Paramount Education Programs (PEP), a part of Paramount Agricultural Companies, today announced that the California Department of Education has awarded West Hills College an $8.7 million grant for the Paramount Agricultural Career Academy (PACA), an innovative career pathway program designed to prepare high school students in California’s Central Valley for college and high-demand, high-paying jobs in the technology-driven agriculture industry.
PACA is one of only 10 recipients in the highest category (up to $15 million) of the statewide grant program this year in support of education through the California Career Pathways Trust. Directly linking education and careers, PACA is a regional collaborative among seven school districts, three community colleges, Paramount Agricultural Companies, Olam International, Grimmway Farms, and Paramount Education Programs.
In a part of California where the agriculture industry is the largest employer, PACA immerses students in a demanding, four-year early college program of study with three agriculture-themed pathways: Agricultural Business Management, Agricultural Mechanics, and Plant Science. These career pathways have been identified by top Paramount executives as having the greatest current and long-term demand for skilled workers in the Central Valley. In addition to taking college-level courses as part of their high school curriculum, PACA students are also guaranteed a paid internship at one of the partnering Ag companies. Ultimately, this program will ensure that these students will graduate high school with an Associate’s degree in hand, allowing them to either enter the skilled workforce or complete their Bachelor’s degree at a four-year college in half the time and at half the cost.
“All of us at Paramount are grateful to the California Department of Education for this important grant, as it affords us the opportunity to grow the PACA program and have an even greater, lasting impact on the lives of Central Valley youth,” said Lynda Resnick, co-owner and vice chair of Roll Global, Paramount’s parent company. “We want kids to understand the importance of education, know that a college degree is attainable, and realize that a wonderful career path and a bright future await them.”
“The Paramount Agricultural Career Academy has set a new standard for college readiness and career preparation in the Central Valley,” said Carole Goldsmith, president of West Hills College. “We appreciate the recognition and support that State Superintendent Tom Torlakson and the California Department of Education has given to PACA and West Hills, and this $8.7 million grant will allow for greater expansion of this career pathway program to more students.”
Specifically, the new state grant will enable PACA to be extended into three additional Central Valley high schools. This will build on the success of the five high schools already benefitting from the program, which was made possible in part due to the $9.9 million grant awarded by the State to PACA’s regional collaborative last year. During its inaugural year – the 2014-15 school year -- PACA included 235 9th grade students in the Central Valley. PACA will now be able to open its program to more students, with nearly 1,800 high school students expected to participate at full build-out in 2019.
This year’s $8.7 million grant will also help launch the program in seven feeder middle schools to increase students’ excitement about studying agriculture and taking STEM electives at an earlier age, ultimately allowing PACA to serve a total of 3,000 middle school students each year. In addition, the new grant will fund the creation of an “Industry Innovation Lab,” which will allow Paramount to assist other companies and local educators in replicating the successful PACA education model across other industries and workforces, generating even more sustained and diverse career pathways for students.
For more information, go to: www.paramounteducationprograms.com.
About Paramount Education Programs
Funded by Lynda and Stewart Resnick, owners of the Paramount Agricultural Companies, Paramount Education Programs offers a wide variety of college and career readiness programs to promote opportunities for young people in California’s Central Valley. PEP initiatives include agricultural career training, college scholarships, school grants, summer camps, arts education, early childhood programs and preschools, teacher development and parent engagement programs. The Resnicks also founded the Paramount Academy charter school in Delano, California.