`Butte College lands $5.8 million grant to keep students in school, destined for jobs

Butte College and the Butte-Glenn Career Pathways Consortium have landed a $5.8 million grant that college officials hope to use to keep students in school and destined toward college and high-demand local jobs.

The Career Pathways Grant from the California Department of Education aims to provide high school and other young students with exposure to college and career opportunities. It’s a competitive grant, and the Butte College partnership was one of 39 grants awarded from among 123 eligible applicants requesting $709 million of the $250 million in available funding.

“Faculty are excited about providing a different and new way of helping students learn and be successful,” said Denise Adams, dean of Butte College Career and Technical Education. “It’s a lot of money and I think it’s going to benefit a lot of students.”

The consortium is a regional partnership with Butte College, Butte and Glenn county offices of education, Butte and Glenn county school districts, businesses, community organization, the local workforce investment board and Chico State University. The grant will serve more than 2,500 students annually over the next five years, integrating academic and career-focused curriculum to build or expand 34 career pathways in 17 partner secondary schools.

Students can choose from high-skill, high-wage career pathways in engineering and architecture, health, information and community technology, and manufacturing and product development.

“We are trying to get a connection between what’s going on in education and what’s going on in business and making sure those two match,” Adams said. “It’s an attempt to better prepare students for a global economy.”

Using linked learning models with industry-focused curriculum and hands-on experience, the program will better expose students to opportunities and give them the experience they need to succeed, she said. As examples, she noted students in science class will get to practice engineering and math students will have opportunities in robotics.

“It’s a different way of looking at education,” Adams said. “A lot of people think what is going on in schools right now isn’t working for kids.”

High school teachers will be instrumental in implementing the program, which is supported by curriculum from the National Academy Foundation, Project Lead The Way and the Health and Science Pipeline Initiative. Students will learn early on what coursework they need to complete the career path and follow a flexible yet goal-oriented plan.

“We are really hoping it helps students get a little better perspective on jobs and careers they maybe haven’t thought of before and get them more prepared for when they do walk into college or universities,” Adams said.

The program should also reduce struggles some students have in trying to graduate in a timely manner.

“Some students we see come to the college or university level don’t really have a focus. They don’t know what they want to be when they grow up,” Adams said. “It’s possible for a student to mill around for a semester or a year or more to try to see what fits.”

With early exposure, the hope is they will head in the right direction earlier, saving time, money and effort. While consortium partners know not all the students will stay local, the hope is it will build the region’s qualified and prepared workforce, Adams said.

Superintendent Tim Taylor said in a statement that Butte County Office of Education “could not be more excited” about the partnerships that obtained the California Career Pathways Trust. Tracy Quarne, superintendent of Glenn County Office of Education, echoed the excitement and wished the best for students who take advantage of the program.

“Students in Glenn County will receive genuine opportunities to prepare for a real career in the field of their choice — an educational option that has been a tad scant for far too long,” she said in a statement.