In a difficult economy, jobs in engineering represent one of the largest and best paid career opportunities in California. Yet with calculus skills required as a threshold for entry to post-secondary engineering programs, many Californians are excluded from these opportunities. Lack of needed math skills, as well as a lack of the long term academic, social, and financial support needed to succeed in a multi-year post-secondary program are critical barriers to entry to the state’s thousands of engineering jobs.
The goal of the B2E Career Pathway is to address these barriers through a comprehensive program incorporating academic, social, and financial support to help disadvantaged and disconnected youth and adults to succeed in California’s established post-secondary engineering programs. The proposed B2E Initiative will assist 400 individuals in the Bay Area and Orange County move through a five year engineering pathway leading from community college to a BS degree at partner CSU and UC campuses. The program includes an intensive and accelerated Bridge to Calculus, introduction to engineering and engineering careers, job shadowing and internships, and a continuing cohort model where students move together as a learning community through the first two years of an engineering pathway. Students also receive tutoring, mentoring, and financial support.
Over the next few years, California will need over 50,000 engineers in fields including computer software, electrical, and structural engineering. Recent improvements in the economy are accelerating this demand, with Bay Area technology employers actively competing for engineering graduates. As the New York Times noted, one major Silicon Valley employer recently raised starting engineering salaries by $20,000 a year to attract strong candidates.
Despite the high employer demand, and established engineering pathways throughout California leading from community college to the state’s CSU and UC systems, many potential engineering candidates are precluded from pursuing engineering as a career. National data shows underrepresented minorities – including African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans – comprised just over 9% of minority college-educated Americans in science and engineering occupations in 2006. Apart from traditional barriers such as lack of knowledge of career and educational opportunities, lack of role models, and a lack of academic, social and financial support, students are faced with the need to have calculus competency at the start of a four year engineering degree program. With 70% of students entering some California community colleges with math deficiencies, this requirement alone is a major barrier. For the substantial population of students entering community college with pre-algebra math levels (often a third or more of entering disadvantaged students), the need for math remediation alone adds 2 ½ years to engineering training, making the pathway to a BS degree 6 or 7 years or more. For many students, this, along with other barriers, eliminates engineering as a career option.
There is a clear need for another way—one that combines accelerated math with support services to help retain students in community college and promote their transfer to a B.S. engineering program.
The B2E Initiative will provide a comprehensive, multi-year pathway to engineering careers designed to address the barriers preventing disadvantaged youths and adults from pursuing engineering education. Key elements include:
- Pre-Calculus Bridge: An intensive 9 month Bridge integrating college algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus, cutting almost two years from the typical developmental math progression. Students participate full-time in a 24 college credit class program combining classroom instruction with lab and experiential learning as well as an introduction to engineering careers;
- Articulated engineering pathway: A defined four year pathway incorporating community college engineering courses, a direct transition to CSU or UC engineering programs, and a BS degree.
- Cohort-based learning community: Students move through the academic program together in a learning community to provide peer support and improve retention;
- Summer Institutes: A summer program incorporating academic instruction with project-based learning, mentoring, and introduction to engineering careers;
- Internship and paid work experience opportunities: Students are placed in project-based paid internships leading to unsubsidized internship opportunities with partner employers;
- Tutoring and mentoring: Each learning community will have assigned tutors and mentors to aid students in academic and study skills;
- Counseling and financial aid support: All students will receive dedicated academic and financial aid counseling.
- UC and CSU: UC Irvine, San Francisco State, CSU East Bay, CSU Fullerton and CSU San Marcos;
Community Colleges: Canada, Chabot, Saddleback, Santa Ana, Palomar and Fullerton College;
Employers: OCTANe, Edwards, Experian, WebCOR, others;
Workforce agencies: San Mateo Workforce Investment Board (WIB), Alameda WIB, Santa Ana WIB;
Other: Samueli Foundation, CivicCorp, and Growth Sector.