Company Supports College Readiness Program

By Ellen Ullman

When you combine a high school, a community college and a technology company, you get terrific career opportunities for students.

Partnerships between high schools and community colleges are becoming more common these days, and now a California community college has reworked the formula by adding a software company into the mix.

In California, Berkeley City College (BCC) is working with Skyline High School and software company SAP to pilot the first West Coast SAP 9–14 Information Communications Technology/Digital Media Pathway. The two-year program will allow underserved high school students to obtain college credit, be mentored by SAP employees and participate in other learning opportunities.

The partnership, which grew out of BCC’s work with the Career Ladders Project and the California Community College Linked Learning Initiative, will help the college inform students — particularly women and underrepresented populations — about the breadth and diversity of jobs in IT.

“We were lucky to be connected with a veteran high school teacher who has built an incredibly successful program that serves a huge number of students facing barriers,” says Maeve Katherine Bergman, dean of special programs and grants at BCC. “As we expose first-generation college students to admissions, financial aid and the importance of planning, we will make sure that they know that IT isn’t just about coding.”

From pilot to model program?

SAP employees will provide virtual mentoring for every high school student, using a curriculum that focuses on soft skills and assessments and caters to students’ learning styles. In addition to receiving career advice, the students will learn how to connect digitally and communicate professionally. SAP employees may speak at career events, and the company may offer internships to students.

“We are delighted that SAP dove in and that their employees are willing to donate time,” Bergman says. “A lot of students have no one at home or in their life who is discussing all of the different careers that are available to them.” Bergman is confident that the project will unite communities — even in the virtual world.

BCC will also become a member of the SAP University Alliances program, which will allow the college to participate in competitions and contests, get involved with projects, and learn about the research and development of new SAP solutions. The college will also gain access to an enormous collection of free curricula and online courses and to more than 1,800 universities worldwide. “We are excited to learn from others and discover their best practices. We know it will help us to reach our goal of ensuring that everyone in our community has access to training for jobs in this area,” Bergman says.

The pilot is an opportunity for BCC to figure out how to build industry relationships in all sectors, and Bergman hopes the work with SAP will become a model for colleges in the Peralta Community College District and beyond. “Industry wants to help,” she says. “We just need to get colleges and businesses to talk with each other. For now, we’re excited to test it out and share what works and what doesn’t.”

Ellen Ullman

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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