Like the rest of the world, our community has its share of challenges. Young people ill-prepared for the workforce and therefore unemployed or underemployed is a big one. And of course, jobless youth can lead to everything from increased gang and drug activity to homelessness. The issue is so complex. Where should we start to unravel this twisted knotty problem? Thankfully, many nonprofits in our community are doing an impressive job addressing some of the elements involved. An extraordinary example is SBCC.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Jack Friedlander, executive vice president of Educational Programs at Santa Barbara City College. I was amazed at Friedlander’s keen understanding of the issues affecting our young people and his incredibly practical approach to addressing them.
For Friedlander, it’s never business as usual. He gets out there in the community to ask questions — maintaining a constant state of curiosity. Once he gets a feel for a problem, he immediately begins to design solutions. His solutions powerfully impact young people and families in our community and help make SBCC such a highly regarded institution. As you read Friedlander’s words, I know you will be as impressed as I am. Clearly, Friedlander and SBCC are treasures in our community.
SBCC Seeks to Address Economic Challenges
One of my major concerns is the growing income disparity in Santa Barbara, in California and nationwide. A small percentage of people is benefiting and a larger percentage is falling behind in terms of income and jobs. An increasing number of people are employed in jobs that do not pay a living wage, and fewer still are in positions in which employers contribute to their medical and/or retirement benefits.
In looking at this problem and seeing the middle class moving toward lower income levels and struggling just to stay there, I look at nonprofits including Santa Barbara City College. I ask myself what role we can play to address this major social economic challenge.
One area we are focusing on lately in addition to those in the traditional 18-to-22 college-going age group is the large segment of the population who are in their late 20s through their 70s who need to be re-employed or acquire a skill set that enables them to get a job that pays a living wage. In Santa Barbara, a significant percentage of college grads, those who withdrew from a college or university prior to receiving their degree, individuals who lost their jobs and need to re-enter the work force, and people who realize they cannot afford to retire or remain retired are underemployed, working part-time jobs, and/or are in positions in which they cannot count on receiving a steady and reliable income — many of these people are barely getting by.
Moreover, a significant percentage of these individuals are working multiple jobs and have family responsibilities. I have been looking at this scenario and asking what SBCC can do to meet the needs of these people. So we came up with a concept we are implementing this October called 21st Century Skills Institute.
21st Century Skills Institute Will Give Employers What They Need
We asked local employers what skills they need in workers. Their response reflected the national surveys.
They need people who can communicate effectively, use media tools to promote businesses, use critical thinking skills, work independently, represent themselves well with customers, and think entrepreneurially and innovatively to keep projects fresh. They want people who understand that for business to make money, they must have employees with a good skill set in computer technology and other fields. They want employees who know how to create and deliver PowerPoint presentations to clients, who understand marketing and selling, and who can work in teams and groups. In addition, they prefer to hire people with the technical skills and work experiences they need to advance their businesses.
We took all this information from employers to craft our curriculum this fall, designed to equip our students with these very skills. We want students working on projects that will build their portfolio and advance them in the workplace. People want help with career planning and exploration. But they don’t know where to start. They need to understand the possibilities and how they align with their own skills and what education they need.
We are preparing to offer micro-certificates through a new 21st Century Skills Institute for more in-depth specialist skills such as accounting, computer applications, business startup, graphic design, marketing and management skills. The micro-certificates will serve to showcase a recipient’s competencies and offer a window to the employer of the specific applied skill sets held by an employee or new job applicant.
We are exploring the issuance of “digital badges” to align students with the latest trend to digitally represent their acquired skills on social media and professional networking sites. This program is designed for any age student who wants to practically gain a new skill critical to their success in the workplace. It’s not designed for people pursuing a degree. Rather, it’s for those who want reemployment or to advance in their position and need to acquire the skills to do so in as short a time as possible. We will be announcing the 21st Century Skills Institute this coming March or sooner.
The Back on Track Program Will Help Students Finish Their Degree
We have a second program, called Back on Track, launching in the same timeframe. This program will address the same issues but with a little different focus.
Back on Track is for students who had a goal of achieving an associate degree or higher, completed six or more units at college in last three years, left in good academic standing, and are still living in Santa Barbara. We estimate that there are well more than 20,000 people living in the greater Santa Barbara area who fit this profile. In order to be competitive in the workplace, they know they need an associate and/or a bachelor’s degree or higher. They started out to get their degree but something happened and they stopped. So this program is for individuals who want to finish their degree. We want to make it easier to re-enter the college. We are looking at career and educational planning and encouraging these individuals to enroll in one of the college’s accelerated programs for full-time or for part-time students that are designed to enable them to complete their degree and/or transfer requirement s in three years or less.
The accelerated degree and transfer programs for full-time and for part-time students will be developed in 2014-15 and be implemented in conjunction with the start of the Back on Track Program at the start of 2015 summer session or fall semester. While available to all former college students who left their institution in good standing, we anticipate the majority of the students who will take part in the Back on Track program will be in their 20s and 30s.
The Center for Lifelong Learning Plays an Important Role
During the past 60 or more years, we have functioned as two very different colleges: credit and continuing education. A large portion of continuing education was comprised of courses that the state now considers personal enrichment and is likely to discontinue funding. The state has urged community colleges to discontinue using state funds to pay for what it considers courses being taken primarily for personal enrichment.
In response to the pressure we were receiving from the state to no longer use its funds to pay for these classes, we created the Center for Lifelong Learning (CLL) and started this self-supporting, fee based program in fall 2013. In its first year in operation, well over 7,000 members of our community have taken one or more CLL classes and the center has achieved its goal of being self-supporting. We have other courses that are noncredit and are free from tuition — Adult High School, GED, workplace skills/short term vocational training, and ESL.
This center operates as a separate entity within the college. All noncredit programs fall into the same system as credit programs. The goal of students in the noncredit program is to get a job and/or continue their education to earn a certificate, associate degree and/or transfer to a four-year university to achieve a bachelor’s degree or higher. We have made an organizational change at the college by putting all noncredit instruction and student services as well as the CLL under one unit. Our goal is to increase the number of students that start in noncredit classes who are learning basic skills and/or who are gaining occupational skills needed for entry level positions so they can transition into the college’s credit program. In the past very few noncredit students continued their education in the credit program.
In order to facilitate the transition from noncredit to credit, we will be offering noncredit-to-credit bridge courses. We have also expanded student support services available to students enrolled in noncredit programs. We anticipate the curriculum and student services changes we are making will result in a greater number of noncredit students completing their programs and successfully transitioning into the credit program and/or into jobs that pay a livable wage.
Coming Soon: Classes in Exhibition Display and Design
Not too long ago, a friend who works as a registrar at the DeYoung Art Museum in San Francisco invited me for a visit. He said he wanted to take me on a tour but not the regular kind of tour. He wanted to show me what took place behind the walls in which the art work is exhibited. I was fascinated as he showed me all the intricate skills used to create displays for the art.
When I asked him where workers learn this skill, he said there is no formal place to study this work—they just learn it on the job. I went away from that tour with a new appreciation for those who create the art displays. When I learned more about the skills needed to design, build and transport art exhibits, I realized that these same and closely related skills are also required for those involved in mounting trade shows and in creating and constructing both physical and digital displays in a wide-range of venues, including retail returned to SBCC determined to offer classes in this valuable skill.
So we developed a new program in Exhibition, Display and Design. This program, combined with our Construction Academy, engineering, computer science, art, media arts and the new architecture and 3-D printing programs we will begin offering in fall of 2015, will provide students will the skills required to create and build displays at museums, conferences and trade shows. They will learn how to design and build the displays, including retail store electronic exhibits. Currently there are no community college programs to train people to do this work; yet that’s where the money and jobs are.
Another unique feature of this and the new program in architecture and design that are being developed is the makerspace laboratory we are creating. This lab, equipped with 3-D printers and powerful computer design software, will enable students to take ideas they have for creating products, architecture renderings, or exhibits and actually build a model of what they have envisioned.
Nonprofits Should Focus on Core Expertise
One of our roles as a nonprofit educational institution is to address social justice and inequity issues in a way that aligns with our core missions and skill sets. My message to leaders of nonprofits is to make sure to stick with your expertise. Don’t try to be all things to all people to chase funding opportunities. That happens often and usually fails. Focus on how you can build on your core expertise. Competition for funds is high in Santa Barbara so build on your core strengths and innovate to solve social problems. Focus on your clients and you will benefit. At SBCC, we are using our core expertise and yet stretching ourselves to solve a social problem that will benefit everyone.
Biographical Information for Dr. Jack Friedlander
Dr. Jack Friedlander is the executive vice president of Educational Programs at Santa Barbara City College, where he is responsible for the college’s credit and non-credit academic and student support programs and services as well as its Center for Lifelong Learning, a self-supporting enterprise for providing community services offerings.
The college has been recognized at the state and national levels for its innovative programs that contribute to the success of its students, including being selected as the co-winner of the prestigious 2012 Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence. Dr. Friedlander has been actively involved in professional organizations and activities at the local, state and national levels. These include serving on the boards for the Santa Barbara City College Foundation and the South Coast Business & Technology Awards sponsored by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.
At the state level, Dr. Friedlander is involved in the Chief Instructional Officers Association for the California Community Colleges, the Chief Student Services Officers Association for California Community Colleges, the California Community Colleges Association for Occupational Education Association, the Center for Student Success, the California League for Community College’s Legislative Advisory Committee, the Chancellor’s Office Legislative Advisory Committee, the Statewide Matriculation Advisory Committee, and the advisory committee for the New Directions for Community Colleges quarterly book series published by Jossey-Bass in conjunction with the Eric Clearinghouse for Community Colleges.
Dr. Friedlander’s many accomplishments include authoring over 80 published articles, monographs, books and newspaper articles, giving more than 200 presentations at state and national conferences and writing grant proposals that have generated well over $30 million, including ones funded by the National Science Foundation. Along with Dr. C. Robert Pace, Dr. Friedlander co-authored the Community Colleges Student Experiences Questionnaire, which formed the basis for the development of the Community College Student Engagement Survey that has been used by numerous community colleges throughout the nation.
He also has conducted research studies that have resulted in the development of the methodology used by the California Community College System for tracking the post-college employment and wages for students that participated in career and technologies courses and programs.