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Emerging Practices with Promise

Submitted By: Nancy Miller, Sonoma County Adult Education Consortium

Consortium members, partners develop short-term training programs

The Challenge

Members of the Graton Day Labor Center (GDLC), located within the Sonoma County Adult Education Consortium service area, were unable to access career technical education (CTE) courses and training programs that could better position them to land and keep short-term jobs and, potentially, transition into more permanent employment. They didn’t meet the requirements to take credit-based CTE courses at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC). The noncredit program offerings through Petaluma Adult School didn’t focus on areas of employment for undocumented workers in Sonoma County, and SRJC did not have noncredit CTE offerings. Having a skill and/or industry certification would open the door to permanent jobs, helping to stabilize families, giving them an opportunity to focus on English-language acquisition, further education and civic engagement.

The Solution

GDLC partnered with SRJC and the consortium to develop and implement short-term career skills training programs that include industry certification. The CTE training was paired with contextualized beginning-level ESL to acclimate first-time students to the American education system. GDLC staff surveyed clients to determine the types of programs in which they were interested in participating; the top two programs were landscaping and home health care. The group decided to start with xeriscaping. CTE and ESL teachers collaborated to develop a 64-hour program that would run for eight weeks, on Friday nights and Saturday mornings, and would lead to OSHA 10 and forklift operation certifications.

The class launched in April 2016 with 24 students, though initial interest was 36 students. Students not making it into the first class were placed on a waiting list for the second cohort. The first class, Introduction to Xeriscape, focused on English for the work environment, which included industry terminology, emergency and safety communication skills, and basic math for landscaping and construction, in addition to basic xeriscape skills. As originally envisioned, there were two additional courses to round out the noncredit landscaping certificate: an intermediate landscape course, which focused on irrigation installation, and a course to prepare students pursuing a contractor’s license.


Students were able to relate to the content of the ESL course. Twenty-one of the 24 students completed the program. All of the students received OSHA 10 certification and fork-lift operation certification. Fifty percent of the students continued in the SRJC noncredit ESL program, and 15 students completed the second phase of the landscaping program that focused on hardscape construction.

Since the completion of the landscaping program, the consortium has added several new integrated training programs that are directly related to local workforce need, including restaurant services, hospitality worker, small business development, basic computer skills and construction.

The consortium also added three outreach specialist positions to assist with recruiting, enrolling and retaining students in the programs and launched a Spanish-language advertising campaign to inform the community about all of the available programs through the Sonoma County Adult Education Consortium, using a novela-style format. In fall 2017, the consortium will have 12 short-term CTE programs throughout Sonoma County, each with an enrollment of about 25 students, that serve both Spanish-language students seeking entry into postsecondary education, and English-language students who need to update skills for the current job market.

The Data

Data related to the xeriscaping program paint a promising picture:
• 87.5% completion rate
• 71% of completers continued into the second course in series
• 53% of students continued in general noncredit ESL courses
• 100% of completers received two industry certifications
• 50% of students secured full-time employment or received hourly wage increases

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