PCC Coordinates the CCCCO Regional Collaboration Grant

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

California needs a new strategy to rebuild its economy after the economic disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and immense technological innovation. Its 116 community colleges (CCCs) offer an exceptional opportunity to build out a ‘workforce development (WFD) pipeline’ that responds to the emerging economic demands. Historically, the CCCs have acted as stand-alone entities, developing programs and courses responding to their local community needs. While they are organized into regional consortia’s and do communicate with each other, collaborating with each other as a coordinated, educational infrastructure has been challenging at times. That’s about to change.


The Regional Collaboration and Coordination Grant

In Theory

In June 2021, the CCC Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) released a grant application request (RCC Grant) seeking CCC coordinators to organize a WFD framework strategy that engages all the colleges in each of the State’s eight CCC regions. It’s a daunting concept. The eight regions encompass California’s 116 community colleges, and each ‘collaboration’ will include all the schools within the individual region. The intent is to develop a unified framework of WFD programs as a single regional asset that responds to the region’s specific labor force demands. Such a coordinated strategy will reduce the redundancy of effort and the waste of financial and human capital as each school pursues its own WFD projects. It will also streamline best practices around any particular industrial or economic sector so that learners receive the best training possible to achieve their personal – and their employer’s – goals.

More specifically, the RCC Grant pursues two overarching goals:

1 Consolidating the Processes of School and Work

Regional activities will combine the efforts and aspirations of the CCCs with those of their corporate neighbors to ensure jobs and careers for students while generating a reliable supply of skilled talent for industry.

As the pandemic recedes (which it will eventually), businesses will be reinventing their processes to respond to that drastically altered economic landscape. They’ll need well-trained and skilled workers to maintain their market share and achieve new objectives. At the same time, students of all ages will require new or upskilled education to qualify for those jobs. Having one inform the other assures the success of both.

2 Addressing Inequities

Eliminating the entrenched inequities that now exist in all aspects of every community will be crucial to the region’s ultimate success. The social upheavals of the past year exposed how deep those biases run and the immense toll they take on the entire community, not just the affected people. The RCC Grant seeks to address these challenges through directed efforts by the CCC system.


In Practice

In practice, the RCC Grant requires significant engagement between school and business to ensure that each gains the intended benefit of the collaboration. It specifically identifies the interactive initiatives it’s looking for, giving regional leadership a diagram on which to build their WFD structure:

Comprehensive Supports are to be built in to the process to ensure that every student, regardless of their individual circumstances, has the assistance needed to achieve their educational and career goals. This tenet includes all barriers, from learning challenges to economic hardships.

Credit for Prior Learning will envelop the already existing skills and abilities earned before college. Military, work, and other life experiences often provide similar if not superior knowledge and skills, which may count as credit towards the student’s credential attainment.

Resilient 21st Century Digital Skills and Literacy will ensure all graduates bring cutting-edge digital qualifications to their work.

Earn and Learn experiences that will provide both education and income while still in college. Too many students can’t or don’t complete their programs because they can’t pay their living expenses if they’re not working while attending school.

Data-informed investments that will ensure all decisions are based on current facts and information, have measurable goals, and produce metrics related to the success of individual projects and the RCC initiative as a whole.

Not least significant, the RCC Grant instills in each region the mandate to pursue these goals not just in existing businesses and industries but also in the emerging economies identified in the Burning Glass Technologies report, After the Storm. Investments in whole new departments and resource sets may be necessary to ensure that the Los Angeles region can supply every employer with an appropriate, comprehensively trained worker regardless of industry or economy.


The Los Angeles Regional Consortium

Currently, the schools in each region are organized into ‘consortiums,’ with leadership from each school contributing to the governance of the whole region. These consortiums have been tasked with identifying a coordinator for their specific region; the CCCCO grant will fund the operations of the collaboration effort.

When the Grant’s RFA was issued, the Los Angeles/Orange County Regional Consortium (LAOCRC) was the overarching coordinator of the efforts of CCCs in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. However, to achieve the purpose of the RCC Grant, the CEOs of those schools elected to divide the consortium into two separate regions, one in each of the two counties. It will be easier to coordinate the efforts of a smaller number of institutions in each county, which will improve their opportunity to achieve the RCC’s ultimate goals.

There are 19 CCCs in the newly classified Los Angeles Regional Consortium (LARC), the largest region in the state. The LARC is now tasked with weaving into its Strong Workforce Program (SWP) initiatives the mandates required by the RCC Grant. Fortunately, those SWP assets are robust and evolving. They include seven workforce development boards and hundreds of industry stakeholders, civic leaders, and organizations, all invested in improving the County’s WFD systems.

The CCCCO selected Pasadena City College (PCC) as the coordinator and fiscal agent for the LARC RCC Grant, with the school’s Economic and Workforce Development department (EWD) taking on the work of the project. For three+ years, PCC’s EWD has invested time, talent, and resources into building an engaged, informed, and forward-thinking program that connects PCC students to the jobs they want and the employers who want them. While still young and with grand plans for its future, the EWD has already established leadership and systems for both Student Success and Work-Based Learning and routinely communicates with its LA County community through The Pulse newsletter and its companion podcast. The EWD leadership demonstrated by Executive Director Salvatrice Cummo and Director of Operations Officer Leslie Thompson demonstrates their deep knowledge of the WFD arena and their equally deep commitment to the success of both PCC students and the school’s business and industrial community.


Rebuilding California’s economy after the devastation of the past two years is a formidable task. Designating its community colleges to invest their public and private resources into the project is an enlightened act, signifying the State’s confidence in both its higher education systems and its immense commercial community. Pasadena City College is immensely proud of its new role as RCC Grant Coordinator for the LARC. It will both strive for excellence throughout that initiative while communicating its progress to all its constituents.


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