Career Education Helps Local Residents 
Reach the American Dream

Miriam Macias

PALM DESERT, Calif., December 18, 2017 — Anyone questioning the power of a community college career education program to transform a person’s earning power need not look beyond Miriam Macias for proof. Her parents immigrated to California from Mexico. With little more than an elementary school education and dreams of a better life for their children, the family lived paycheck-to-paycheck from the wages earned by their father toiling as a handyman and gardener.

Today, Miriam’s father’s dream of a better life for his children in coming true. Thanks to a comprehensive effort at the College of the Desert that prepares students with little or no experience to work in industries such as alternative energy, advanced lighting, and building control and environmental systems, Macias, 22, landed an internship with a Palm Springs-based company that led to a good-paying job monitoring solar panel software and systems performance. Now she’s on her way to UC Merced to further her career as a mechanical engineer.

“College of the Desert’s Career Education programs are perfect, whether you’re a student just out of high school who isn’t sure what you want to do, or whether you’re barely making it while trying to raise your children,” Macias said. “The learning is tied to what you’re going to be doing out in the field, and the instructors have a lot of industry experience and the connections to help you get your foot in the door.”

In fact, community college career education programs throughout the region are playing a pivotal role in promoting social mobility. College of the Desert has one of the highest social mobility rates in the nation, according to a recent study conducted by The Equal Opportunity Project, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and tuition records. Among the other success stories in San Bernardino and Riverside counties:

  • Students in the Business Administration and Business Management programs at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa are boosting their earnings by 75 percent, according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. Even successful business owners are coming back to Crafton to pick up the latest skills in accounting, marketing and business structure.
  • At Copper Mountain College in Joshua Tree, students enrolled in the General Business program are boosting their earnings by nearly 80 percent. That’s because the General Business Associate Degree Program combines lessons in computer information systems with curriculum encompassing business and business law. Another factor: the program collaborates with local K-12 systems to enable high school students to earn college credit before they graduate.
    At Palo Verde College in Blythe, 96 percent of students who enroll in the Environmental Technology and Fire Science Technology program are now earning the regional living wage. The Fire Science Technology program has a strong working relationship with the Riverside Fire Department, which uses the courses to train new and established staff, as well as the Industrial Emergency Council.
  • At Mt. San Jacinto, students enrolled in the school’s General Engineering Technology program more than double their earnings in part to the program’s collaboration with the California Land Surveyors Association. In addition, instructors are industry experts with decades of experience, and a strong internship component motivates students to gain experience in their field that could lead to potential employment.
  • At Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga, the Logistics and Materials Transportation program is boosting student earnings by 97 percent. The program is successful because it trains students for employment in the Inland Empire’s leading industry.

Many students enrolled in the region’s Career Education programs had no previous experience in the fields they are now studying. That was the case with Riverside’s Mitchell Powless, who signed up for Norco College’s renowned Logistics Management Program. Just a few years after graduating, Powless is on the verge of being promoted to a management position at a Riverside-based firm.

“I cannot express how happy I am to see graduates like Mitchell succeed,” said Rex Beck, a professor in the logistics program who has worked in the industry for more than two decades. “To have helped Mitchell and his young family is rewarding, and to know what he and other graduates contribute to the competitiveness of our local economy is humbling.”

Macias didn’t know much about the Building and Energy Systems Professional Program when she first enrolled at College of the Desert, upon graduating high school. The program is funded in part through a grant via TAACCCT (an acronym for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade and Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training) that has seen the number of students served in an HVAC certificate program grow 200 percent each year. The TAACCCT grant also paid for a Career Education website dubbed “COD2Careers” featuring a “Decision Tree” interactive graphic that provides a roadmap to a career, a page for middle and high school students interested in more information about career pathways and college, and a placement page with internship, work experience and placement services for participants.

Macias can’t count the number of classmates who are working in the industry thanks to the program’s internships and the flexibility of the schedule. “The instructors make it really easy to attend their classes,” she said. “They set up their schedules according to your needs. They realize students have a life outside of school. And they tied in what I was learning in the class with what I’d be doing in the field.”

Macias isn’t the first of her siblings to benefit from College of the Desert without taking on any student debt. An older sister transferred to UC Riverside, and is now considering where to attend medical school. An older brother transferred to Cal Poly Pomona, where he is earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management – with plans to own or operate a restaurant.

“College of the Desert has changed our lives,” Macias said.

About IEDRC:
The Inland Empire/Desert Regional Consortium (IEDRC) consists of 12 community colleges. It serves as a regional framework to communicate, coordinate, collaborate, promote and plan career and technical education and workforce and economic development in the Inland Empire/Desert Region.

Ashley Etchison
Director, Strategic Communications & Marketing
Strong Workforce Program
2001 Third Street, Norco, CA 92860
(951) 372-7086

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