Tandum IndyCars drive under the new Long Beach City College bridge, which spans the east side of the grand prix circuit. Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Photo by Brandon Richardson.

Long Beach City College is continuing its outreach on a brand new stage: the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

In a first-time sponsorship agreement that will cost $345,000 over three years, the school’s Career and Technical Education program has secured itself prime promotional spots in venues across the Grand Prix. The college will be featured on the pedestrian bridge just before turn 10 by Shoreline Drive at the race and also has a 10-foot-by-20-foot space to interact with potential students at the event’s Lifestyle Expo.

Other parts of the package include advertisements in the digital and physical programs for the event and a commercial playing three times a day on jumbotrons at the Grand Prix.

The money to pay for the sponsorship package will be taken from the CTE’s budget.

Like similar offerings around the country, LBCC’s Career and Technical Education program focuses on academic and technical skills in high demand sectors. Some of these are directly tied to the Grand Prix—like automotive technology, advanced transportation technology, welding and fabrication—but the scope of offerings range from culinary arts to merchandising to real estate.

While this is the first time that Long Beach City College is making an appearance at the Grand Prix, it is something that has been in the works and on the minds of school officials for several years, according to Long Beach City College’s Public Affairs and Marketing Executive Director Joshua Castellanos.

“Honestly, every year, I ask myself, ‘Why are we not here?’” Castellanos said by phone.

The ad, which will feature a fusion of the LBCC and CTE logos, will itself be a joint effort between the two.

“It’s specifically sponsored by the CTE,” Castellanos said, “but it’s fantastic for the college to get the benefit of all the extra exposure.”

The need for LBCC reach more students is particularly urgent now, as schools across the nation are suffering dramatic declines in enrollment. Community colleges reported a 15% decline in attendance nationwide from fall 2019 to fall 2021, and in California, the drop is particularly steep at 20%, according to a memo from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office in March.

“The impact of the pandemic on community college enrollments nationwide continues to be profound and far-reaching,” the memo read.

LBCC is not an exception to this trend. The school reported a loss of about 10% of its enrollment from fall 2019 to fall 2021, which comes out to over 2,500 students overall.

But despite that overall trend, enrollment is rising for CTE programs, according to Castallanos. While numbers for the LBCC’s program were not immediately available, trends in California suggest an opportunity for the college to capitalize on a sudden boom in interest.

According to data from the Department of Education’s Perkins Act—which helps fund CTE programs across the country—CTE enrollment began shifting from high school programs to postsecondary schools in the 2017-’18 school year.

Just 210,916 students were enrolled in CTE programs at colleges and community colleges in California that year, but by the 2019-’20 year—which is the most recent data publicly available—that number rose more than quadrupled, to over 928,000 students enrolled.

To work to offset lower attendance numbers overall at the college, Castellanos says that LBCC is trying to take advantage of this shift by making a significant push to attract potential students to its CTE programs.

“Just in the last six months, we have had billboards all over Long Beach,” Castellanos said. “We have had 20 all throughout the community.”

LBCC has also used other strategies, like mailers and transit bus advertising, to market itself.

“I believe we have probably one of the strongest advertising or marketing campaigns for our program,” Castellanos said.

And the Grand Prix is just one more opportunity to attract students.

While the ads at the event will offer more name recognition, the Lifestyle Expo will also allow the school to directly interact with potential students. Faculty and staff from the college’s CTE programs will be present to explain their offerings. The space will also include handouts and iPads for interested attendees to explore.

“Having that Expo one-on-one—that face-to-face with people is going to be huge,” Castellanos said.

The fact that the CTE has automotive based programs—a direct tie to the Grand Prix—makes the opportunity all the more fitting, Castellanos said.

“This is just another opportunity for us to share all those programs,” he said.

“This college is a gem,” he added, “and we need to do anything possible so that people know what we have available.”

Christian May-Suzuki

Christian May-Suzuki is a reporter at the Long Beach Business Journal.