatial technology.

Student internships are available locally through 180 Studios, Hogan Land Services, Sutter Hospital, the Humane Society, S&C Barns, G&C Auto Body, Cinquini and Pasarino, Inc., the City of Santa Rosa and more.

Other initiatives include specialist certificates available for Adobe applications and Microsoft Office computer studies, as well as five categories of specialist certificates applicable to Automotive Technology.

He said the new initiative called Sonoma Corps, launched by the CTEF, is a pilot program recruiting high school students in their senior year to prepare them for a “gap year” work experience following graduation that includes a one-year paid internship.

Some 20 students at Piner High School in Santa Rosa will be engaged in this project during the 2019-20 school year. This work readiness and technical skills program will also be offered to other high schools in the future.

Piner High was chosen because of the high number of low-income students directly impacted by the 2017 firestorm (68 students lost their homes) along with the high number of low-income and underserved students.

College and career centers are also expanding their services to include CTE pathways and linking students to real-world work opportunities.

For information on how employers can become involved with school sites as well as college and career center counselors and Work Based Learning Coordinators at six SRCS high schools, contact Jesse Damian, Director, CTE College Career Readiness, SRCS by email at jdamian@srcs.k12.ca.us.

Lauralyn Larsen said SRJC has an average of 27,000 students enrolled per semester. According to the latest statistics, the junior college awarded 109 degrees, 148 certificates, 24 adult education certificates and three apprenticeships.

The number of SRJC coordinated internships varies between 250 and 300 each year. Some 1,000 to 1,200 students are engaged in work experience assignments annually, and 364 community employers participate on SRJC’s advisory committees.

These academic and technical programs have increased the numbers of students transferring from SRJC to SSU and the UC system. This year 1,400 students transferred, 490 to SSU and the rest had an 80 percent acceptance rate to the University of California.

Employers can register a position or internship regularly on SRJC’s Job Board, join an SRJC Advisory Committee, become involved with the Alumni Mentoring Program through the SRJC Foundation, or become part of Employer Engagement Programs through the SRJC Career Hub.

Lisa Vollendorf, Ph.D., said Sonoma State University’s current enrollment is 9,200 students (35 percent local), and that there were 2,600 graduates in the Class of 2019. SSU alumni now total 72,000 graduates. Of this number, 40 percent of grads remain in the local area.

SSU offers 46 undergraduate and degree programs; 15 graduate programs and nine credential programs serving teacher preparation and workforce needs. Some 450 students are involved as interns annually, and 3,700 students are classified as community-based, service-learning students.

“Service learning” is a form of teaching that combines instruction with meaningful community service experiences. It represents a holistic approach that reinvigorates the linkages between young people and the institutions that serve the broader community.

Employer involvement at Sonoma State University can include posting a position, or an internship, @Handshake: www.sonoma.joinhandshake.com, or by participating in a Career Fair or by hosting a student lunch (www.career.sonoma.edu). Through the Community Engagement Center at SSU, employers can recruit students at annual Service & Internship Fairs, or by joining one of SSU’s Advisory Boards.

Panelists encouraged SCA business leaders to get involved in county-wide work-based learning. Contact Brandon Jewell, Director of Industry Engagement for the CTE Foundation. (Bjewell@CTESonomaCounty.org).