West Kern Adult Education Network (WKAEN) entered into a Joint Power Authority (JPA) in 2017. At that time, as part of the consortium’s Three-Year Plan, WKAEN’s goals were to create an established system student intakes, assessments, counseling, and placement processes into the myriad of adult education pathways and workforce services. The formation of the WKAEN JPA allowed the consortium to leverage and localize resources and ultimately led to successful implementation of the Three-Year Plan, ultimately increasing services and student success as a whole. Additionally, West Kern County has seen a significant transformation that has encouraged countless students toward new pathways that lead to greater career mobility, economic growth, and community development. According to 24/7 Wall Street Index, the West Kern community is listed as one of the top fifty worst places to live. Keenly aware of the high needs this area holds, WKAEN sought out community partnerships throughout the area to leverage every resource for the benefit of the community who needed it most. As a result, the alignment of educational institutional resources has facilitated the growth of adult education and has allowed the consortium to deliver a vision that serves our population.
· Respect & support toward students and employees
· Removing barriers
· Empowering student success
The core purpose of WKAEN is to develop and provide educational opportunities for adults leading to increased employment and/or higher education resulting in greater financial stability. This purpose is accomplished through the organization’s core values:
· Removing barriers and empowering students
· Community involvement and awareness
· Respect and support shown to students and employees
The consortium will ensure that all residents have access to sufficient and effective resources, training, and support required to meet the community needs for high school equivalency literacy, English as a Second Language (ESL), and citizenship education.
Currently, WKAEN is projected to serve 200 per AEP year. Currently, 293 non-duplicated students are being served. A total of 801 workforce certifications have been handed out since 2017 and WKAEN has had over 100 students graduate since 2019.
Due to West Kern’s rural community, the needs of students remain the same: low high school equivalency attainment, a high unemployment rate, with 56% Hispanic/Latino population and 15% of those are not U.S. Citizens. This data shows that there is a high need for English as a Second Language (ESL). WKAEN will continue to prioritize IIF that will incorporate ESL, Spanish GED, parenting, financial literacy, computer skills, civics, citizenship, and CTE ESL courses. Looking forward to the next three years, WKAEN plans to expand many different areas of opportunity. In 2022 – 2025, WKAEN will complete updates on a building that will serve the Hispanic and Latino community. This new facility is located one block away from Jefferson Elementary, which serves a Hispanic and Latino student population of 80%. Classes such as ESL, civics, citizenship, parenting, financial literacy, computer skills, and ESL CTE will all be housed in this new building.
Further, back in 2019, WKAEN applied for and received the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) grant which totaled to $200,000 and was expected to serve 20 students. Funding is used to provide job training through internships and mentoring for youth ages 18-24. Due to COVID, the first year of the program was put on hold but once the 2020 – 2021 school year was refunded, WKAEN’s WIOA program ramped up recruitment and was able to meet the goals set by the grant. For the following 2021 – 2022, this program received an increase which totaled to $263,244 to serve 35 students – fifteen more than the previous year. This program has been incredibly successful with WKAEN implementing a waitlist to add more students. The consortium is currently applying for the 2022 – 2023 school year program and hopes to increase funding and serve a total of 100 students.
· By 2025, increase the number of HSE graduates to 50 per year.
· By 2025, develop at least two accredited programs with state recognized certificates that lead students to gainful employment.
· By June 2025, apply and operate the WIOA II grant.
· By June 2025, hire 2 ESL teachers to teach ESL, civics, Citizenship fulltime during the daytime hours.
· By June 2025, operate a Home Care aide program that leads to a CNA program in ESL.
· Increase employment rate by 50% within our local company/industries.
· Represent adult education organizations who reside in rural area for the state of California and continue to advocate on the needs of these areas.
WKAEN will continue to hire and put the right people on the bus. WKAEN will strive to be the best we can to meet the needs of the surrounding industries and ultimately, serve students in need with real-world skills.