A Regional Occupational Program, or ROP, is a program that is part of the larger California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs. The purpose of a Regional Occupational Program is to allow high school students and adults to learn important occupational skills in a tuition-free environment. Generally the courses offered are of a technical nature, with both computers and electronics being extremely popular courses, and with some centers offering courses on culinary arts, construction, automotive repair, agriculture, business, and healthcare.
There are more than seventy working examples of the Regional Occupational Program in the State of California, with three different models in place. Six of these programs are run by single school districts. More than twenty operate under the auspices of two or more distinct school districts, and the programs are shared between the districts. More than forty programs are run directly under county-level boards of education.
In order to take courses through an ROP, students must be at least 16 years old. The teachers are fully credentialed through the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, and the programs themselves are generally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. For all practical purposes, a Regional Occupational Program is the same as a college technical course, but it is tuition free and has a much stronger focus on how to turn the education directly into a marketable skill set.
Some of the smallest programs in the state have no more than a few hundred students at any given time. They may exist on the same premises as a high school computer or electronics lab, sharing space and time between the school and the program. In these cases, high school students may be able to take advantage of teachers at the Regional Occupational Program while attending their normal high school.
Larger programs may have upwards of 40,000 students come through annually. These programs tend to have enormous facilities, and offer classes in a wide range of subject matters, with some programs having well over 200 classes offered, making them rival or surpass the offerings of tuition-based colleges. Usually these larger programs will have a number of development assistance programs as well, helping students go from acquiring skills to crafting a professional path and ultimately entering the workforce to utilize the knowledge they gained in the program.
Funding for an ROP is determined through Average Daily Attendance, or ADA, with one unit equal to 525 hours of attendance. The largest programs in the state have annual budgets in excess of $30 million US Dollars (USD), which they use to pay teachers, develop new programs, and ensure their facilities keep up with technological development. The Regional Occupational Program is generally believed to be a very successful program, helping to feed people into California’s workforce and to help people make the transition from unskilled labor to jobs that require some technical and industry-specific education.