Community Colleges Collaborate to Meet the Alternative Fuel Vehicles Training Needs of California’s Transportation Industry

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By Jon Wollenhaupt

To meet the challenge of keeping California’s workforce productive and highly skilled, the state’s community colleges are successfully developing multi-college partnerships designed to meet the regional and statewide workplace training and educational needs of employers. These partnerships refute past claims that the community college system is too large and cumbersome to meet employers’ ever-changing workforce training and education demands.

An example of a successful, multi-college partnership is the collaboration among the Advanced Transportation and Alternative Energy (ATRE) centers of four community colleges: Cerritos, Long Beach City, El Camino, and City College of San Francisco. For more than five years, these colleges have been working in close partnership to deliver customized workplace training and education to municipalities and transit agencies statewide. Together, they have developed curricula, fostered industry relationships, and met the immediate training needs of municipalities and public transit agencies statewide.

The community colleges’ ATRE training program provides students and current workers with education and training in an array of clean energy technologies that form a critical part of California’s strategy to mitigate the impact of climate change and reduce the state’s dependency on foreign energy sources.

The multi-college collaboration began in 2011 when El Camino College in Torrance, Calif., was awarded multiple contracts by the Employment Training Panel (ETP) to deliver workforce training programs to municipalities seeking to deploy advanced transportation and alternative fuel technologies.

The ETP contracts awarded to El Camino College were derived through the Alternative Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program (Assembly Bill 118) and the California Energy Commission. Under AB 118, the ETP contracts could take advantage of more flexible employer requirements and be used to offset the costs of job-skills training for public entities. ETP funding is normally intended for private for-profit employers subject to the Employment Training Tax.

The initial ETP AB118 contracts were awarded in 2011. Subsequently, ETP has provided an average of $3 million annually for workforce training supporting the development and deployment of alternative and renewable fuels as well as advanced transportation technologies.

Stewart Knox, executive director of ETP, explains, “We receive $2 million to $3 million a year from the California Energy Commission to fund alternative energy training programs. In total, we’ve received roughly  $15 million through the ARFVTP. This funding gives us an unique opportunity to work with municipalities through our multiple employer contractors through contractors like El Camino and other community colleges.”

El Camino College’s working relationship with ETP was the starting point for the ATRE program partnership. “ETP contacted us because we’ve had a successful track record as a contractor in administering their contracts,” says Eldon Davidson, director for the Center of Customized Education at El Camino College. “To meet the grant requirements, we collaborated closely with the Advanced Transportation and Renewable Energy programs at Cerritos, Long Beach City College, and City College of San Francisco. We’ve created a long-term, successful partnership that leverages each college’s contract education, career technical education, and academic programs.”

Janet Malig, deputy sector navigator/advanced transportation, California Community Colleges, describes the collaborative efforts of the four colleges to win the contracts. “The ETP funding presented a significant opportunity for our ATRE programs,” she says “It was the first time ETP had offered funding for alternative energy training for public entities. Therefore, we made a strategic decision to partner with El Camino and the other community colleges to pursue those funds. Together, we had the expertise to cover all the requirements of the funds and to address the considerable training needs of municipalities and transit districts.”

The ongoing, five-year collaboration among the colleges’ ATRE programs has been focused on providing alternative fuel vehicles training in a variety of clean air technologies for light- and heavy-duty vehicles, including hybrid-electric, electric, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and other systems.

“These short-term, customized training programs were not-for-credit and delivered through the contract education program—the side of our community colleges that delivers customized training solutions and courses that fit the methods and culture of businesses,” Davidson explains. “The training programs that contract education develops and delivers ultimately strengthen the for-credit programs because the curriculum has been developed with industry input and has been beta-tested.”

The mission of a college’s contract education department is to enhance local and regional economic development through designing, developing, and implementing customized training for business and industry. Contract education strives to provide employers with high-quality training and education that helps develop a competitive and productive workforce.

ETP’s Knox describes the role of contract education as “the side of a community college that provides responsive workplace training and education to the state’s private and public employers. It is the component of the community college system that is uniquely positioned to respond quickly and effectively to employers’ short-term training needs.”

Read more at California Corporate College.

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