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Unique Career Pathways 

Biotech Pathway


Vacaville is growing its biotech footprint with the announcements of new facilities being built, new jobs being created and a need for a workforce that is yet to be developed. The City of Vacaville has announced that over 250 acres of land will have new biotechnology facilities built in the city in the next few years. These facilities will lead to approximately 10,000 industry jobs. It is clear in talking with Vacaville leaders that the current pipeline will not be enough to meet the workforce demand. In a letter, included in Appendix 5, supporting KPS’ inclusion of a biotech pathway as part of its high school, SCC Professor of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology Jim Dekloes has stated, “The demand for a workforce in this field is so great that I believe that I could quadruple my program and still see 100% job placement. Even with the launch of multiple high school programs, I believe that the talent pipeline will fall short of the demand for workers.”


The demand for an expanded workforce prepared for the biotech industry is evidenced by VUSD’s commitment to more biotech course opportunities in the future. However, as demonstrated by the professor’s statement above, VUSD options are not enough to meet the entirety of the community's needs according to industry leaders.


By approving this material revision, which includes the schoolwide biotech pathway at KLA, and giving KPS the ability to serve high school students, the Charter School and the District are partnering to improve workforce readiness within the local community. The pipeline Solano Community College already has in place must increase by getting more high school students interested in this career pathway.


It is KPS’ aim to develop a model pathway for the biotech sector, one that can be replicated by others within and beyond Vacaville. In addition, KPS’ small school model and organizational design will allow for continuous improvement in this pathway based on both internal data and, due to partnerships with SCC and the actual biotech industry, external feedback. As shared earlier, two relevant sections of language regarding the intent of charter schools, per the CSA, are “encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods” and, “provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.” The KPS model will address both areas, but also with a spirit of partnership with the District. KPS hopes to implement a model that the District can see as a laboratory of innovation from which to identify best practices for its own programs. KPS looks forward to collaborating with established District programs to learn from them and then Kairos intends to return the favor.


At KPS the biotech pathway starts in the early high school grades where introductory classes are led by KPS staff. These may be courses taught through an articulation agreement with SCC. Once students complete the first steps in the sequence, higher level courses will have SCC instructors as part of the dual enrollment program. These courses may be held onsite at KPS, at an SCC facility or virtually.


Throughout the course sequence students will be exposed to the industry through field trips to companies, guest lectures by industry employees and other firsthand experiences. The intent is to foster and develop an interest in the biotech field with students to increase the local workforce pipeline.


Beyond classes in the biotech pathway, students will have additional opportunities to be exposed to the industry. Access to these opportunities is enhanced by KPS’ flex-based model which does not require students to be in their seats on a school campus five days a week. Potential areas of exposure to the biotech field include the following: internships, both during the school year and in summer; individual, group or class projects; workshops prepared in collaboration with companies in the industry, and; job placement and career advancement support for graduates.


Beyond direct experience with the biotech field through coursework and experiential learning, students in this pathway will have exposure to relevant industries through work in their core classes, as outlined in Element A.


Public Safety Pathway


Another area of need for the Vacaville region identified in KPS’ community outreach is a pathway into the fields of public safety, including law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical technicians (“EMTs”). This is a need that will always exist in every community. In addition, over the last several years conditions in California have demonstrated that careers in the public safety industry will be in demand for the foreseeable future. This is especially evident given the increase in public emergencies such as wildfires and extreme heat, both of which have recently impacted Vacaville and the surrounding community.


Currently there is a public safety focused school in Fairfield, but this is the only such program in the county and it draws students both from Vacaville as well as communities even further to the east such as Dixon. This means families are leaving Vacaville each morning, or driving right through the city, to attend a program in a different school district. In addition, while students at VUSD’s two comprehensive high schools can take a class focused on safety and service, this is not a pathway.


Building on the Charter Schools strong track record of community service and civic engagement, KLA intends to offer a public safety pathway for its high school students bringing another unique program to the District. Unlike the Fairfield program, KLA will not have admissions requirements related to academic performance or behavior, and the pathway will be open to all admitted KLA students. In addition, this will differentiate from the District’s safety and service class as KLA will offer a pathway and include experiential learning in the public safety field. Similar to the biotech pathway, KPS sees the public safety pathway as an innovation that will improve over time and, hopefully, be replicated in other high schools whether within the District or beyond.


As in the biotech pathway previously described, students who participate in the public safety pathway will have an introductory course and progress into more and more specialized courses, including those offered via the dual enrollment option at SCC. A difference with the biotech pathway is that as students take the more specialized courses, they will select an area of focus such as law enforcement, fire safety or EMT focused courses.


Beyond coursework, experiential learning will be a key component of this pathway. As mentioned before, having a flex-based model gives students freedom with their schedule to pursue internships, field work experiences, including cadet programs, and other opportunities to gain first-hand knowledge of what a career in public safety is like from those who are in the field every day.


As with the biotech pathway, students in the public safety pathway will have exposure to relevant industries through work in their core classes, as outlined in Element A.


Financial Literacy Graduation Requirement


In the outreach for its five-year strategic plan KPS found that community leaders believe a commitment to financial literacy and planning will better prepare this next generation of the workforce for sustainable futures. This need was reinforced as recently as this year with the introduction of an assembly bill which proposed to make personal finance and financial literacy a high school graduation requirement in California. While this bill is currently inactive, the fact that a graduation requirement for financial literacy was introduced in the Capitol shows the topic has gained significant traction.


Beyond the assembly, additional state officials have communicated the importance of financial literacy. During a recent visit to a Bay Area high school this past March, California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, stated, “Young Californians are entering the workforce and higher education with very little understanding of financial literacy. This is deeply concerning, since students with higher financial literacy are more likely to invest in a savings account, prepare for retirement, and manage their debt…Ensuring that all young Californians have exposure to financial literacy is a vital step in closing inequality gaps and providing the skills and resources to improve their lives overall.”[1]


All students can benefit from a strong foundation in math and analytical thinking with a financial philosophy grounded in a balanced personal budget, regardless of present or future income. The same CDE press release cited above with Superintendent Thurmond’s comment also states, “Research shows that students who have access to high-quality financial education have better financial outcomes as adults that result in less debt and a higher quality of life.” Planning for post-high school education, whether it is a four-year college or a vocational path, requires taking finances into account, especially if loans are a consideration for bridging the gap between being a dependent, who is a member of a family residence where someone else earns the primary income, to being financially independent.


Given this need, and in addition to the biotech and public safety pathways, KLA will also feature a financial literacy course as a graduation requirement. This is a unique feature among local high schools according to the research of Next Gen Personal Finance Founder and CEO, Tim Ramzetta.


While all students will be required to complete one semester of financial literacy to graduate from KLA, additional opportunities in this field will be provided to interested students. Similar to the biotech and public safety pathways, financial literacy at KLA will include coursework and exposure to real life applications of the acquired skills and knowledge for interested students. KLA teachers will use a national financial literacy curriculum that includes professional development and partnerships.


The semester course that all KLA students will take, via the coursework provided by Next Gen Personal Finance, covers essential personal finance topics which include banking, credit, budgeting, investing, and career exploration in connection with financial projections. The goal of this course is to expose students to the essential personal finance topics so they leave with a thorough understanding of personal finance and are prepared to handle the financial responsibilities they will face following graduation.


For students interested in additional personal finance experience, there are additional, more specific courses from Next Gen Personal Finance that students may take.


Beyond the coursework, community partners will be involved to enhance learning and help students connect what’s learned in the classroom to the real world. Interested students will be partnered with a local banking institution as well as experience events hosted by local professionals in the finance industry. They will also be able to secure internships and potential job placements to further their knowledge and application of skills learned through coursework.


Beyond the biotech and public safety pathways, as well as the financial literacy graduation requirement, KLA will continue to research options for students as the high school grades expand and additional community needs are identified that match what KPS can offer.

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