Under the radar: ROP to RIP adults from its programs

For many adults in California, the Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (ROCPs, or ROPs for short) that pepper the state are the final life raft in the sinking ship that is their life. The programs provide a myriad of vocational and technical training to California residents. Let's face it: Babies happen, layoffs occur, and sometimes a career change is a must in order to get away from that whiskey odor that oozes from the pores of your dickhead supervisor as he barks nonsensical orders at you from 10 inches away. But that's going to change . . . for the worse.

On Sept. 28, 2006, California passed Assembly Bill 2448, which—among other things—calls for the gradual reduction of adults enrolled in ROPs throughout California to less than 10 percent by the year 2013. What does that mean for Orange Countians? Excluding adults from ROPs will make it that much more difficult for them to make a career change or re-train, should the need arise.

For example, let's say you're an immigrant who was an electrical engineer in Estonia at the AS Narva Elektrijaamad power plant in Narva, and you moved to California to escape the electromagnetic radiation that was wreaking havoc on your immune system. You, my friend, are S.O.L. because that degree with the funny-looking scribbles on it doesn't mean jack in the States. So forget about becoming a welder through ROP's welding program and earning a semi-decent living. AB 2448 puts you on a one-way trip to a lifetime of hard, fruitless labor.

Or, let's say that in your native Taiwan you worked for something called the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries because you had a degree in economics from the University of Taiwan, and you moved to OC to seek refuge from the Commission on the Disciplinary Sanctions of Functionaries. Get used to the phrase “Is that going to be for here or to go?” because you'll probably end up at a fast-food restaurant instead of having a dignified career wiping people's asses as a nurse-graduate from ROP's nursing program.

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ROP programs can help to make the American Dream come true for immigrants and residents seeking a better life. But the people who will be affected aren't just immigrants from countries you never knew existed. Local adults will also feel the negative effects of the state's latest move.

Students who drop out of high school will fall into AB 2448's gray area due to the way ROP defines “high school student” and “adult.” If a person is between the ages of 16 and 18 and has not been enrolled in high school for more than three months, then three things have to happen before he/she can enroll in an ROP course: 1) ROP—in conjunction with the appropriate school—has to develop a “comprehensive high school plan that describes the academic and vocational instruction.” 2) The parent(s) or legal guardians have to approve of it. And 3) the student has to enroll in the appropriate courses to complete their high school plan.

These added steps may deter or eliminate people who are younger than 18 years of age from seeking and getting technical/vocational career training.

Patricia Hansmeyer, North Orange County ROP's public-information officer, believes that some of the people who have the strongest need for ROP “are going to be out of luck if they can't find training fast.”

While there is a need to offer more vocational and technical career training at the high school level (the closest I got to vocational training in high school was learning how to make ninja stars in metal shop), this bill will hurt those who don't have the time or resources to navigate through the labyrinth of higher education. For them, ROP is a shortcut to a career.

The California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs (CAROCP) opposed AB 2448 due to the “extensive new and confusing planning requirements.” In addition, the CAROCP found the bill did not provide “any viable alternative options” for adults seeking to advance or develop their career.

AB 2448 seems unnecessary since ROP already gives high school students priority for course registration, in essence leaving the leftovers for adults. So why keep adults from gorging on the educational scraps that high school students toss out? Your guess is as good as anyone's.

For those of us who've gotten our smarts at a community college or university, it may not mean much. But remember: We are also probably not the ones smelling the stale whiskey and cigarettes emanating from that dickhead supervisor.


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