Gov. Jay Inslee has made a big push in recent years to help more Washington students train for and find work in science and technology fields. In particular, state leaders want to make sure students of color have access to those high-paying jobs.
In the latest briefing to the governor, heads of state agencies that oversee workforce development and post-secondary education gave an update on their progress.
Jan Yoshiwara, executive director of the state Board for Community and Technical Colleges, said such colleges need to make more improvement on helping certain groups of students finish degrees and certificates.
“American Indian students, African-American students and Pacific Islanders have lower completion rates overall, which is the challenge that we are focused on,” Yoshiwara said.
For example, between 2010 and 2014, 29 percent of Asian first-time students and 23 percent of white students attained a credential compared with 21 percent of American Indian students, 17 percent of black and African-American students, and 18 percent of Pacific Islanders.
In addition, Yoshiwara said African-American students are more likely to earn certificates than associate degrees. She said the colleges want to make sure students have access to all of the credentials offered and that they have enough information about high-paying careers as they choose what track to pursue.
“There is underrepresentation of students of color in the higher-wage programs, nursing, health tech and STEM programs, and there’s higher representation in the low-wage programs, especially the education and training category,” she said, adding that the category is predominantly child care and teacher aide programs.
Yoshiwara said career paths such as child care are important, but that the leaders of the colleges want to make sure there's diversity in the programs that lead to higher-paying work. She said the state's recent move to make college free for students below a certain income level will help more students complete degrees.