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UC Merced in Partnership with the K-16 Workforce & Education Collaborative Receives State Planning Grant

November 7, 2022

The University of California, Merced, as the lead agency working in collaboration with partners from Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, was awarded a planning grant for $250,000 to plan and design streamlined pathways for students from high school to postsecondary education to the workforce.

A grant was made possible by the 2021 Budget Act, which allocated $250 million to the Department of General Services and is being administered through the Foundation for California Community Colleges. The collaborative will use the year to assess, design and create a work plan for the phase two application in the fall of 2023, which will be over $18 million.

The Workforce and Education Regional Collaborative (WE Will! Regional Collaborative) has been formed to address streamlining and accelerating students preparing to enter the priority industry fields that would better serve our region, students and families.

“UC Merced is committed to helping break workforce barriers,” Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said. “The WE Will! Collaborative between our campus and surrounding counties will be an essential pipeline to build a more equitable future for all students and provide the resources they need to reach their career goals.”

A unique feature of this grant is the creation of a system that can reach across silos to collaborate and leverage the power of all educational institutions and the workforce employers.

The collaborative will select 2-3 high-priority industry sectors to focus on streamlining across the three-county region. The selected pathways will be based on a regional assessment and inventory that guarantees decisions are based on data. The goal is to ensure equity for all students and clear pathways that cut through barriers and silos that delays entry into the workforce. There will be specific equity recommendations that each region must undertake and develop over the next 3-4 years.

“As the California State University serving this region, Stan State is committed to preparing our graduates to address and meet the needs of our regional workforce,” Stanislaus State President Ellen Junn said. “We are dedicated to working collaboratively to aggressively pursue equity and diversity in degree and credential attainment as we work to ensure the best possible preparation for student success in the workforce.”

WE Will! necessitates there is collaboration between all education partners and the workforce to design ways for students to experience connected learning experiences, acceleration opportunities and successful transition into locally available careers.

The partners joining UC Merced in leading this effort include:

  • California State University, Stanislaus
  • Merced Community College
  • San Joaquin Delta Community College
  • Modesto Junior College
  • Merced County Office of Education
  • San Joaquin County Office of Education
  • Stanislaus County Office of Education
  • Economic Development agencies
  • Local and regional employers
  • K-12 districts currently being led by Modesto City Schools, Merced Union High School District, Lodi Unified School District and Le Grand Union High School District

"This collaboration between our PreK-12 education system, colleges and universities, and industry partners will provide significant life benefits for students in our region," San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools Troy A. Brown said. "As a part of the WE Will! Collaborative, we believe we can provide clearer and more equitable paths to the workforce, and in doing so, create the opportunity for more of our young people to have meaningful careers and earn sustainable living wages in adulthood."

"We know employers don't stop at the county border when they are expanding,” San Joaquin Delta President Lisa Aguilera Lawrenson said. “We are looking forward to collaborating with our workforce partners and educational partners to get beyond the 'border' and plan for the region. Together we can provide a workforce for the needs of today and the future."