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Maker spaces & 'boot camps' are California's new feeders for technical skills

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on March 17, 2016

Maker and co-working spaces, sometimes known as "boot camps", are becoming key intersections between regional manufacturers' needs and local students' skills development. They create the ability for students to learn quickly the skills they need to get a high wage opportunity with a regional manufacturer who needs technical workers.

A recent example got our attention. Tyler Hill, a Sierra College Electro Mechanical Engineering major from Lincoln, California, recently got a job working for a consumer transaction technology manufacturer, NCR Corporation, in part because of his participation in a maker space "boot camp" for entrepreneurs in the northern California area. 

The camp known as Hacker Lab / Startup Hustle partnered with Sierra College and the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies in a private public partnership to improve students’ employability.

Hill had joined Hacker Lab to access the CNC and laser cutting tools, and then applied to participate in Startup Hustle to work on the home automation system he developed with another student. “Putting this experience on my resume helped me stand out and get a job as an ATM Engineer,” said Hill.  “I enjoy the work and am even more confident in my plan to transfer to a California State University engineering program.”

“Employers are seeking innovators who will develop better products to meet customers’ needs and contribute to business growth,” said Willy Duncan, Superintendent/President, Sierra College Joint Community College District. “At Hacker Lab, Sierra College students work alongside a diverse group of experts and artisans to test and hone skills learned in their college classes. As a result, students add practical experience and cutting edge skills in coding, virtual reality and 3D printing to their resumes.”

Hill explained that he developed new skills to create a prototype product at Hacker Lab. “I had no idea how to make a printed circuit board,” said Hill. “But after three weeks of practice at Hacker Lab, I could make a perfect board from scratch.”

Carol Pepper-Kittredge, Director, Center for Applied Competitive Technologies, Sierra College, helped plan the Hacker Lab Powered by Sierra College in Rocklin. “To attract students to Advanced Manufacturing careers and provide businesses access to technology and training, Sierra College equipped the maker space with electronics, 3D printers, laser cutter and CNC router,” said Pepper-Kittredge.

Startup Hustle teams attend weekly online and in-person training sessions led by successful founders of businesses. In addition, industry mentors coach the teams. “The mentors were genius,” said Hill. “They were more than technical experts; they collaborated with us to think through sales and marketing.”

In just one year, Sacramento-based Hacker Lab worked with Sierra College to find an off-campus location in Rocklin, California, fill it with equipment, attract 140 members (50 percent students) and offer education events attended by over 1,000 people.

These non-traditional boot camps increasingly feed specific technically skilled workers to regional manufacturers and create tremendous opportunities for growth for students.

CMTA is learning more about how we can help foster more of these partnerships to grow the next generation of California manufacturers.

Here are some other stories about Startup Hustle participants.





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Finance reform without accountability could devastate career tech

Posted by Jack Stewart, President on June 4, 2012

Cross-posted on June 3, 2012 at the Silicon Valley Education Foundation

Under the current K-12 public education system in California, programs that are not required, measured, or explicitly funded by the state will disappear from our schools. Elective courses are becoming victims of educational policy that only recognizes “success” as defined by scores on standardized tests in courses mandated for graduation or college admission. Since that’s all that is really measured, that’s all that will really matter.

The ongoing state budget deficit and the lack of financial incentives to support programs outside of the mandated core academics will undoubtedly force districts to abandon such electives with impunity. This is our concern with  the “Weighted Student Formula” (WSF) proposal. Because the latest version of education finance reform doesn’t alter the current approach to accountability, we fear WSF will accelerate an already alarming narrowing of the curriculum.

In areas like career technical education (CTE), the impact of this well-intended reform could be devastating. Without incentives provided to districts to support these elective programs, there is simply no reason for them to do so. If you doubt that scenario, just examine the impact of the “flexibility” provisions granted to districts for programs like ROPs, Adult Education, and others since 2009 under the state budget. Given the unfettered authority to “flex” the use of these funds for any purpose, districts have obliterated Adult Ed throughout the state, and have put undue pressure on the vast majority of ROPs to survive on a starvation diet. Without  appropriate educational policies that hold districts accountable for truly meeting the needs of all students, this scenario will hold true for programs outside of the “required” or “measured” mandate. That’s not a recipe for success.

From a purely budgetary perspective, distributing CTE dollars without any vocational accountability upon schools makes little sense either. The three CTE-related categoricals most at risk under WSF  leverage every dollar the state invests. The Ag Incentive Grant requires local districts to match each state dollar (requiring districts to provide an extensive, annual report on the use of those precious state dollars). Apprenticeships are largely funded by contractors and unions, thereby stretching each state dollar invested in these “learn while you earn” programs. And Partnership Academies require both a local and industry match for each state dollar, magnifying the state’s investment threefold. Simply sending out these dollars on an per-student basis without any vocational strings 0r leveraged match requirements will cause more harm to education under any calculation.

We hope the governor and the Legislature take the time necessary to develop solutions to protect career technical education programs while also achieving education finance reform. Given the challenges facing these programs at the local level, we know our schools will not continue to support career technical education without the incentives to do so.





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Educating for careers goes beyond math and english

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Oct. 9, 2009

States are madly producing their responses to the U.S. generated competition for  $4.3 billion in 'Race to the Top' (RTTT) grant funds for education reforms and innovation in the classroom to lead to preparation for college and careers. 

Appropriately California is doing its part to compete by holding a special legislative session to address this issue and make its case for these funds.  So far, the "career" component of California's response to RTTT is deficient.  High school administered career education enrollments are at an all time low in California (29 percent) and nothing has been done to identify or change that within our application and overall efforts.  How can we argue that we are better preparing our students for success in actual careers with this glaring deficiency?

CMTA president Jack Stewart and the State Building and Construction Trades Council president Bob Balgenorth signed and sent this Get REAL coalition letter to the Governor yesterday urging "real and necessary changes to our education policies to create the conditions for innovation to occur in our schools, allowing for rigorous and relevant career education programs to grow and prosper in our K-12 system."

Identifying the ultimate problem, committing to innovative career building courses and asking for help in doing so should be a majority of California's focus in our 'Race to the Top' application process.



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