BERKELEY -- California's economy and retiring baby boomers are stoking a growing demand for trained workers the state hopes to fill by handing out $250 million in grants for job training programs at the high school and community college level.
The state Department of Education started taking letters of intent and grant applications Tuesday for the money approved by Gov. Jerry Brown last summer. The one-time pot of money will go to school districts and community colleges that collaborate with local businesses to train students for jobs in a variety of industries including health care, manufacturing, biotechnology, aerospace, agricultural technology, energy and computer science.
During a news conference on the California Career Pathways Trust Tuesday, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said California is devoting the most money to this kind of program than any other state and $150 million more than a recently announced $100 million federal program.
"Our economy is growing and there are job opportunities, but there aren't enough educated and trained workers to fill them," Steinberg said during the news conference with state Schools Chief Tom Torlakson. "We're seeking California industries to partner with community colleges and put forward multimillion dollar applications that will establish pathways to careers."
The state will award 10 grants up to $15 million each, 15 grants up to $6 million each and 15 grants up to $600,000 each. Schools wanting a piece of the action have until March 28 to apply and if they win a grant, they can start spending the money July 1, Torlakson said.
The grants will be a way of keeping kids motivated and away from drugs and gangs, Steinberg said. Starting an apprenticeship program in high school with the understanding that the student will go on to a community college for more training is a way of showing kids that their coursework actually applies to something useful in the future, he said.
"We don't want to sacrifice academic rigor, but it will be combined with real world experience," he said. "There is no reason we can't develop 10 different ways to teach subjects that are often dry and don't relate to the real world."
Contact Doug Oakley at 925-234-1699. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/douglasoakley