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Palomar College Participating in Workforce Diversity Training

EDUCATION: National Program Aims to Improve Equity for Students

Palomar College in San Marcos is partnering with 16 other community colleges across the U.S. in a specialized program to develop strategies that will offer equitable employment opportunities for students.

The program, the first-of-its-kind community of practice, is called Advancing Community Equity and Upward Mobility (ACE-UP).

The initiative is focused on growing postsecondary and labor market disparities by bringing together community college and industry leaders to create strategies that will align education and training. ACE-UP’s goals include growing access to jobs and careers and advancing equitable employment outcomes.

Leaders from the colleges chosen – from Arkansas State University-Newport to Everett Community College in Washington – have been working since February with experts from the national nonprofit Corporation for a Skilled Workforce with companion research and documentation by the nonprofit think tank Urban Institute.

The independent and private Lumina Foundation, based in Indiana, has supported the initiative with a $500,000 grant.

Palomar was the only California-based institution selected to participate in ACE-UP. The college is one of four official Hispanic Serving Institutions that are part of the program. HSIs are colleges with greater than 25% of their undergraduate enrollment identifying as Hispanic or LatinX.

Star Rivera-Lacey
Superintendent/President
Palomar College

“At Palomar College, we make it a priority to support the workforce needs within the region and provide the training necessary for our students to find jobs with a livable wage,” said Palomar Superintendent/President Star Rivera-Lacey. “Our participation in the ACE-UP community of best practices gives our team leaders the opportunity to learn from others and further solidify our pathways to livable wage-earning positions for our students.”

ACE-UP involves a series of bi-monthly workshops, plus coaching and technical assistance sessions, running through summer 2024. Participants are working with peer community college and industry partners from across the country, gaining exposure, employing practical planning tools, and reflecting on and planning for applying the principles that underlie effective strategies at their colleges and industry partner workplaces.

Ultimately, participating schools will leave ACE-UP with an actionable plan to use at their institutions.

Nichol Roe
Associate Dean, Workforce and Extended Education
Palomar College

“I think as part of a community practice, we are hoping to learn from other colleges doing this kind of work across the country so that we can engage with our industry partners in a way that we have not clearly been able to do before, and folks who are interested in being a part of this new way of engagement like we are, learning how to do this,” said Nichol Roe, associate dean of workforce and extended education at Palomar.

Roe is among a team of six people from Palomar participating in virtual meetings with colleagues from the other colleges and industry partners to explore ways to encourage greater diversity in its career education programs and better prepare all students for their careers.

“We’re learning best practices from other institutions and we’re evaluating our own practices,” said Carmelino Cruz, acting chief diversity officer at Palomar College, who is also part of the team.

Cruz said that five themes underpin the ACE-UP learning experience: advancing institutionalized equity, aligning policy and practices, cultivating employer partnerships, enhancing student services and making data-driven decisions.

With what ACE-UP leaders say is a spiraling curriculum design, those themes are intended to emerge and re-emerge over the course of the community of practice, guiding discussion, lessons and resources, with learning reinforced by invited guest researchers and practitioners from the field.

Cruz said one of the first assignments as part of the program was to do a self-assessment, looking at what their practices are in different areas.

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