Group of people holding up check to Fresno City College

community partner: fresno city college

Fresno City College (FCC) and Chevron have partnered on a unique approach to preparing today’s students to become tomorrow’s engineers. The collaboration includes a new MakerSpace on the FCC campus, as well as a Women in Engineering Day program that looks to foster the growth of girls who may be interested in STEM careers as early as ninth grade.

FCC has been on a mission to build bridges between school systems of all levels, from middle school to high school to college, that aim to get students interested in and informed about high-demand career pathways in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Why? Because a region wanting to attract and retain businesses needs to provide a skilled workforce, says Dr. Robert Pimentel, vice president of Education Services & Institutional Effectiveness at FCC.

“We actually have a very large engineering program,” Dr. Pimentel said. “A lot of our STEM programs will benefit industry partners like Chevron in the future.”

Events such as Women’s Engineering Day aim to foster connections with prospective engineers of the future. The event gathered 37 ninth grade girls enrolled in advanced math courses at Fresno High and Edison High for a conference at the FCC Science Building. Along with engaging in hands-on engineering workshops, the students met and networked with FCC students, staff and female engineering professionals, some of them Chevron employees.

“Women in Engineering Day helps us promote STEM,” said Dr. Pimentel. “We are really trying to inspire them, educate them and motivate them to focus on mathematics early on.”

To further advance the effort, Chevron presented FCC with a $125,000 check. The funds will be used to sponsor outreach to increase more STEM majors and to create the MakerSpace, according to FCC.

The MakerSpace will provide the technology and tools that will “allow our students to really turn their imaginations into actual prototypes,” Dr. Pimentel said.

“It will also provide a space for our faculty to network and collaborate with high school teachers,” he said, adding that about 600 students each year will be served by the MakerSpace programs.

Gurminder Sangha, the Dean of Educational Services & Pathway Effectiveness, Career Technical Training at FCC, is taking a closer look at ways to reach students in middle and high schools on STEM fields. He expects additional high schools to participate in Women in Engineering Day in the future. Along with Dr. Pimentel, Sangha credits Chevron’s team for being personally invested in FCC’s efforts.

“The relationship has never been transactional,” said Sangha, noting how Robbie Robinson III, Chevron’s Fresno County Community Representative, “took the time to not only visit the room that we are converting into a MakerSpace, but to tour other labs and facilities.”

Dr. Pimentel said his relationship with Chevron dates back to his time at the West Hills Community College District, where he developed a partnership with Chevron’s Megan Lopez. Dr. Pimentel said he brought that partnership with Chevron to FCC, not just because of the need, but also the potential.

“If we’re not educating these students, industry won’t do business here because we won’t have a trained workforce to offer,” Dr. Pimentel said. “It’s a larger systemic problem. That’s why we are working with K-12, to make sure we build a pipeline.”