Defining the Problem that Brought the Team Together
Economic observers have identified a number of worrying trends that appear poised to shape the future of work in the United States: (1) firms’ increasing use of contingent workers, including temps, day laborers, and on-call workers as a way to hold down labor costs and increase managerial flexibility; (2) the segmentation of the labor force which consigns undocumented immigrants, the formerly incarcerated, and other disadvantaged subgroups to second-class status in the workplace; (3) ongoing industry restructuring, which is remaking career pathways and leading to the proliferation of dead-end jobs; and (4) patterns of U-shaped growth, with increasing numbers of low- and high-wage jobs, but with fewer middle wage positions. In the greater Pasadena community, the vast majority of the day laborers are Latino men, primarily from Mexico and Central America and about 10% are homeless.
In the Pasadena community, the provider of ESL and technical training programs is Pasadena Area Community College District (PAACD). However, the PAACD noncredit division offers limited programs and services for immigrants especially those with very low literacy skills in their native languages. The lack of literacy skills in an immigrant’s native language prevents them from accelerating the acquisition of the English language and thus being able to access workforce education and training programs.
Description of the Partners
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) improves the lives of day laborers in the United States. To this end, NDLON works to unify and strengthen its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize, and organize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor, and human rights. NDLON fosters safer and more humane environments for day laborers, both men and women, to earn a living, contribute to society, and integrate into the community. Pasadena Community Job Center (PDJC) serves as the NDLON worker center for the greater Pasadena community.
Pasadena City College (PCC) is one of 112 California Community Colleges established in 1966, located in West San Gabriel Valley of Los Angeles County with an enrollment of 22,735 credit and 3,000 noncredit students. The mission of PCC is to provide a high quality, academically robust learning environment that encourages, supports, and facilitates student learning and success. The College provides an academically rigorous and comprehensive curriculum for students pursuing educational and career goals as well as learning opportunities designed for individual development. The College is committed to providing access to higher education for members of the diverse communities within the District service area and to offering courses, programs, and other activities to enhance the economic conditions and the quality of life in these communities.
Original Work Plan
The Pasadena City College (PCC)-Pasadena Community Job Center (PCJC) Partnership was formed as part of the California AB 86 Adult Learner Initiative to address gaps in instruction and student support services which includes the immigrant community. As such, PCC named PDJC as their regional partner for AB 86 and began offering ESL courses on-site. In the spring of 2015, the college offered two ESL classes (levels 1 and 2) and over the summer, offered a conversational ESL class in combination with the AB60 Driver Written Test Preparation course.
From the get-go, it was clear that a few ESL courses were not enough to meet the needs of the day laborers and their families. The BCPIW initiative helped to solidify a more formal partnership with a more comprehensive mission regarding providing the immigrant and day laborer workforce at PCJC with educational opportunities relevant to their realities to improve their lives and the lives of their families.
The team identified three goals that they hoped to achieve as part of BPCIW.
Analyze and assess the gaps between the types of training the day laborer clients needed and those offered at the college.
Strengthen educational pathways for better serve the immigrant population and to formalize an educational pathway for adult learners from noncredit English as a Second Language and Immigrant Education programs to other noncredit programs workforce education programs.
Develop a plan to implement pre-apprentice programs for day laborers.
The team brought together faculty from ESL, short-term CTE faculty, and credit CTE faculty to work in collaboration to determine the gaps and new curriculum that needed to be developed to provide low-skilled adults with both the academic and workforce skills needed to complete a short-term CTE certificate, transition to credit CTE program, or transition to the workforce in a family-wage earning field. As a result, in the fall of 2015, the team launched a new series of courses including: Green Construction, Green Housekeeping and ESL Conversation.
Presently, to complement these classes, the team is building more comprehensive career pathway programs that lead towards either a) employment in Green Construction, Green Housecleaning, and Green Landscaping, and/or, b) a pre-apprentice certificate aligned to the college’s construction and or landscape programs. To support this effort, the team developed a bilingual pre-construction pathway class and is searching for a bilingual faculty to teach the class.
Impact of the Initiative and Lessons Learned
Some of the key lessons learned very early on were that the day laborer population is not always ready to become part of what they perceive as a formal institution. Historically, this population has been largely ignored oftentimes shut out of institutions of higher learning. Therefore, it took some convincing and some building up of trust to incite enough interest that would lead to enrollment. Initially, enrollments were low and the classes were slated for cancellation by the college. Knowing that the PCJC clients would perceive the cancelling of classes as “abandonment” even for low enrollment, the team worked with the college administration to develop a longer-term strategic plan. As a result, the college agreed to keep the classes open to support the partnership and the trust issue was abated with more and more of the workers seeing the courses as “their own education.”
The team also recognized early on that a lot of workers were focused on the short-term “Am I going to work today?” question. It was critical to assist the workers in shifting to a longer-term perspective through an understanding of the benefits of more comprehensive training and education designed around a career pathway would lead to more gainful employment. Thus, the partners worked diligently to ensure that the program was accessible rather than intimidating and pertinent and relevant to the workers' lives.
More importantly, the team learned early on that many of the workers had no understanding of the types of employment opportunities available to them. Clearly, the partnership would be able to more efficiently and comprehensively serve their workers if they were able to place the workers into the most appropriate certificated program and ultimately, connect them with employers who are looking for workers with their skill set. As such, two new initiatives are in progress. First, the team is exploring funding to hire a career-navigator, success coach. Second, the team is developing an evaluation instrument. Every worker interested in training will complete the evaluation and the results will be used to create an individualized education plan and to track educational successes and challenges. The tool will be made available to all of the NDLON member organizations offering community college courses to their constituents.
Future Plans and Sustainability of the Partnership
Clearly, this team is energized and steadfast. They are committed to ensuring sustainability and in growing the relationship. And they clearly know that while the program was conceived and implemented by the PCJC in partnership with PCC, the team is clear about its true constituency. They recognize the importance of engaging the workers in every step of the process, to ensure that they are in charge of their own education plan. The team serves as facilitators guiding them along the pathway and in providing them with the comprehensive supports to ensure their success. But in the long-run, the day laborers are the stakeholders and the partners have pledged to ensure that their stakeholders are served.
Xochi Flores, Development Associate, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Omar Leon, Workforce Development Coordinator, National Day Laborer Organizing Network
Shannon L Maraghy, ESL Faculty, Pasadena City College
Dr. Roberto Flores, ESL Faculty, Pasadena City College