PCC Supports Career-Focused Student Success

Pam Sornson, JD

This is Part Two of a two-part series on PCC’s six Career Communities and the supports offered by the school to assist its students successfully navigate them.

Like many community colleges, Pasadena City College (PCC) took a two-pronged approach as it re-engineered its programs to reflect the demands of its local and regional industries. Its dual focus was to respond to its corporate neighbors’ workforce preferences while also providing success-building support for the students seeking those jobs. The result is a network of interrelated systems and processes, designed to assist the learner in finding the program best suited to their taste, and then progress through that program into employment.




Student Success One Student at a Time

PCC recognizes that each of its students is an individual with unique skills and talents, as well as specific challenges and sometimes, barriers. It designed its student support services to meet each individual student’s needs regardless of what those were. Accordingly, PCC learners of all ages and backgrounds can find the exact type of support they need to enter into and progress through their PCC college career.




Explore All the Options

PCC offers six Career Communities, each designed around several occupations and jobs that share similar requirements and educational outcomes. The wide variety of employment and career options facilitate almost every student’s wishes, from those who simply want to find a good job to those who aspire to a four-year degree and beyond. Each Community offers training for entry-level learners, emphasizing ‘middle skills,’ those skills that aren’t taught in high school, but that don’t require a more advanced degree. California will need one million more middle-skilled workers by the end of this decade, and PCC is doing its part to deliver at least a portion of that number.

But choosing a career option is just one element of finding educational success. Many learners haven’t finished high school, didn’t do well in high school, or look back years or sometimes decades to when they were last in a school environment. For these students, the processes involved in just entering college can be overwhelming, let alone taking on the task of actually learning a new skill base. PCC has their best interests in mind, too, and offers a series of supports designed to help them get through the entry hurdles and into the education processes beyond.



Guided Pathways:

Just as the name suggests, Guided Pathways provide a clearly marked educational map of processes to follow to enter, complete, and graduate from college. Designed around specific job and career options, the pathways help define any barriers that might slow students’ success and suggest possible resolutions to those impediments. It then sets out a detailed map of the courses needed to achieve those educational goals. Throughout the process, PCC counselors maintain contacts with the learners to help them through any subsequent hurdles that might pop up during the semester. Finally, Guided Pathways assist the students in graduating from PCC by facilitating their individual next steps, whether those include transferring to a four-year school, completing certification requirements, or finding a job.


Getting Started at the Robert G. Freeman Center

The Robert G. Freeman Center (Center) is PCC’s one-stop-shop for getting started. The Center provides a full scope of services for students at all stages of their education, from beginners to internship-seekers to graduates planning their careers.



Beginning College Students

Often, the most challenging step for a beginning college student is the first one. Learners seeking a new college experience but who may have no personal or family history with college can be especially challenged by the prospect of starting a new education track. Further, many new students aren’t fully aware of what they want to do or even what they’re good at, nor are they familiar with all the available options. PCC designed its Student Success supports with tools to help these hopefuls clarify their wishes, skills, and aspirations, then match those to appropriate programs and careers.


Career Surveys

For most students, the initial step is to take one of the two available Career Surveys. The simplified six-step “Quick Assessment” explores what the learner likes to do, how they use their skills in their daily lives, and how engaged they want to be with others in their optimal job. The 60-question “Detailed Assessment” delves deeper into personal skills, preferences, abilities, and ambitions. Each assessment then provides an overview of the student’s strengths and suggests possible career options that work well with those attributes. Insights gleaned here can help the new students identify which jobs or careers offered in the Career Communities are the best fit for their skillset and satisfaction expectations.



PCC’s counselors have all the tools needed to help any student resolve a concern or move forward in their education. Typically available in person, they are now accessible online, so no one chances a COVID-19 exposure. Additionally, the website hosts a series of “How To” tutorials available to learners whenever they have the time to look.



PCC’s ‘Success Centers’ provide tutoring services, technology access, study space, and more, and are dotted across the campus when classes are in session. These days, they are also available remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Success Coaches are available to direct the student to the resources they need at that time, and also to review longer-range plans and strategies.


Special Groups

Many PCC students manage personal and family challenges in addition to being new to the college experience. PCC’s Special Services unit helps learners coping with language concerns, students whose lives are impacted by incarceration, foster youth, Disabled students, and learners who must also work or provide care services for family members. Students of African descent, with sexual or gender diversities, and those with military veteran status will find the assistance they need to reach their goals. Each of these situations presents unique challenges; PCC designed its counseling services to encompass them all.


Continuing Students

Sometimes staying in school is more difficult than getting started in school, as the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated. PCC’s focus is on helping its student body progress through their chosen programs then graduate into careers of their choosing, and it offers help and support every step along the way. Program maps keep learners on track with their eventual goals, while the guided exit process moves them through graduation and into their next steps, whether those are toward a four-year degree, a new job, or a new career.


PCC Student Success Metrics

PCC measures its success by the number of students that progress through and complete their programs, fully prepared to find their future. It knows its Pathway program works because the metrics derived from a 2019 study prove that fact:

* 87% of students following Pathways tracks persisted from fall to fall (compared to 80% of non-Pathways students);

* Almost half (48%) successfully completed transfer-level English and math courses (32% of non-Pathways students)

* 64% were prepared for transfers (43%);

* 44% were ready to transfer (28%), and

* 39% completed their program (22%).


PCC has learned that connecting students with the supports they need as individuals is the key to facilitating their success. As an institution, PCC knows that its students can find success when school-based supports include counseling that is sensitive to their personal concerns, clearly marked pathways lead them from college entry to taking the job, and they get individual attention for coping with all the details of life that pop up along the way.

And PCC isn’t finished in its evolution to job-training Mecca just yet. Like the economy, job skills evolve over time, and PCC is as committed to meeting those future needs as it is to meeting today’s labor force demands. Maybe the pandemic has you thinking about what your new future might look like? For more information, start here.




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