New statewide research reveals there are more than 200,000 administrative support positions available annually in California, with a large percentage of these workers employed by staffing agencies. As Business Information Worker (BIW) advocates know, pathway courses like MS Office, Business Communications and Electronic Records Management are foundational to careers in many fields, including health care, entertainment, and technology. Yet, of the 110,000 students enrolled in pathway courses statewide, many do not continue and represent part of the 70% of California Community College students who leave the system in less than one year.
Developing a sustainable solution to this issue is one of the objectives of the California Tech Hire Academy grant funded by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. But research and prototypes are not quite enough. The vital aspect of this project is to provide a strategy in a ready-to-implement package made available to all community colleges. The ICT-Digital Media Sector team has been actively engaged in this process and has uncovered both BIW strengths and areas of need.
BIW Pathway Strengths
The California Community College system and most colleges already have many of the courses identified in the pathway. Currently more than 74% of colleges statewide have self-identified the courses on the BIW website. Matching third-party certifications and some digital badges are aligned with the pathway so that students can sit for validation testing and promote their skills on their LinkedIn profiles. Importantly, the Academic Senate has endorsed the BIW and is currently focused on C-ID standardization of the pathway which also conforms to Guided Pathways principles.
Increasing BIW Enrollment and Retention
Many students already enrolled in courses aligned with the BIW pathway don’t even know they are on the path, so helping them understand the value the pathway is to their employment and supporting their efforts is key. Prospective students need to be ‘sold’ the value of the pathway in order to make the necessary commitment to enroll and to finish.
The single most effective way to accomplish this is to focus on regional cohort recruitment and retention for the program at each college. Soon colleges will have access to a comprehensive BIW Recruitment and Retention Guide which details how to apply CTE Funding (Strong Workforce, Projects in Common, Guided Pathways) to initiate, manage and eventually create a sustainable community-based cohort support infrastructure.
Currently available CTE funding can be used to engage marketing and community support for this well-defined and detailed process. Statewide leadership through the ICT-Digital Media Sector Team will provide overall guidance to the effort and participating colleges will commit to the responsibilities listed. This program is compliant with the Guided Pathways institutional model.
The goal is a greater number of students completing the pathway and a sustainable community-based cohort support tradition that will evolve as a result of these efforts.