California labor leader lends voice to task force working to close skills gap

150 150 Ed Coghlan

(Photo Credit: Drew Coffman/Flickr)

Editor’s Note: John Brauer is Executive Director of Workforce and Economic Development for the California Labor Federation. He also serves on the California Community Colleges’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy. John represents an important point of view on the Task Force–that of organized labor. He agreed to answer a few questions about the issue of creating meaningful jobs for today’s California economy:

CA Fwd: “Why did you agree to serve on the Workforce Task Force?”

John Brauer: “The California Community Colleges play a critical role in educating and training students and workers, which is necessary to create a middle class economy for all. Career technical education within the community colleges has been undervalued for quite some time in California, but it must be a major building block for our economy in the future.”

CA Fwd: “What’s the chief message from labor that you’re promoting with the Task Force?” 

John Brauer: “The creation of a strong middle class economy for all is built upon innovation-led growth, economic security for workers, families and communities, and a strong democracy that values inclusion, opportunity and equity.”

“Labor, like business, should be seen as an essential industry partner in creating and implementing sector-based, educational and training programs with career opportunities that provide economic security.”

“And labor’s knowledge of specific industry sectors and the career paths involved can be valuable to individual colleges and the larger educational system’s success in enabling students to meet the needs of California’s employers and economy.”

CA Fwd: “We attended all of the Town Hall Meetings–the message from local employers across California was clear—the need for a trained and ready workforce is critical in California. What changes do you think need to occur in the community colleges to meet the goal of a better trained workforce?” 

John Brauer: “There are six that come to mind.

1. There needs to be significant investment in the resources provided to career technical education programs at the local and regional level.

2. Those programs need to develop robust means to interact with business and labor to fully understand the changing nature of the sectors important to their region.

3. They have to work with other stakeholders to create and offer industry-valued credentials and certificates, in addition to their two-year degrees.

4. They must enhance their capacity to provide career counseling to students and workers seeking their educational offerings.

5. They need to find a way to have greater industry involvement (business and labor representatives) in the offering of work-based learning at the colleges.

6. They also must align their programs, services and outcomes with other stakeholders, both at the regional and the statewide level.”

CA Fwd: “The emphasis on the state’s predicted deficit of one million middle-skill workers for jobs that need certification and training has been a headline for the Task Force. What should Californians be thinking about how to address that need?”

John Brauer: “We need a statewide discussion on the demand for those skills by sectors and regions.”

“The community colleges, other state agencies, educational institutions from K-12 up through UC/CSU, business and labor need to reach consensus on how to identify and promote industry-valued credentials, certificates and degrees among related sectors. We need to maximize the accessibility of those training and education opportunities for all Californians, including a statewide plan to upskill California’s frontline workers, and a statewide vision that lays out appropriate work-based learning/training opportunities from the K-12 level upwards.”

CA Fwd: “California’s economy is incredibly diverse, we’re more like a country than a state. There’s the need for different jobs in different regions where real labor shortages exist. From an organized labor point of view that seems like an opportunity. Is it?” 

John Brauer: “California’s diversity is its greatest strength and presents us all with its greatest challenge. Our diversity, I believe, is a major contributor to the innovation-led growth that has marked our economic success and cultural vitality. The challenge is to provide opportunity, equity, and inclusion for everyone in our state. Labor, which is nothing more than workers standing together, represents a significant voice for individuals and communities seeking to meet that challenge.”

CA Fwd: “Are their particular sectors of the economy that are on your radar where workforce is a critical issue?”

John Brauer: “Innovation-led growth is built on adequate infrastructure, so those sectors dealing with construction and transportation are important. Manufacturing has many aspects in California, and plays a critical role in a myriad of forms throughout the state. Healthcare is changing at a rapid pace, as it is becoming more accessible and as our population ages. And we have large service sectors, where workers need the educational and training opportunities to advance.”

CA Fwd: “From your point of view, how will we know that the Task Force’s job was successful?”

John Brauer: “When there is consensus on the major changes needed to make the CTE programs offered relevant and valuable to both workers/students and industry (employers/labor) and there is a reinvestment in those CTE programs by the public and private sector.”


Ed Coghlan

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