PPIC Logo Independent, objective, nonpartisan research
Report · October 2019

Higher Education in California: Strengthening Career Education

Sarah Bohn and Shannon McConville

We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sutton Family Fund.

About 30 percent of California’s future jobs will require some training beyond high school but less than a four-year college degree. And in today’s economy, jobs that offer family-supporting incomes often require some postsecondary education. Career education prepares students for these “middle-skill” jobs by providing occupation- and industry-specific training. Career education is especially important for low-income workers, offering them a path toward upward economic mobility. Californians seem to be aware of these realities: PPIC Statewide Surveys consistently find that more than 95 percent feel that it is important for the state’s community colleges to offer career education.

Career education is getting renewed attention from policymakers interested in improving students’ economic outcomes and addressing California’s workforce needs. Recent investments at the state and national levels have focused on expanding and improving career education programs. Since 2014, California policymakers have directed more than $1 billion toward developing and expanding career education in both the K-12 and community college systems. In 2016, the state created the Strong Workforce Program, which allocates $248 million annually to support advancement of career educa-tion programs across the California community college system. Given the importance of career education, it is critical to ensure the success of these efforts by identifying and expanding effective approaches.

This publication is part of a briefing kit that highlights our state’s most pressing higher education challenges in eight key areas:


Access Completion Economy Equity Higher Education K–12 Education Population Workforce and Training Workforce Needs