Zoos, Planes, and Urban Agriculture: Celebrating the Diversity and Scope of California Community College CTE Programs

ASCCC Area A Representative and CTE Leadership Committee Chair
ASCCC At-Large Representative

The California Community Colleges system has a strong history of providing innovative career technical education to meet the needs of communities and providing students an opportunity to achieve a living wage. Some CTE programs, such as agriculture business, administration of justice, automotive, child development, information systems, nursing, police, and fire, are offered at multiple colleges across the state. Other programs are specialized for meeting unique community needs.

One of those specialized programs is the Moorpark College Exotic Animal Training and Management Program, which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year. Moorpark College provides students with experimental hands-on learning opportunities through its five-acre zoological facility America’s Teaching Zoo (The Teaching Zoo, n.d.).  This zoo is one of only two in the United States located on a college campus. Around 125 animals live in the zoo: baboons, lions, coyotes, New Guinea singing dogs, badgers, and more (Exotic Animal Training and Management, n.d.). In this program ,college students have the opportunity to study in a living laboratory while achieving an associate degree or certificate. Students in the two-year program take classes such as animal care and handling, wildlife education, animal training, and applied wildlife conservation. Graduates are prepared for entry level employment in zoos, animal parks, and wildlife rehabilitation centers.

One of the newer CTE programs in California is the flight science program at Reedley College. Students in the Reedley College program achieve an associate degree in flight science and embedded certificates in private pilot, instrument reading, commercial pilot, and flight instructor. Students take academic courses, use flight simulators, and have hands-on flight experience taught in line with Federal Aviation Administration regulations (Flight Science, n.d.). The college recently purchased five new Skyleader 600 airplanes to support the program (Harrington, 2023). This program is the only one in the state that allows the use of federal financial aid for pilot training. Students completing this degree are prepared for entry level positions as flight instructors (Miller, 2018).

San Diego City College has a sustainable architecture program with degrees and certificates in sustainable urban agriculture, organic gardening for the culinary arts, urban gardening, and urban farming professional. Students in the program work hands-on with urban farmers and educators at the one acre Seeds @ City Urban Farm that is on the San Diego City College campus (Sustainable Agriculture, n.d.). The program focuses on economic, environmental, and social sustainability. The college even has a farm stand on campus where it sells produce from the enterprise (Berry, 2022).

These examples are just a sampling of CTE programs across the state. Students can also participate in programs such as drone piloting at Palomar College (Become a Drone Pilot at Palomar College!, 2023), agriculture and equine studies at Feather River College (Agriculture & Equine Studies , n.d.), supply chain management at Coastline College (Supply Chain Management, n.d.),  or an artificial intelligence in business certificate at Mt. San Antonio College (Artificial Intelligence in Business Certificate, n.d.). A wide variety of other programs exists at colleges across the state.

Each of these programs serves industry, community, and state needs and is supported by dedicated career technical education faculty. Career technical education programs such as these are well designed to support the goals of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) Vision 2030, which has a goal of increasing with equity the number of California community college students earning a living wage by 10% (CCCCO, n.d.) In addition to the updated Vision, the CCCCO is working on a new California State Plan for Career Technical Education (California Department of Education, 2022) that prioritizes the work-based learning opportunities highlighted in CTE programs around the state.

CTE programs across California are innovative and diverse, and they have tremendous scope. They play a vital role in preparing the workforce of California.


Agriculture & Equine Studies. (n.d.). Feather River College.
Artificial Intelligence in Business Certificate. (n.d.). Mt. San Antonio College.
Become a Drone Pilot at Palomar College!. (2023). Palomar College.
Berry, C. (2022, August 30). City College farm to sell fresh fruit, vegetables weekly. City Times Media.
CCCCO. (n.d.). Vision 2030.
California Department of Education. (2022). California State Plan for Career Technical Education (CTE).
Exotic Animal Training and Management (n.d.). Moorpark College.
Flight Science. (n.d.).  Reedly College.
Harrington, J. (2023, September 18). Reedley College adding 5 new airplanes to its flight science program. ABC 30 Action News.
Miller, B.  (2018, February 23). Reedley college creates brand new program to become a pilot. Your Central Valley.Com.
Supply Chain Management. (n.d.) Coastline College.
Sustainable Agriculture. (n.d.) San Diego City College.
The Teaching Zoo. (n.d.). Moorpark College.