Kern Community College District to become new host of regional workforce development group, hires Jessica Grimes to lead effort
The Kern Community College District has named Jessica Grimes as its Dean of Economic and Workforce Development. In this position, she will serve as the regional chair for the Central Valley/Mother Lode Regional Consortium and play a lead role in ensuring a broad and equitable post-pandemic workforce recovery throughout the region.
Grimes comes to the position as KCCD embraces a renewed focus on workforce development in the pandemic’s wake. Chancellor Sonya Christian has made workforce preparation a top priority for the district and its three colleges, with a focus on preparing students for 21st century jobs and building longterm economic resilience for the communities the district serves.
As part of this effort, KCCD applied for and was selected to be the new host site for the regional consortium, which Grimes will lead. The consortium, previously hosted at State Center Community College District in Fresno, is made up of 15 community colleges in as many counties throughout the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills, an area that covers 46,000 square miles and is home to nearly 5 million people. Through collaboration, the consortium works to establish structures, programs and courses that create meaningful educational outcomes for students that translate into tangible labor market returns.
As regional chair of the consortium, Grimes will be responsible for providing leadership and long-range economic and workforce planning in consultation with the member colleges, their career education deans, faculty and workforce partners, with the goal of increasing the number of students in programs leading to high-demand, high-wage jobs.
“I am excited to join the team at KCCD, where workforce development has long been a priority and where there has been success in this space among the colleges. KCCD has been a leader in partnering with other institutions to expand career education and work-based learning. As such, I believe KCCD is in a great position to lead a collaborative effort spanning the Central Valley/Mother Lode region with other colleges, K14 educational leaders and institutions, universities, industry partners and community-based organizations in serving our students,” Grimes said. “KCCD is in a unique position where we can accelerate our impact on student success and equity. It is a privilege, which I also consider to be an obligation, to take on this role in working collaboratively across the region to serve all students by reducing achievement gaps so that they have greater access to opportunities that will result in economic empowerment.”
Grimes, a Bakersfield native, comes to KCCD from Taft College, where she most recently served as Dean of Instruction and Career Technical Education and was Taft College’s representative on the Central Valley/Mother Lode Consortium Steering Committee. Before that, she was an English professor for 10 years at Taft College. She earned an undergraduate degree in English from University of the Pacific in Stockton, a master’s degree in Religion and the Arts from Yale University, and a Ph.D. in Literature and Criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
California community colleges are organized into seven regional consortia to advance and address workforce needs through career technical education and workforce training in each region. Each region’s host college or district facilitates career technical education and workforce and economic development collaboration and coordination efforts to drive towards the expansion of work-based learning for students, increase student employment outcomes and improve the responsiveness of colleges to the training needs of employers.
“I am thrilled for this historic moment at KCCD. We’ve never been the regional host for the 15 community colleges and I can’t think of a better person to lead us as host site than Jessica Grimes, who I’ve known for a long time,” said KCCD Chancellor Sonya Christian. “COVID-19 upended our work and education systems, exposing entrenched inequities and displacing many of our entry level and low-wage workers. Our reimagined approach to workforce development serves as a catalyst to create the economies and jobs of the future, leveraging the necessary partnerships, and state and federal investments. Dr. Grimes is joining a talented, dynamic KCCD team driving a results-oriented approach to education. It’s a great time to be at KCCD.”
Grimes will have day-to-day oversight of the consortium’s operations and staff, and will work under Trudy Gerald, KCCD’s Vice Chancellor for Economic and Workforce Development.
“KCCD is excited to lead the Central Valley/Mother Lode region in shaping an innovation ecosystem that will heighten competitiveness, equity, and economic growth. We are being innovative in our partnerships both locally and regionally to include research entities, thought leaders, and community organizations to ensure our efforts toward the development of an inclusive and ready workforce. We’re happy to welcome Jessica, who is a natural leader and well-regarded among her peers and the community,” Gerald said.
The Kern Community College District (KCCD) serves communities over 24,800 square miles in parts of Kern, Tulare, Inyo, Mono, and San Bernardino counties through the programs of Bakersfield College, Cerro Coso College and Porterville College. Governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees, the district’s colleges offer programs and services that develop student potential and create opportunities for our citizens.
KCCD is geographically one of the largest community college districts in the United States, serving more than 30,000 students. Our students represent a diversity of religions, economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, abilities, and ethnicities.