GP Workshop Highlights Community College Redesign with Students’ Careers in Mind

21 Feb 2020

Representatives from 55 California community colleges gathered in Sacramento on Feb. 18 for a Guided Pathways workshop; this one explored how colleges are redesigning with students’ careers in mind. Highlights included a compelling keynote about how community college students make academic and career choices and five breakout presentations from California community colleges about their comprehensive approaches to supporting students in choosing and preparing for careers.

Links to the presentations and handouts from the workshop appear below.

The event, “Redesign with Careers in Mind: A Guided Pathways Workshop,” opened and closed with “team time” — facilitated conversations among small groups of participants. In the morning, participants talked about what they hoped to learn, and in the afternoon, they synthesized their key takeaways and what they would take back to their campuses. Career Ladders Project produced the workshop with funding from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.

At the event, CLP released two new “GP Stories,” about work at Santa Monica College and Lake Tahoe Community College, which you can find here (scroll down to “Designing with Careers in Mind”). And we released two new narrative “Profiles of Redesign,” about work at Sierra College and Skyline College.

The day’s overarching goal was to investigate:

    1. Integrating career goals into meta-major redesign
    2. Rethinking career and placement services
    3. Addressing equity gaps in program and career choice
    4. Enabling students to continue education and career advancement

Dr. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, a professor of education and the associate dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, presented her findings (based on interviews with scores of students at a California community college) about the factors affecting career choices. Emerging from deep collaboration with students, faculty, administrators, and staff in a research-practice partnership, this research illustrates the complexity of career choices and the importance of understanding the lived experiences of students. Rios-Aguilar urges colleges to value and build on the assets — including workplace experiences and what she calls “funds of knowledge” — that students bring to community college. She recommends shaping and continually iterating programs and student supports to align with labor markets. She stresses the importance of engaging students directly in institutional redesign. And she urges colleges to call out and address institutional racism, including the harm caused by stereotyping and setting low expectations.

To learn more about Rios-Aguilar’s research on the factors affecting students’ career choices and her recommendations for California community colleges, please check CLP’s website and newsletter for an upcoming video of Rios-Aguilar. In the meantime, you may want to read “(Re)Contextualizing Guided Pathways to Provide Equitable Supports for Community College Students,” which Rios-Aguilar published last fall with colleagues Shelagh Rose of Pasadena City College and Rebecca Colina Neri of Indiana University.

Dr. Brian King, chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District, welcomed workshop participants. American River College English professor Jesus Valle offered a land acknowledgment. And Linda Collins, founder and executive director of Career Ladders Project, framed the day.

Here’s a quick look at the five breakouts, with links to PDFs of the presentations and to the handouts the speakers referred to:

    1. Restructuring the College to Focus on Careers and Equity — Counseling and equity leaders from Pasadena City College presented on how the college has changed its culture and restructured by braiding funds together, de-siloing functions, taking risks, building trust, and adopting a common vision centered on equity. (Here’s the college’s presentation.) This exciting work involved changing reporting structures and physical spaces on campus, as well as generating an all-new student-centered mindset.
    2. Transforming Traditional Services into a Hub for Career Readiness — Skyline College’s Dean for Strategic Partnerships and Workforce Development spoke about efforts there to reimagine career services delivery as part of Guided Pathways redesign. She outlined strategies Skyline College has developed in advancing students’ career-readiness, building high-quality relationships with employers, opening paid internship opportunities for students, and offering students a comprehensive suite of related services. (Here’s the college’s presentation.)
    3. Integrating Career Planning: Onboarding and English 1 — Santa Monica College career counselors  — and a second-year student — talked about reshaping onboarding and the English curriculum to support students in understanding their “why” and finding their career path. Their goal as a Guided Pathways workgroup is to ensure that each of Santa Monica’s 7,000 first time to college students has guided career exploration in their first semester. (Here’s the college’s presentation, and here are the supporting materials.)
    4. Developing Competency-Based Pathways — LA Trade Tech College talked about its focus on goals and using design thinking to reimagine structures and practices related to career development. LATTC aligned programs with industry-based competencies in part by imaging the resumes students would build as they progressed along each pathway: Was there strong work-based learning? What skills do students gain? Did the program include a balanced group of courses? Could students earn certificates along the way? (Here’s the college’s presentation, and here are the supporting materials.)
    5. Using Data and Partnerships to Integrate Career Exploration in Guided Pathways — Lake Tahoe Community College took advantage of its small scale to engage faculty and administrators across campus in redesigning pathways with students’ careers in mind. But much of their experience is applicable to all colleges, including streamlining the course schedule and offerings to ensure that students can fulfill program requirements within three years and deploying  Program Mapper so that students can envision their own paths through college to completion. (Here’s the college’s presentation.)

Each breakout repeated so that each attendee could join two. The college teams ended the day back together to consider what they had heard and learned and what might be most applicable on their own campuses. An eagerness to learn about redesign with student careers in mind was in the air all day, and the focus on a single broad topic made for deep discussions and clear action plans.

Join us on April 3 in Irvine for this year’s final Guided Pathways workshop, “Redesigning with Transitions in Mind,” also produced by CLP with funding from the Chancellor’s Office. Colleges are redesigning transitions to college to reach and support students, especially those furthest from opportunity. We will explore how colleges and their partners are reimagining transitions to college such as early onboarding, bridge programs, and dual enrollment — within the Guided Pathways framework.

Watch the news page of our website for updates!