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Kern Regional K-16 Education Collaborative awarded $18.1M grant to create streamlined career pathways

Kern County Superintendent of Schools

The Kern County Superintendent of Schools (KCSOS) announced the Kern Regional K-16 Education Collaborative has been awarded an $18.1M statewide competitive grant to support efforts that will improve student progress from high school to postsecondary education and ultimately into the workforce. As a result, Kern County residents and industry partners will benefit from new opportunities for upward economic mobility across the region.

The grant will fund numerous projects to streamline pathways in three occupational areas including health care, education and engineering/computing, in addition to providing students with improved academic preparation for college access and success. The focus of grant funding will be on first-generation college students, those from low-income families, and students of color who statistics shows have a lower completion of A–G coursework necessary for admission to the CSU and UC.

“The Kern Regional K-16 Education Collaborative is excited to announce this award that will support students and parents through educational systems and into career opportunities,” said Kern County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Barlow. “By streamlining specific K-16 pathways, we will remove barriers to educational success and improve educational attainment levels for Kern County students. The programs funded by this grant will ensure all students have equitable access to resources and opportunities, and it will help meet the workforce needs of our region.”

Educational attainment in Kern County lags behind economic peers across the U.S. and within California. For example, 17.1% of Kern County residents hold a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 34.7% statewide. Moreover, Kern County employers must recruit from outside the county in numerous industries including health care, education, and engineering/computing because there are too few highly skilled local candidates to meet local workforce needs.

“The economic success of individuals, families, businesses and entire geographical area correlates closely with educational attainment and the density of talent in a region,” Barlow added. “Kern County will not be able to achieve inclusive growth or decrease the number of struggling families without improving educational attainment through early college, dual enrollment, accelerated programs, certification programs, apprenticeships and traditional higher education.”

High-level goals of grant-funded programs include:

• Dramatically increasing the number of dual enrollment classes available to students, ensuring early college options are widely available to all students on all Kern County High School campuses.

• Improving strategic mentoring, advising, and leadership development.

• Implementing outreach and support programs, especially for first-generation college students, students of color, and those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, ensuring that students who start college persist and complete a program.

• Increasing the number of local candidates earning associate and bachelor’s degrees to support the health care, engineering, and education industries.

• Improving academic preparation for college access and success.

• Facilitating student transitions from high school to college and career.

• Simplifying supports for student stability.

The Kern Regional K-16 Education Collaborative was proactively formed six months ago in anticipation of the release of this grant opportunity by blending the Kern Education Pledge consortium and A Better Bakersfield and Boundless Kern (B3K) consortium and adding additional strategic partners including UC Merced, UCLA, and the Central Valley Higher Education Consortium (CVHEC). The Collaborative also includes all 46 Kern County school districts, CSU Bakersfield, Kern Community College District, West Kern Community College District, Kern Economic Development Corporation, the County of Kern, and numerous economic development/industry partners.

For more information about the Kern Education Pledge, visit http://www.kerneducationpledge.org.