San Diego Business Journal: MiraCosta College Staying Current for Workforce Needs

MiraCosta College Staying Current for Workforce Needs

Original article via San Diego Business Journal

JANUARY 17, 2024

Institutions of higher learning are instrumental in workforce development, and San Diego County’s community college district schools are some of the leading providers.

But there is growing concern that the courses, degrees, certificates and programming offered by schools may not be the best fit moving forward in the ever-evolving world or work.

A March 2023 report on community colleges from American Enterprise Institute, a public policy think tank, suggests that some colleges may need to reorient program offerings toward high-value degrees and certificates while attracting more adult learners who are looking to switch careers.

It also suggests community colleges coordinate with workforce boards and industry groups to create regional workforce systems that provide opportunities to local students and focus on needed skills for employers.

MiraCosta College in Oceanside is one of several local community colleges proactively leading the charge to sharpen its role and update its offerings in workforce development. The school continues to be a linchpin for aligning the education and training that learners desire with the workforce needs of the local economy.

MiraCosta’s approach is tailored to address the regional workforce demand, offering practical training that equips graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary for efficiency, use of equipment and meeting standards, says Ben Gamboa, MiraCosta’s associate dean of education.

“MiraCosta College is aggressively retooling our approach to workforce development, in particular with the development of apprenticeships in nontraditional fields such as information technology and health care,” Gamboa said.

“Apprentices earn a living wage while learning both in the classroom and on the job. MiraCosta is currently negotiating with partners to start apprenticeships for hundreds of North County residents to enter the fields of software engineering, cybersecurity, data analysis, digital marketing, IT support and pharmacy technology. In many cases, no prior experience is required for apprentices.”

‘Verified Programs’ at MiraCosta

MiraCosta’s Computer Science, Biotechnology, Business Administration, Computer Networking Administrator, Medical Assisting and Engineering Technology programs are among the prestigious Verified Programs designated by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with numerous industry partners.

Industry leaders have hailed Verified Programs for exceptional preparation of students pursuing careers in computing and engineering fields.

To that end, last December MiraCosta was selected to be part of a group of Industrial Assessment Centers by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of an initiative fueled by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – with the aim of alleviating energy burdens while creating accessible, high-quality job opportunities.

With $2.1 million in funding, MiraCosta’s Technology Career Institute will be at the forefront of energy innovation and workforce development, and its inclusion the elite group of IAC selectees shows the school’s commitment to sustainability and workforce development. This initiative will pioneer accelerated workforce training and develop a curriculum that utilizes cutting-edge technology focused on renewable trade programs.

The grant recognizes MiraCosta College’s excellence in educational innovation and empowers the institution to play a crucial role in shaping the future of clean energy and manufacturing sectors. It enables the TCI to provide the programs at a reduced cost, supplemented with comprehensive support services, an approach that aims to foster a more diverse and gender-equitable workforce.

The project includes the establishment of 10 renewable energy startup accelerators at TCI, with profit-sharing contracts designed to ensure the sustainability of the innovative workforce training model.

MiraCosta College President/Superintendent Dr. Sunita “Sunny” Cooke explains that the grant is not only a recognition of the school’s dedication to educational excellence and sustainability but is “also a catalyst for us to significantly contribute to the clean energy sector.”

Cooke said instructors at MiraCosta are “eager to train a skilled workforce ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow’s clean energy economy.”

Push for Environmentally Sustainable Jobs

The IAC Program, around for more than four decades, has contributed more than 20,000 assessments across the nation’s manufacturing base, and is set to revolutionize the pathway to environmentally sustainable jobs in America.

MiraCosta expects to train more than 3,000 students and incumbent manufacturing workers, offering quality career paths that do not need a four-year college degree.

Other MiraCosta successes include its Cybersecurity program, one of six programs recognized for the San Diego Workforce Partnership CyberHire designation connecting students to high-wage careers in San Diego’s growing cybersecurity industry.

In addition to offering a baccalaureate degree in biomanufacturing – widely heralded as the first bachelor’s degree in the nation offered at a community college — MiraCosta opened the Bioscience Workforce Development Hub as part of it Increase Diversity, Equity and Advancement in Biotechnology program, created to train a diverse student body for successful careers in the biotechnology sector.

At the heart of the program, funded in part by a $400,000 grant from Strada Education Foundation, is a unique partnership between the college and two Carlsbad-based biotech companies, Sterogene Bioseparations, Inc. and Open Biopharma Research and Training Institute.

MiraCosta has also launched a Supply Chain Management program that prepares students for entry into or career growth within the SCM field across many industries — manufacturing, operations, purchasing, warehousing, transportation and logistics.

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