A consortium of school districts, community colleges, and community-based partners led by the San Mateo County Office of Education received a $2 million K12 Strong Workforce Program grant to improve college and career readiness among students in north San Mateo County.

The two-year grant will expand college and career readiness programs for more than 11,600 students of color and students from families with limited financial means in five school districts: Bayshore Elementary School District, Jefferson Elementary School District, Jefferson Union High School District, San Mateo-Foster City School District, and South San Francisco Unified School District.

Using the grant funds, the consortium will build pathways from school districts to the San Mateo County Community College District (SMCCCD), create work-based learning programs, and develop comprehensive systems to ensure the programs are equitable and trauma-informed. Among the projects will be new middle school CTE pathways that align with high school CTE programs as well as post-secondary pathways. It will also support the development of summer work-based learning academies and internships in high-wage and middle- and high-skilled careers. These projects will provide students with hands-on experience and help strengthen the regional workforce.

“This grant will expand student access to emerging and compelling career pathways that will allow students to live and thrive right here at home in San Mateo County,” said San Mateo County Superintendent Nancy Magee.

Data on the California School Dashboard has consistently shown that non-Asian students of color and students with low socioeconomic status are less prepared for college and careers compared with other student groups. Schools have been working to remedy this situation, which can be traced to barriers such as systemic racism and classism.

These barriers have been exacerbated by the economic uncertainty and educational disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and are especially relevant in northern San Mateo County, where many there are larger groups of students of color or who qualify as low socioeconomic status. In Daly City, for example, 49 percent of students in the Bayshore Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, and Jefferson Union High school districts are from families with limited financial means, and 75 percent of students are non-Asian students of color. Similarly, 40.8 percent of South San Francisco Unified School District students are from families with limited financial means, and 80.3 percent of students are non-Asian students of color. The K12 Strong Workforce grant will provide north San Mateo County school districts with the funding and partnerships to provide these students with the education and opportunities they need to thrive in college and career.

The consortium includes the San Mateo County Office of Education, the San Mateo County Community College District, the five school districts, and various community-based partners including Mid-Peninsula Boys and Girls Clubs, NOVAworks Jobs Center, City of Daly City, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and STEAM the Streets.

The California Legislature established the Strong Workforce Program to enhance and expand career technical education (CTE) and workforce training to prepare students for high-wage employment in industries that meet regional labor market needs. The grant is distributed through the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.