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Initiative empowers vocational education

Programs supply real world work experience, certificates for job market

By Christian Urrutia, photo editor
On April 26, 2014

Career technical education programs are seeing a few changes to certifications and basic skills instruction as part of the Student Success Initiative but will remain as valuable as ever for students.
"A couple of things that are impacting the career technical education programs from the Student Success Initiative is that, first, we're developing stackable certificates," Dona DeRusso, interim director of economic and workforce development, said.
DeRusso said that students earning certificates could start building them on one another, ending with an associate degree in their desired field.
"We (Contra Costa College) are finding that students are completing at a higher rate because of how we're aligning the certificates," DeRusso said.
Administration of justice department Chairperson Rick Ramos said students continually go back to work after receiving certificates of achievement and accomplishment.
Ramos said, "Stacking certificates in  (administration of justice) for example leads up to an associate degree for transfer."
Ten programs of study listed within the CTE programs offer associate degrees, while 12 are available for certificates of achievement.
Certificates of accomplishment are also offered in seven CTE disciplines according to the college course catalog.
DeRusso said that as students progress through the low-level, mid-level certifications and eventual graduation with an associate degree, they have the possibly of earning up to $50,000 or $60,000 immediately after.
"The earning potential is pretty decent at entry level positions and continues to grow at each higher certificate," DeRusso said.
Wide arrays of CTE programs are offered ranging from automotive services and culinary arts management to nursing and health and human services.
CTE counselor Jeannette McClendon said, "Students trying to get into these programs usually are not intending to transfer with a degree. They have a skillset in mind that they want a certificate for."
McClendon said that CTE has partnered with economic and work-force development to serve ex-convicts along with any other students whose English and math skills might not be as high as others.
This is something that falls in line with what the Student Success Initiative is also changing for CTE programs.
"The second thing we're doing is incorporating skills instruction for math and English courses so students can gain skill attainment," DeRusso said.
She said this builds opportunities to move into college level general education classes.
Developing educational plans and making sure that there is a clear understanding of how the sequencing for stacking certificates operates, is another objective of the Student Success Initiative, DeRusso said.
An element of the Student Success Act of 2012 (Senate Bill 1456), also called the Student Success Initiative, is geared toward strengthening and supporting college student preparedness with emphasis on technology, increasing transfer and degree completion rates.
"All (three) grant projects for CTE are really geared toward student success," DeRusso said.
Vice President Tammeil Gilkerson said students in CTE programs know what they want and are doing well.
"How do we continue that?" Gilkerson asked.
Nursing major Aileen Guzman said students have to want to do well in an intensive and competitive field of study such as nursing.
"You have to work you're way up as it is a really difficult program to get into. But it's worth the wait," Guzman said.
Dr. Cheri Etheredge, nursing department chairperson, said changes implemented by the Student Success Initiative would only be restricted to nursing graduates needing to attain a bachelor's degree.
The emphasis is part of one of the goals the Student Success Initiative plans to improve transfer and completion rates.
"By 2020, 80 percent of nursing students need to attain a B.A. and we're collaborative with Cal State-East Bay and thankfully our attrition rates are low," Etheredge said.
Attrition means a reduction in the number of participants involved.
"Thankfully we do not have attrition rates above 15 percent and once students get in, it's sort of like a big family," she said.
Culinary arts Chairperson Nader Sharkes said the Student Success Initiative is brought up in division meetings but there has yet to be a substantial change within the program to align with the initiative.
He said culinary arts is already rigorous and the graduation rate is exceedingly high for the college and state.  

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