On Monday, Assembly Member Rudy Salas presented $6 million dollars in state funding to expand and implement workforce training programs focused on health education. This is the second time in 2 months, and the fourth time in 4 years that Salas will present substantial funding, totaling over $22 million, to support Renegades and educational programming at Bakersfield College.
In 2018, Salas urged the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Educational Finance to approve $1 million for BC to expand workforce development programs which provided resources for the college to not only create its first HVAC training program in Delano, but also expand its programs focused on industrial automation and welding. The following year, Salas did it again to secure an additional $1 million to fund growing needs for BC’s CTE and rural education programs. Last month, Salas and BC announced $14 million for a new 2-story multipurpose building, adding classrooms and student support space at the Delano campus.
“This investment is how we make a difference in our community by improving education, nurses, health access, workforce training, and the creation of good-paying jobs that will uplift our students,” said Assemblymember Rudy Salas. “I am proud of Bakersfield College for expanding its reach in the rural areas, meeting students where they are, and growing programs that will provide not only a boost for our local economy, but also professional careers for families right here in Kern County.”
“Assembly member Rudy Salas makes things happen, and his work embodies keeping the #ValleyStrong. Through his tremendous support, he has secured over $22 million dollars for Bakersfield College, giving more students access to higher education and the support services to be successful,” said Dr. Sonya Christian, Chancellor of the Kern Community College District. “As a public servant with a heart for education, Assembly member Salas has a proven track record of caring about students and their futures. He knows that higher education is a proven pathway, not only to greater opportunity and upward mobility, but also towards financial stability, community wellness, and a stronger economy.”
The projects benefiting from this funding will include expanding the college’s Rural Health Equity and Learning (HEAL) collaborative, the CNA and RN nursing programs, and the allied health programs such as the new Physical Therapy Assistant program, while also providing funding for new post-pandemic student health and wellness services, and new certification programs, such as the Mental Health Worker Certificate.
For years, Bakersfield College has been focused on developing programs that fuel the health and wellbeing of Kern County, Central California, our local residents, and students. In 2018, then president, Dr. Sonya Christian initiated conversation and partnership with UC Merced Public Health Department, Fresno State, UCSF Fresno, and local Kern County health agencies to address health disparities through the Rural Health Equity and Learning (HEAL) collaborative. The group hit the ground running by identifying areas for future engagement which included developing Early College Pathways, enabling youth to establish a path towards Public Health Careers, expanding the local and regional healthcare workforce, public health campaign and advocacy programs, and providing critical data and research necessary to bring visibility to equity issues that impact rural communities.
The funding will also impact the college’s already-implemented Public Health Early College pathways which lead to stackable certificates or degrees in six high schools throughout Kern County with 85.8% - 97.7% Hispanic students (McFarland High School, Arvin High School, Wasco High School, Robert F. Kennedy High School, Cesar Chavez High School, and East High School). The program’s pathway is intentionally designed to set students on a cost and time efficient path towards qualifying certificates or degrees that lead to careers that have an annual earning potential of up to $100,000/per year.
“At Bakersfield College, we’re not just innovating and creating a seamless educational pipeline, we’re focused on empowering our community through education; giving every student the skills necessary for well-paying jobs, the awareness to prioritize health and wellness, and the confidence to go out, contribute, and give back to their community,” said Bakersfield College President, Dr. Zav Dadabhoy. “The recent pandemic has reinforced what we’ve already known about our healthcare workforce shortage. At BC, we know the solution lies within the ability to train and support our students and it is only through these Renegades, that we will get to where we want to be; a healthier, stronger, and more sustainable Bakersfield and Kern County.”
The Kern County public health sector job growth and job postings average far in excess of the current educational capacity. Our regional average of 119 new health field related hires monthly and a regional median wage ($42.66) slightly higher than the national median wage ($38.51) demonstrates the local shortage of healthcare professionals. Utilizing this new available funding, BC plans to expand its CNA, LVN, and RN programs to address this demand, ensuring that health careers are available and accessible to students, including Hispanic, minority, and low-income.
“Increasing the diversity of our health care workforce is key to our success and our health. Healthcare professionals who are home grown, local, and diverse can provide a unique level of understanding to their medical care. They bring with them an understanding of their patients and their life circumstances, ultimately, reflecting the community they serve,” said Dean of Nursing at Bakersfield College, Carla Gard.
To support more students through BC’s nursing programs, the funding will also provide scholarships, expand the nursing simulation lab and radiological technology programs, and provide a mobile phlebotomy lab so that Certified Phlebotomy Technician Training can be brought to rural communities throughout Kern County, granting them opportunities for certifications to quickly enter the skilled workforce, supporting rural healthcare efforts.
Renegades will also have the opportunity to seek a new degree in Physical Therapy Assistant, a highly in-demand field throughout Kern County and the state. According to the Employment Development Department State of California, (EDD), the number of Physical Therapist Assistants is expected to grow much faster than average growth for all occupations. Jobs for Physical Therapist Assistants are expected to increase by 30.8% or 1600 jobs projected between 2016 and 2026, for the state of California. Specifically, to Kern County, the growth of Physical Therapist Assistant is greater with an expected increase of 37.5 percent between 2016 and 2026 in Kern County.
New initiatives to be funded by the allocation will also include the Mental Health Worker Certificate pilot to develop a paraprofessional pathway for individuals who wish to support mental health providers and counseling professionals and a 2-week certification program in public health for non-health professionals.
As part of the funding details, the college also plans to expand its Student Health and Wellness Center programs and services at both the main campus and at its rural area sites to ensure students and the community has access to its respective offerings.
Bakersfield College was responsive from the onset of the pandemic providing educational opportunities, webinars, free COVID-19 testing on campus, supporting the community-wide vaccine roll-out with BC’s nursing faculty, students, and vaccination team. Earlier this summer, the college partnered with UCLA in efforts to Get Out the Vaccine (GOTV) to canvas the community, share information, and encourage our community to get vaccinated and remain safe.
“These multiple complementary efforts focused around community, rural health, and wellness are sure to make a difference. These Renegades are giving their time, energy, and are focused on making their future careers about helping others, both through the COVID-19 pandemic and way beyond. I couldn’t be more proud of their work and dedication, and we are so thankful for the support of Assemblyman Salas and all our partners who support BC,” Gard added.
Bakersfield College provides opportunities for students from diverse economic, cultural, and educational backgrounds to attain Associate and Baccalaureate degrees and certificates, workplace skills, and preparation for transfer. Our rigorous and supportive learning environment fosters students’ abilities to think critically, communicate effectively, and demonstrate competencies and skills in order to engage productively in their communities and the world.