Silicon Valley Works to Improve Career Pathways for Community Colleges Students

Kanter at Google

Under Secretary Martha Kanter speaks with students during her visit to Google headquarters. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

With a putting green, 18 cafeterias, gardens and even a giant statue of a dinosaur, one may not associate Google’s massive headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., as a place where Department of Education officials, educators and business leaders come together to discuss career pathways for community college students.

Yet during a recent stop by U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, the novelty of Google’s complex were the last thing on the mind as leaders from Google, Cisco Systems, Lockheed Martin—Space Systems and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group came together for a panel discussion on innovative strategies to improve career pathways for community college students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

The 90-minute discussion – in front of a large audience comprised of regional industry leaders, community college presidents, K-12 educators, local policymakers and students – included Kanter’s detailed description of the Obama Administration’s support of STEM education at community colleges, highlighting the $2 billion Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training grant program that funds the pairing of community colleges with workforce partners to ensure that graduates are career-ready with the knowledge and skills that employers need.

Kanter speaks with educators at GoogleAfter the formal program and a Q-and-A session ended, many of the participants stayed to continue the discussion. Dennis Cima, senior vice president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, an association of 380 Silicon Valley employers, talked about the value of linking K-12 schools, community colleges and businesses.

“We know how important it is to create connections between education and industry,” Cima said. “Because once those connections are made, then industry has the ability to really help education fill its own needs. This was an opportunity to open people’s eyes about how important those public-private partnerships are.”

Google’s director of education and university relations, Maggie Johnson, who was a panelist, said that she found the session to be a good start because it brought the right people together.

“I really liked the part that came out around how there are very many different sectors that need to come together and coordinate in order to really make something happen,” Johnson said. “We got the community colleges in the room; we have industry; we have government. So at least we got everybody in the room. Where it goes from here, we’ll have to see.”

Kanter’s assessment of the value was similar to Johnson’s. “I think it was the beginning of what I hope will become a call to action, so the different sectors of education, business, philanthropy, government, labor, and community partners can come together to say, ‘How can these stakeholders – working together across sectors – architect a plan for this region to lead the way, through innovation, to make sure that every student gets the best possible education and is prepared, college-and-career ready, for the jobs now and for the future?’”

Joe Barison is the Director of Communications and Outreach for ED’s San Francisco Regional Office.


  1. This is good work. It certainly is a step toward growing our own STEMs. I oppose current legislation linked to visas and citizenship paths. It’s time for universities, colleges and industry to work together. What about the engineering schools of the past where co-ops were imbedded in the degree programs? I can write pounds of argument con this corporate payback for election support (thanks to Citizens United decision). We must have jobs, curriculum that excites students. Unfortunately, the computer, a magnificent tool, has morphed into the ultimate of education. (THINK is a dirty word. My experience goes back to faculty experience at USNA where midshipmen balked at thinking; don’t make me think, just tell me what I need to know to pass the exams. ARGH!

Comments are closed.