California Competes’s Analysis of New Executive Order on Career Education


Yesterday, the Governor signed an executive order that advances key California Competes priorities, including coordinated policy implementation and higher education and workforce alignment. The executive order aims to address California’s most urgent policy goals, along with the state’s unmet need for skilled labor across various sectors, especially in trades, green energy, health care, technology, and public administration. 

The Governor calls on state leaders across education, labor, rehabilitation, and economic development to develop a new Master Plan for Career Education, which will serve as a roadmap to strengthen career pathways, emphasize hands-on learning, streamline access to benefits programs, and reduce the cost of college for all Californians. The executive order directs the three public higher education segments and five other government entities to work with stakeholders, including students, business, labor, and community groups, to develop and submit the new plan by October 2024. By fostering partnerships across sectors, the Governor seeks to create seamless transitions between education and the workforce. 

“We appreciate the Governor’s focus on education and workforce alignment, cross-sector coordination, and implementation fidelity. We agree with the administration that these priorities should be centered in any strategy to strengthen our economy and communities, and California Competes has worked to provide rigorous research, actionable solutions, and steady guidance on these critical policy areas,” says California Competes CEO Su Jin Jez. 

The main goal of the executive order is to break down silos within and across state agencies to translate investments in career pathways into tangible outcomes. While the task ahead will not be easy, a pivotal component of this new effort focuses on enhancing coordination between K-12 education, higher education, workforce, and employers—entities that often operate in silos despite shared goals and increasingly overlapping constituencies. This lack of coordination has impeded innovative state initiatives aimed at supporting Californians in need, hindering successful execution or reach to the intended beneficiaries. To this end, the executive order calls out the following three goals: 

  • Strengthening Career Pathways – The administration envisions a system that empowers all Californians to obtain the skills and experience necessary to pursue a good-paying career and easily connect with employers hiring for those skills. The executive order calls for the development of user-centered tools to integrate the programs and goals identified within the new Master Plan and ensure recent investments are implemented with Californians in mind. 
  • Prioritizing Hands-On Learning and Real-Life Skills – The Governor hopes to enable  students and workers to learn through direct experience and have paid opportunities for skills development. Achieving this vision will require growing employer-education partnerships, strengthening work-based learning opportunities, awarding credit for prior learning more consistently, and expanding competency-based education to better integrate skills into academic records. 
  • Streamline Benefits Access and Reduce College Costs – To address the often too-steep true cost of attendance for Californians, the state can start by simplifying and increasing access to financial aid and public benefits, as well as reining in students’ highest cost driver – housing. The state can address housing costs by helping campuses continue to expand and offer affordable housing for more of California’s students beyond the current investment of $33.5 million annually. 

The executive order directs agencies to submit policy recommendations to advance these efforts. Given California Competes’s long-standing focus on the aforementioned policy areas, we anticipate and look forward to working with the governor, legislature, and agencies to support the development of the new plan.

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