The San Diego Workforce Partnership and the University of California San Diego Extension today announced a new, first-of-its-kind initiative aimed at removing financial barriers to higher education for students and working learners in San Diego. Beginning this summer, the program will enable unemployed and underemployed individuals across San Diego County to access training in high-demand fields at no up-front cost.
"For too many students and workers in the San Diego region, the cost of education poses a barrier that can prevent them from pursuing opportunities for social and economic mobility," said Andy Hall, COO of the San Diego Workforce Partnership. "This is about creating a new, sustainable model of workforce development that can connect individuals with new career pathways—and help employers address pressing tech talent shortages."
The new program, known as the Workforce Income Share Agreement Fund (Workforce ISA Fund), was designed to address skill shortages in San Diego's fastest-growing industries, including business intelligence and digital marketing. According to research from the San Diego Workforce Partnership, the region has seen double-digit growth in technology jobs in recent years, but the pipeline of graduates with the skills to succeed in those positions continues to lag behind.
Participants in the Workforce ISA Fund will have access to certificate-granting courses at University Extension through a unique model that requires no up-front tuition. Instead, once students complete their certificate and secure a job with an annual salary of at least $40,000, they pay a set percentage of their income over a set period of time. Because the payment amount scales with an individual's salary, the program ensures that no graduates will face the burden of payment during times of financial hardship. Students will also have access to a wraparound support system designed to help them succeed in both the classroom and the job market, including career coaching and mentoring, exclusive networking events, and internship and job placement services.
"It's time for employers, education providers, and individuals to start preparing for a world where lifelong learning is an economic imperative," said Josh Shapiro of UC San Diego Extension. "Our goal is to ensure that every student and worker in San Diego can access a world-class education coupled with the support and guidance that will help them succeed in the workforce."
The first program cohort will launch this July with 100 students, with the aim of growing to 200 students annually beginning in 2020. This year's initial pilot is supported by grants from Google.org, Strada Education Network and The James Irvine Foundation.
"This initiative should serve as a model for innovation in workforce development across the country," said Andrew Dunckelman of Google.org. "The Workforce ISA Fund is an important step towards a nationwide shift in the way we think about education and training to prepare for the jobs of the future."
"Our goal is to expand access to education at a time when the shelf life of skills is shrinking, and 'one-and-done' learning is no longer enough to equip individuals with skills that will last throughout their careers," said Tonio DeSorrento of Vemo Education, which is leading the design and implementation of the Workforce ISA Fund. "UC San Diego Extension and Workforce Partnership are pioneering a new approach to preparing today's workforce for the jobs of tomorrow."