Occupational Education. Subcommittee of the Local Academic Senate

Occupational Education Committee Members

In Fall 1999 the Plenary Body passed Resolution 21.09 directing the Academic Senate to write on article on Occupational Education Subcommittees of the Local Academic Senates. This article is a response to that resolution.

Why should your college have a occupational education subcommittee of the local academic senate? There are a number of reasons why, but the most important one is that the California Community College System has been transformed over the last 6 years through occupational education. Millions of dollars have been poured into workforce training and economic development since 1991. Most local senate presidents currently are not drawn from the occupational disciplines, and often know little about occupational education and how legislation and occupational issues impact the community college faculty in general. An occupational education subcommittee could give a local senate direction concerning workforce preparation issues.

Such a committee can also serve to expand the involvement of occupational faculty in local academic senates, and provide important opportunities for leadership recruitment and development of occupational faculty.

A Brief History
Since 1994, significant changes have occurred in the community college through federal and state policy. The transformations are based on the efforts of the Governor and Board of Governors to improve the California economy through workforce and economic development. For example, the ED>Net budget was $1.9 million in 1983 (the effort was called Investment in People at that time) now the budget is $45 million. The California Workforce Investment Act (WIA) and other legislation identify the community colleges as a big player in workforce development. The Vocational Technology Education Act (VTEA) distributes $54 million on a FTES basis. There is $5 million allocated for vocational equipment through a competitive format. At a minimum, half of what is done in the California Community College System is done through vocational education. Below is a brief history of some of the policies and plans that impact the community colleges.

Regional Workforce Preparation reparation and Economic Development Act (RWPEDA)
In 1997, Governor Pete Wilson signed the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) into law. This action implemented the welfare reform legislation for California and also created the Regional Workforce Preparation and Economic Development Act (RWPEDA). The Act was subsequently amended in 1998. RWPEDA required the development of a coherent and integrated system of education and training linked to economic development. RWPEDA directed the Secretary of Health and of Trade and Commerce, the Community College Chancellor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to work cooperatively to develop and maintain this integrated framework.

California Integrated W Workfor orkfor orkforce ce Develop- Development ment Plan
RWPEDA mandated the joint development of the workplan for the development of the California Integrated Workforce Development Plan. "The California Integrated Workforce Development Plan proposes a significant transformation from our current practice of providing social services, welfare-to-work, education, workforce preparation and job placement services into a comprehensive model which defines how each program can relate to each other to build a stronger system."1

California Community Colleges were given $2.2 billion to offer academic and vocational education at the lower-division level and seek to advance California's economic growth and global competitiveness through education, training, and services that contribute to continuous workforce development.2

Workforce Investment Act (WIA).
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA), a federal program that has elements of both the Regional Workforce Preparation and Economic Development Act (RWPEDA) and the California Integrated Workforce Development Plan, was signed by the President in 1998. WIA is the latest in a series of laws that have provided federal support for workforce preparation and employment; it replaces the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) that was originally authorized in 1982. This bill became fully effective on July 1, 2000 and extends through 2003.

WIA differs from JTPA in the following ways:

1. It creates a State Workforce Investment board and local Boards instead of Private Industry Councils (PICs). The difference between the new boards and the PICs is that the boards will govern a consolidated pot of workforce preparation dollars including VTEA and some Proposition 98 dollars instead of the small amount of federal dollars formerly allocated for JTPA.

2. It focuses on a one-stop delivery system for state and local workforce investment boards;

3. Core services are available to all adults with no eligibility requirements, and intensive services for unemployed people who are unable to find jobs through core services alone;

4. It has training accounts through which adult customers can choose the training they feel best suits them; and

5. There are new accountability provisions to measure customer satisfaction of both participants and employers.

California Community College Economic Development Program (EDP)
In 1996, Assembly Member Polanco introduced legislation to establish a California Community Colleges Economic Development Program that was codified in Government Code. This is a categorically funded program that was scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2000. New legislation was introduced to repeal the program in the Government Code and enact and revise certain provisions of the program in the Education Code. This legislation defines the California Community College's role in economic development in the state. Currently the program is funded at approximately $45 million.

The Economic Development Program created a network of centers, regionally based consortia and industry-driven regional collaboratives. These are intended to develop and provide such things as: faculty mentorships and professional development; credit and noncredit programs and courses that contribute to work force skill development common to industry clusters and emerging occupations within a region; acquisition of equipment; as well as curriculum development, design and modification that contribute to work force skill development common to industry clusters within a region.

The Ed Net Advisory Board was established, and one faculty member was placed on that Board. However, there are some 22 other representatives on that board, including 10 CEOs. Economic Development funding has been let through the competitive grant process (RFAs), rather than through direct apportionment. Because of the funding structures and the lack of integration with traditional college structures; these economic development initiatives often operate as separate silos, disconnected from the work of the regular educational programs. It is imperative that local academic senates become more aware and involved with economic development issues and activities, and that they work to ensure that these initiatives become linked to existing vocational programs and offerings at a given college. These initiatives should enrich and extend occupational programs, not exist in isolation from or competition with them. To do this effectively, local senates will need the expertise of the occupational faculty involved with particular programs and initiatives. All of these programs have implications for community colleges and specifically for faculty in the classroom. In the Academic Senate November 1995 document, "Workforce Development and Preparation Initiatives: Implications for the California Community Colleges", issues were raised concerning some of these initiatives. (Access this document through the Academic Senate website: www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us) Some of those issues raised in the paper are listed below:

A) Revenue loss: vocational classrooms could potentially lose revenues.
B) Authority and responsibility: the potential for altering the balance of the governance structure could result in lessening responsiveness of education to the local electorate.
C) Faculty expertise: the proposals were void of the recognition of the primacy of faculty over curriculum and academic matters.
D) The student/public: The Governor appointed board could have the authority over the workforce preparation and development programs.

Whether these concerns were realized or not, members of the Academic Senate Executive Committee reviewed the workforce proposals, researched the issues involved and wrote a document that was adopted by the plenary body at the Fall 95 session.. The paper defined the faculty perspective on these issues when considered. Through the adoption of the "Workforce Development and Preparation Initiatives." paper, the faculty senate was instrumental in adding to the discussion and eventually helping to deter the amalgamation of VTEA and Tech Prep funds into one WIA pot.

Why should a local senate have a vocational education subcommittee?

1. There are millions of dollars allocated for vocational education annually, i.e., ED>Net budget is currently $45 million VTEA, WIA, CalWORKs also distribute millions of dollars annually.

2. Through national, state and local policies, education is being redefined through occupational education.

3. Issues that have implications for the entire college will be introduced through occupational education legislation.

4. A subcommittee can bring issues of importance to the forefront of the senate agendas and educate faculty as a whole on these issues.

5. Occupational education is massive and separate deliberation on issues is imperative when such a large force is driving education.

6. The language used for defining educational policy such as outcomes, accountability measures, and performance based, is familiar to occupational faculty and they can provide a context and some warnings concerning those issues.

7. The development of a occupational subcommittee raises occupational education and workforce preparation to its appropriate position within the overall college community;

8. Such a committee can help to expand the involvement of occupational faculty in local academic senates, and provide important opportunities for leadership recruitment and development for occupational faculty. Increasing the numbers of occupational faculty who serve on local academic senates, as well as on the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges will be critical in addressing and improving our educational efforts and responses to local, state and national developments.

9. Economic development has been added to the mission of the California community colleges, and local senates must develop more expertise in order to play an appropriate and central role in developing policies and practices in this new arena.

10. Students who receive education through state and federally funded occupational programs deserve the benefit of close scrutiny by faculty to resolve programmatic and legislative issues on a local level;

11. And finally, because some of the competitive grant dollars available through the economic development program will be targeted in new ways, beginning this year. There will be a new focus upon urban and rural economically distressed areas and upon colleges that have not previously been successful in the competitive grant process.

As Victoria Morrow, Vice Chancellor of Educational Services and Economic Development, put it, "The timing is perfect for colleges which have not accessed these sorts of grant funds to give them a try. The Chancellor's Office will be providing bidder's workshops and technical assistance for new applicants who are interested."

The Academic Senate provides a model for how faculty can significantly shape educational policies and priorities. The statewide precedent for an occupational education committee as a standing committee of the senate can be adapted by local senates and function in much the same way. Occupational education must be taken seriously at the local level; a majority of our students come to us seeking occupational education. Local senates must create structures that will allow them to address occupational training and education issues and policies in an informed, strategic and effective manner. A standing committee of the local senate is a key element in making that possible.

1 California Integrated Workforce Development Plan, prepared by Regional Workforce Preparation and Economic Development Act Joint Management Team, December 1998

2 Ibid