San Joaquin A+ Brings Together a Diverse Range of Industries with Local Schools to Provide Career-Connected Learning Experiences for 33 San Joaquin County Students 
[Stockton, CA] 6/25/24 – San Joaquin A+ brought together local school district leaders and leading employers from a range of industries in San Joaquin County to launch the second year of the Growing Futures Initiative. Growing Futures is a Career-Connected Learning Initiative sponsored by San Joaquin A+ that is focused on providing more inclusive pathways to jobs in the region.
“We are so grateful to all of our school and employer partners in helping to expand this program,” shared Kai Kung, CEO of San Joaquin A+. “We believe these experiences have the potential to not only broaden perspectives and skill sets for San Joaquin County students, but to put them on more direct pathways to fulfilling lives and careers. We are excited to greatly expand internship offerings and other career experiences in our second year, and to work together to take this program even further in the future.”
The Growing Futures Initiative started with a pilot program during the summer of 2023 working with Valley Robotics Academy (VRA) through a partnership with Lodi Unified, Delta College, and the Lodi Winegrape Commission. In its second year, with feedback and data from several regional and local employers, school leaders, and community partners, San Joaquin A+ has expanded the Growing Futures Initiative to offer pathways to jobs in agriculture, healthcare, education, and IT. The program has grown significantly from its pilot year, with a total of 4 participating local education agencies/school districts, 17 employers, and 33 students in its second year.
“Our organization is thrilled to be a part of this initiative, because it provides us with access to a local and diverse group of talented students and future leaders,” added Louie Heflen, Director of Employee Development, Holt of California. “We are a company where we believe you can be a successful staff member and leader regardless of your academic background. We hope exposure to our workplace might help some young people find a pathway to a successful career where they might not have otherwise.”
The program also expanded pre-internship programming opportunities and preparation for students. Specifically, SJA+ worked closely with high schools in Stockton and across San Joaquin County to make sure students were prepared to succeed in an expanded range of internship opportunities starting this month. This springtime set of career-connected learning initiatives included: Resume workshops; Job shadow tours, and a lunch & learn speaker series. These initiatives aimed to provide students with more information about potential internship types and employer experiences, and the resources and skills to pursue them. A video recap of a spring job shadow tour can be found here.
“We greatly appreciate the local businesses that serve as consultants and internship sites for this program. We are pleased that the first year with the Lodi USD Valley Robotics Academy was so successful, and we look forward to the expansion of the program. We believe that the Growing Futures Program meets an important need for both students and our local economy, and that it can serve as a model for other communities throughout the state.” added Superintendent Neil Young of Lodi USD.
“We were thrilled to visit these employer sites to see our students learning in action,” shared SUSD Superintendent Dr. Michelle Rodriguez. “Career and Technical Education – as well as working towards our Whole Child, Whole Family, Whole Community approach – is a priority for us, so we are so excited to collaborate on this initiative and help it continue to grow in the coming years.”
“This is an exciting day for our students,” added Ripon USD Superintendent Dr. Ziggy Robeson. “We have appreciated the collaboration and partnership with San Joaquin A+ in finding ways to support our students and put them on pathways to career opportunity. This growing initiative harnesses the unique industries in our region, and provides ways for our students to learn more about what is possible for them to achieve. We look forward to continuing to work together to make these experiences a reality for more students in the future.”
The Growing Future Initiative initially emerged out of a partnership between the Lodi Winegrowers, the Lodi Appellation Inclusion Collective (LAIC), and leading employers from the agriculture industry in San Joaquin County. These partners began convening in 2021 to focus on providing more inclusive pathways to agriculture jobs in the region long-term.
“It was wonderful to welcome our school and district partners today so they could meet and talk with our wonderful interns,” said Jennie Rodriguez, Director of Development for Community Medical Centers. “We are pleased to participate this year to share the CMC spirit with Stockton-area students and to identify talented and diverse future healthcare employees in hard-to-staff areas. We believe if we can get this right and sustain the program it can be a win-win for all involved.”
Lodi and the greater San Joaquin County is one of the largest wine industries in the United States. An economic impact report done for the California wine industry estimated that the SJ County wine and grape industry has an Economic Impact of $2.4 billion and there are around 14,000 jobs directly and indirectly involved. Healthcare and Education are both growing areas of employment in the region, with both industries facing staffing shortages in recent years.
“At Pacific Homecare Services we hire Care Providers to support the elderly and individuals with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Through our services we empower those we serve to thrive in every aspect of their lives.  We have a unique business that requires our staff to get to know clients and spend significant amounts of time in their homes with their high-need children,” shared Priscilla Ortiz, Director of Regional Center Services, Pacific Home Care. “Launching the second year of this initiative with a visit from our partners helps raise awareness of the needs of our industry, shows schools and partners how to work together to maximize the student experience, and will help us look toward the future to determine how we can help prepare more students for roles like this in the healthcare industry.”
To learn more about how San Joaquin County schools and employers are working together, you can view a webinar here.
All Participating Employers Include: Acquiesce Winery, Bokisch Vineyards, Children’s Museum of Stockton, Community Medical Centers, Computer Pros, Constellation Brand, Holt of California, KAYGE Gaming, Lodi Crush, Lucas Winery, Markus Wines, Nzinga, Pacific Home Care Services, San Joaquin Junior Show & Auction Council, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stonum Vineyards & Winery, World of Wonders Science Museum
All Participating School Districts Include: Aspire Public Schools, Lodi Unified School District, Ripon Unified School District, Stockton Unified School District
About San Joaquin A+: San Joaquin A+ is a group of educators, business leaders, active citizens and philanthropists. Collectively, the organization has supported education since 1996 and has almost a quarter century of experience and commitment to Stockton and SJ County. In order to create a system of great schools in our county, San Joaquin A+ collaborates with local families, education, and workforce partners to set a vision for how our community can prepare students to be successful and responsible citizens.