Cuesta College Launches Pilot Program to Support Equitable Workforce Development

The Invention and Inclusive Innovation (i3) initiative engages students in developing the 21st century skills needed in future career endeavors.

Cuesta College is one of 20 community colleges across California to launch a new program aimed at developing entrepreneurial mindsets through practical, hands-on learning and 21st century skill building for students. Through inclusive, student-centered learning experiences, students of all backgrounds can gain confidence in their skills and knowledge that will serve them in work and life.

The i3 initiative is part of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office’s Workforce and Economic Development Division (WEDD). The program is a first for the state of California. The initiative launched in 2021 with four California Community College participants in a prototype phase. In 2022, the program has expanded to include 20 additional Community Colleges across the state in a pilot program with a goal to continue scaling the model eventually serving all Community Colleges, their students, and their local communities.

“Today’s employers seek highly motivated, self-directed and action-oriented employees who create value by looking to solve problems and who are open to learning and critical guidance – simply put those with entrepreneurial mindsets,” said Sandra Sanchez, Interim Vice Chancellor, Workforce and Economic Development. “Our mission is to increase economic and social mobility for Californians, particularly in geographic regions in California that still struggle with job access or labor shortages. Training our students with 21st century skills is how we contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty and give community college students, their families, and their communities the opportunity for true economic mobility.”

The i3 initiative is open and available to all Cuesta College students. The program connects students across the college to explore, clarify, and scope challenges facing their community and to work together to address one through innovative solutions. Students are encouraged to draw on their expertise from multiple disciplines, cultural knowledge, and a diverse range of lived experiences to provide valuable insights and perspectives to tackle systemic changes. To ensure that students experience an inclusive learning environment, i3 trains faculty to become facilitators for students to safely share their experiences and knowledge to develop solutions tailored to their communities. This instructional approach delivers a more equitable and inclusive learning environment designed for the diversity of the California Community College System student.

Importantly, i3 provides experiential learning which builds confidence in students to be career ready. As California employers look for highly skilled individuals who contribute to a team environment and bring new perspectives to solve problems, training students to adopt entrepreneurial mindsets will set them on a course for success.

Cuesta College’s i3 program will offer a 12-week interdisciplinary workshop for up to 25 students. According to Neil Higgins, Business Faculty at Cuesta College, students in the i3 program will learn the process of Invention Education by identifying local problems in need of creative solutions within the community.

“We will lead students through a process of identifying and interviewing stakeholders to define their problems and prototype possible solutions,” Higgins said. “The program culminates with a presentation of student-developed solutions.”

Thanks to the generous support of CoastHills Credit Union, each student will receive a $500 award for completing the workshop. The i3 pilot program will be offered in Spring 2023 through Community Programs, under the name “Cuesta College Curiosity League.” Any students enrolled in credit courses during the Spring 2023 semester are encouraged to participate. To learn more, please refer to the Cuesta College Community Programs webpage, or contact Neil Higgins via email at

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