The mission of the California Community Colleges, according to California Education Code §66010.4 (1), calls for the offering of lower-division instruction that is transferable to four-year colleges, providing career education training, strengthening students’ basic skills, and granting associate degrees and certificates. Career and technical education faculty have an important role in the community colleges system and in the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. In recent years, with the onset of additional attention and funding to Strong Workforce programs, the role of CTE faculty has come into the spotlight. The ASCCC is actively working to increase the voice of CTE faculty in all aspects of the work of the organization.
CTE programs specialize in skilled trades, applied sciences, modern technologies, and career preparation. These courses often require hands-on curriculum designed to meet the needs of industries and provide students with skills necessary to succeed in the labor market. The role of CTE faculty has never been more important, as the nation is in the midst of a pandemic resulting in a worldwide economic crisis, coupled with intense social justice issues at the forefront of human consciousness and the expansion of the antiracist movement. Technology has also accelerated, which means the jobs of today and not the jobs of the future. CTE faculty are in the forefront of serving students to prepare for future jobs and are taking on what seems like an impossible mission with incredible grit and grace. They, as a collective, have found ways to deliver labs online, from having kits for students to pick up and use at home, to virtual reality labs. The ASCCC has worked closely with CTE faculty across the state to share and scale the best ideas to help students progress, learn, and complete their programs.
In 2015, to address the shortfall in middle-skilled workers and in response to the 2015 Board of Governors Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and Strong Economy recommendation, the ASCCC established the CTE liaison position at the local level. CTE liaisons are local senate elected or appointed representatives who offer a voice for CTE issues at the local level.
Education Code §88821(i)(2) requires the following:
For purposes of the Community College component and in compliance with the consultation requirements in Sections 70901 and 70902, the Academic Senate of the California Community Colleges shall establish a career technical education subcommittee to provide recommendations on career technical education issues. No less than 70 percent of the subcommittee shall consist of career technical education faculty. The subcommittee’s charter shall require it to provide assistance to community college districts to ensure that career technical education and its instruction is responsive and aligned to current and emergent industry trends, and ensure that similar courses, programs, and degrees are portable among community college districts.
In response to this mandate, the ASCCC replaced its Vocational Education Committee with the CTE Leadership Committee in 2015. The committee is comprised of representatives appointed by the ASCCC to give a statewide voice to CTE issues. The chair of the CTE Leadership Committee is an elected member of the ASCCC Executive Committee. The committee has worked to ensure that the voice of CTE faculty is elevated, and has achieved notable results, including the institution of CTE liaison positions at each college, integrating CTE representatives throughout the Chancellor’s Office Strong Workforce programs, completing and establishing the CTE Faculty Minimum Qualifications Title 5 changes, instituting a regular electronic newsletter, and promoting and scaling the CTE Minimum Qualifications Tool Kit.
CTE faculty have been diligent in responding to the California Community Colleges system’s modernized goals. In 2016, the California Legislature took a bold step to improve career and technical education to “increase social mobility and fuel regional economies with skilled workers” (California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, n.d.). With the infusion of Strong Workforce funds and the requirements of data-driven outcomes, CTE faculty created new programs, modernized curriculum, and developed and enhanced industry partnerships. Recently, as CTE faculty were faced with the harsh new realities of a global pandemic, a new focus has become necessary on teaching tangible skills that address the ever-changing dynamics of a drastically reconfigured job market and social conditions. New discussion topics arose and were brought forward to ASCCC. The job market for career-based learning fields is rich, especially for essential workers in a time of pandemic challenges. Health care workers are in critical need. Empowering career-based learning and faculty teaching in career-based learning programs is of vital importance for ASCCC
Another conundrum for CTE faculty is of an ethical nature. In order to promote curricular success, CTE faculty must effectively manage creative handling of resources. This area creates uncertainty, and the implementation of policies governing programs and departments split between general education and career and technical education varies widely. Questions concerning enrollment capacity, course minimums and maximums, and facility and equipment access are left up to local administrators and instructors to interpret. Lab room maximum capacities often do not consider the space occupied by instructional equipment, making it impossible to meet state guidelines of four square feet of space per student. Under-enrolled courses are routinely supported by over-enrolled courses, and equipment purchased specifically for CTE usage is often used liberally by the non-CTE sections of a program. While sharing CTE resources for the benefit of students is a good idea in theory, the maintenance and upkeep of labs must also be shared.
The goal of faculty in CTE programs is and always has been to launch students on to a career path. The work CTE students do on campus is only a starting point to move the students quickly into the industry sectors of their choice. The goal of students is to find a path to enter a career, profession, or occupation. The faculty role is to guide them along the way.
The role of CTE faculty is more important than ever as today’s CTE programs are preparing the next generation of professionals. CTE faculty are training for tomorrow’s world of work, and layered on top are social justice issues, economic issues, and the after-effects of the pandemic. CTE faculty and the ASCCC will play a critical role in the recovery from the triple challenges the nation and the state are facing today.
California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office. (n.d.) What is Strong Workforce. Retrieved
from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office website: https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Chancellors-Office/Divisions/Workforce-a….
California Education Code §66010.4. Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sec….
California Education Code §88821. Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sec….
1. For more information on CTE Faculty Liaison, positions, see https://asccc.org/cte-faculty-liaison.