In July 2022, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors passed the first substantive Title 5 updates to work experience in over 50 years. These regulations expand opportunities for students to take hands-on or experiential learning courses in credit and noncredit, define new accounting models and registration opportunities, and make processes more efficient.  To revise these 50-year-old regulations, it took nearly 10 years of collaboration through the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee (5C). Within 5C, a workgroup of faculty, staff, students, and administrators worked together with the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office representatives and CCCCO legal counsel to develop and ultimately propose these changes to the Board of Governors. The leaders of this effort in 2022 included Association of Community and Continuing Education representative to 5C Jan Young, President of California Internship & Work Experience Association Brook Oliver, and Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) faculty representative Erik Shearer. A significant amount of work was dedicated to these efforts that support students in their future career endeavors.
The goal of the regulation changes was to facilitate paid and unpaid work-based learning opportunities for students. The focus was on multiple sections of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations: Division 6, Chapter 6, Subchapter 1, Article 1; Division 6, Chapter 6, Subchapter 3, Article 4; and Division 6, Chapter 9, Subchapter 1, Article 2. One of the first recommended changes was to the title of the regulation, evolving from “Cooperative Work Experience,” to more simply, “Work Experience.” Included in the Title 5 changes is an updated definition of work experience, which is, “to provide students with an integrated instructional program that provides opportunities to connect curricula to applied experimental learning in the workplace. Work experience within the California community colleges involves student employment and/or internships selected, approved and supervised by districts to provide meaningful work experience related to a course of study or specific career pathway …” (Title 5 §55250 (a),(b)). Work experience is a component of work-based learning, which was explored in the 2019 ASCCC paper Work Based Learning in California Community Colleges. This paper defines work-based learning as an educational strategy used to connect classroom instruction to careers by providing students with opportunities to reinforce and make relevant their classroom experience (ASCCC, 2019).
The regulations were also reviewed for alignment with the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, California Community Colleges Chancellors Office’s Vision for Success, and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Anti-Racism and Accessibility Framework.
The importance and impact of experiential learning opportunities for students led to major changes in the new regulations. These changes include the following:
- Expanded opportunities for programs beyond career technical education (CTE) to utilize work experience to give students hands-on opportunities in all academic programs, whether career or transfer-oriented.
- Expanded opportunities for work experience, which can now be a credit course, noncredit course, or integrated into a component of a course, whereas work experience was only recognized as a credit course previously.
- Work experience credit hours are standardized at 54 semester hours/unit and 33 quarter hours/unit for paid and unpaid work experience, which is better aligned with traditional credit hour definitions than the prior hour requirements.
- An expansion of students’ opportunities to enroll in work experience: Limitations on the number of work experience units taken in a lifetime were eliminated.
- Students can continue to repeat work experience courses subject to Title 5 §55040.
- Students are now allowed to have a maximum of 14 semester credit hours or 21 quarter credit hours during an enrollment period.
Work-based learning is a critical element of community college instructional programs and student preparation for the world of work. The updated regulations and expansion of work experience in noncredit and non-CTE programs are exciting opportunities for each and every California community college throughout the system. Local academic senates should work with their CTE liaisons and curriculum committees to discuss the potential impact afforded with these regulation changes and consider how they can provide more opportunities for students to earn credit for hands-on experience in their future careers.
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. (2019) Work Based Learning in California Community Colleges, https://www.asccc.org/sites/default/files/Work_Based_Learning.pdf
1. The text of the regulation changes can be found at https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/cccchan/Board.nsf/files/CG3R2N6B41DB/$file/work-experience-education-regulatory-text-a11y(871920.1).pdf.