Merced County Times Newspaper
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UC Merced-led collaborative awarded $18.1 million in state funds

Local high school students participate in a chemistry demonstration at UC Merced.
Local high school students participate in a chemistry demonstration at UC Merced.

An education and workforce collaborative spearheaded by UC Merced and composed of partners from Merced, Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties was awarded $18.1 million by the California Department of General Services (DGS) as part of the K-16 Education Collaborative Grant Program. WE Will! The Northern San Joaquin Valley K-16 Regional Partnership was one of four collaboratives across the state recently selected to receive an award.

Among the goals of the K-16 Education Collaborative Grant Program is to ensure equity for all students and clear pathways that cut through barriers and silos that delay entry into the workforce.

“Every Californian should have the freedom to succeed by obtaining real-life skills and fulfilling careers — including those that don’t require college degrees,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom. “With today’s investment, California is yet again going further to prepare students and workers for high-paying, long-lasting and fulfilling careers.”

The K-16 Education Collaborative Grant Program is a key component of a statewide strategy for strengthening regional economies, improving education-to-career pathways, and ensuring that education, vocational and workforce programs work in partnership to provide broader access to education and employment opportunities.

“UC Merced remains committed to breaking down workforce barriers and, as education leaders, we recognize that collaboration is the key to unlocking the full potential of our students,” said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “By joining forces, the WE Will! Collaborative will empower students with the skills, connections, and opportunities they need to thrive in the ever-evolving job market.”

As part of the work, the collaborative will focus on high-priority industry sectors across the three-county region. The selected pathways of healthcare and education are based on a regional needs assessment and inventory and include high school preparation, post-secondary pathways, and work-based learning to increase interest and preparation.

“The WE Will! Collaborative is working diligently on a plan to strengthen our education and workforce partnerships and pathways,” said Orquidea Largo, interim associate vice chancellor of the Center for Educational Partnerships at UC Merced. “Our partners understand the importance of this collaborative and are committed to our important work ahead.”

Members of the WE Will! Collaborative include:

  • California State University, Stanislaus
  • Merced College
  • San Joaquin Delta College
  • Modesto Junior College
  • Merced County Office of Education
  • San Joaquin County Office of Education
  • Stanislaus County Office of Education
  • Economic development agencies
  • Local and regional employers
  • San Joaquin A+, Stanislaus Cradle to Career Partnership, Business and Educaiton Alliance of Merced County
  • K-12 school districts led by Gustine Unified School District, Merced Union High School District, Ripon Unified School District, Stockton Unified School District, Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, and Modesto City School District

Funding for the K-16 Education Collaborative Grant Program was made possible by the 2021 Budget Act, which allocated $250 million to the DGS. For more information about the program, visit

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