Launching a New Career Pathways Initiative!

Governor Newsom came to my city this week to sign a new executive order to improve opportunities for California high school students to build real-life skills and on-the-job experience toward good-paying, fulfilling careers.

Why my city? We were the first in California to guarantee a paid internship to every high school senior in a college and career pathway. We were one of the nation’s first seven “Cities of Learning”, too, developing innovative digital badges that give young people a validated credential of an out-of-school learning experience (like a Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts badge…but portable and shareable on the Internet). This is part of the nationally-recognized West Sacramento Home Run, which also includes connects every child to high-quality preschool, opens a college savings account with a public starter investment for every kindergartener, and promises free community college tuition to every high school student.

We walked the talk at City Hall, hiring students into paid internships and issuing digital badges for the skills they develop. And our schools offer pathways that lead to jobs in robotics, agriscience, biomedical science, culinary arts, design and media arts, engineering, performing arts, and construction, either directly into industry or into college certificate or degree programs. Some might even go on to Solano Community College’s renowned biomanufacturing program.

This used to be impossible. We used to think that college and career were separate tracks. In high school, you would either pick career or vocational classes, or fill your schedule with classes required for a public university. Teachers started creating classes like “Spanish for Health Care Professions” or “Residential Construction Mathematics”, but the University of California and California State University would not allow these classes to satisfy admission requirements. So I teamed up with then-Senator Darrell Steinberg to write legislation to fix it—and we got it done. As a result, today more than 15,000 career/vocational classes now qualify for UC and CSU admission. Young people can get relevant, tangible classes that give them real skills while bringing rigorous academics to life. And they no longer have to decide in eighth grade whether they’re going to college or getting a job…they can graduate with all their choices still ahead of them.

I served as statewide president of the Linked Learning Alliance for six years, bringing together educators, business, civil rights leaders, researchers, policymakers, and community leaders to bring this approach to hundreds of thousands of California students.

In 2013, I worked with then-Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to organize an unprecedented policy retreat on Linked Learning with the entireState Senate in a classroom. I’ve also moderated a panel in theU.S. Senate’s CTE Caucus Session oncareer pathways and was invited by the Federal Reserve to give a talk on Workforce Development: From Ideas to Action. As the 3rd District’s representative in the State Senate, I’ll be ready to get right to work, working with the Governor to make these opportunities available to all students.

As First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom said here in West Sacramento this week, “All Californians deserve a path to pursue their dreams and reach their full potential. By expanding opportunities to garner tangible skills and on-the-job experience critical for employment, we’re empowering students and workers to succeed in whatever career they choose.”