Innovative partnerships between colleges, schools and private enterprise throughout the Victor Valley are strengthening the economy by creating educational pathways that prepare the region’s students for successful careers.
Innovative partnerships between higher education institutions, schools and businesses throughout the Victor Valley are strengthening the economy by creating educational pathways that prepare local students for successful careers within the region’s top industries.
“The earlier we engage students in career exploration and help them define a career pathway which includes an educational plan, the more successful they are going to be,” says Roger Wagner, superintendent and president of Victor Valley College (VVC).
VVC has developed a partnership with Park University that ensures VVC graduates get full credit for their two-year degree when they transfer to the university. The university also has a new satellite campus at VVC, where students can acquire credits toward a bachelor’s degree. Not only does the partnership provide students with easier access to a four-year program, but it also gives them the expectation of higher incomes and rewarding careers with local employers upon graduation.
“Not often considered, but extremely important, is the fact that if we educate locally we are more likely to keep those students and their skills locally,” Wagner says. “Students who continue beyond the associate’s degree are likely to have earnings nearly 75 percent higher than someone holding only a high school diploma. Developing and keeping degree holders is critically important to maintaining and growing our local economy.”
Pathways to Success
Local employers and schools are also forming partnerships to create career pathways, says Thomas Hoegerman, superintendent of the Apple Valley Unified School District. Groups such as Opportunity High Desert and business partners throughout the region are working with Victor Valley schools to boost educational attainment. One such example is Adelanto-based Exquadrum, a research and development engineering firm that is helping local school districts set up precision machining academies.
Exquadrum CEO Eric Schmidt “has a real vision for what a school-industry partnership should look like,” Hoegerman says.
At Apple Valley High School, precision machining is part of a STEAM pathway that provides students with a hands-on background in science, technology, engineering, art (3-D design) and math, Hoegerman says. The program is part of the Apple Valley Engineering Extension program, which is flourishing with the support of the private sector.
“Local industry has been instrumental in guiding the design of the program and helping to purchase tooling, write curriculum and train staff,” Hoegerman says. “Further, local experts have served as mentors, provided internship opportunities and have given tours of local facilities for students. This partnership has served as a model for career exposure and program advisory in the High Desert Region.”
Victor Valley is also home to the new Barstow STEM Academy, a magnet school in the Barstow Unified School District that focuses on providing students in fifth through eighth grades with an accelerated education in science, technology, engineering and math.
Another initiative, the RAMP UP project, is intended to bring community colleges, employers, public schools and other organizations together to help students in planning their careers. Funded by a $15 million California Career Pathways Trust grant, the project is a career and technical training program that will use technology as one of the primary tools to bridge courses between public schools, VVC and other area community colleges, VVC’s Wagner says.
RAMP UP focuses on “seamless career technical training programs” that start in high school, continue through college and result in jobs within five career pathways, he says. These pathways include automotive/diesel maintenance, aviation maintenance, energy and utilities, health care and manufacturing and design – all fields expected to bring high-wage, high-skill and high-growth jobs to the region in the future. Interactive teleconferencing classrooms are being developed for each of the RAMP UP school partners. These classrooms will bring facilitated cooperative classes and virtual workplace learning experiences for students across the region. Employers will also have the ability to interact directly with students, creating opportunities for virtual field trips.
“This pairing of community college faculty and high school teachers will allow for collaboration on everything from aligning pathway curriculum to outfitting practical labs with an appropriate inventory of career technical equipment,” Wagner says.
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