Keeping Career Training Current: Technology at Hacienda La Puente

By Alison Ascher Webber

In the “Inside California Education” short documentary on Hacienda La Puente Adult Education, autoshop instructor Mike Rojas shows computer software used to teach students how to build and test electrical circuits in a simulated environment before they ever touch real circuit boards.

Intrigued by this example, I asked Hacienda La Puente Adult Education what strategies it uses to keep more than 365 training programs current with rapidly evolving technologies. EdTech Center partner, John Fleischman, who helped produce the segment for KVIE TV, introduced me to Matthew Smith, Director of Career & Technology for Hacienda La Puente.

“Technology has us on our toes,” affirmed Smith as he described the financial and pedagogical challenges of keeping their trainings current. Building on Rojas’ example, Smith explained how auto-shop instructors now need to teach how to run the computer programs behind cars’ electronic systems. Smith then shared the two most important strategies they at Hacienda La Puente, California’s second largest vocational and adult education campus:

  1. Ongoing training of teachers: Smith emphasized the importance of providing continuous training of teachers so that they can stay up to date on industry trends and new technologies. He gave the example of appliance repair, an industry in which instructors used to focus on teaching things like re-siding the door of a refrigerator. But now, Smith said, almost all appliances run on chips that regulate eight or more controls. This means that instructors must now have the digital skills to master and teach the new systems. He also shared how their professional development includes cross-departmental meetings on technology bringing together instructors in industries ranging from welding and culinary arts to business, pharmacy, dental and healthcare careers. They share the technology tools and instruction strategies and identify opportunities to share the cost of technology investments across departments.
  2. Employers on the Advisory Board: Smith underscored the critical role corporations such as Pet Boys, LG Electronics and Cisco Foods have in advising Hacienda La Puente staff on how their industries are shifting. Industry leaders advise on curriculum and technology purchasing. Employer partnership has also helped lessen some of the expense as all of the appliances and much of the other equipment used in training are donated by the corporations. Most importantly, close corporate partnership is essential for lining up jobs for their students upon graduation. That’s the end game for Smith, who shares in the video the goal of moving families in communities affected by poverty into better living situations through living wages.