California’s community colleges will receive $200 million annually to expand career technical education programs so they can add new career pathways, increase faculty, strengthen curriculum and improve regional cooperation among colleges, businesses and other groups.

The funding, included in the state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week, creates the “Strong Workforce Program,” an initiative aimed at boosting the number of skilled workers produced by community colleges.

The new funding was written into the budget through Assembly Bill 1602, as part of the state’s ongoing effort to expand workforce training programs in high-demand industry sectors for high school and college students.

“This money is a victory for both California employers and community college students,” Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor for workforce and economic development at the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, said in a news release. “Enhancing career technical education and workforce training to meet the demands of our regional economies and the statewide labor market will benefit students, communities and the entire state.”

Funding will be allocated to campuses by the chancellor’s office through noncompetitive grants. To qualify, community colleges must join or form regional partnerships that include businesses, K-12 school districts, California State University campuses, civic groups, workforce development boards and labor unions.

The amount or range per grant has not been determined. But funding will be set by a number of factors, including a community college region’s overall unemployment rate, the number of jobs in the region that are unfilled because of the lack of skilled workers and the number of students already enrolled in career technical education programs.

The objective is for community colleges to work with members of the partnerships to identify the region’s workforce demands and create relevant curriculum to meet them. Other aims include establishing new certificates or associate degrees, recruiting experienced career technical education faculty and creating career pathways that can lead to jobs or to technical degree programs at four-year universities.

“Our colleges are the gateway to opportunity for millions of Californians every year,” said Erik Skinner, interim California Community Colleges Chancellor. “This investment of $200 million will improve and streamline workforce training throughout our system.”

Since 2014, the state has allocated about $1.7 billion for career technical education, likely the largest ever such investment nationally. Funding includes nearly $500 million for the Career Pathways Trust and $900 million in Career Technical Education Incentive Grants.

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