California schools refining focus to fill in-demand jobs

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Solar installation class at a CET center. (Photo Credit: Center for Employment Training)

The number one issue in California is very clear: “It’s jobs and the economy!”

That’s what a Vice Chancellor of the California Community Colleges told a National Council of La Raza (NCLR) national workforce development meeting this week in Los Angeles, which attracted 300 representatives of business development, academia and community-based organizations from around the county.

“Sixty-seven percent of likely voters think that state’s job and economy are the most important issues facing California today,” said Van Ton-Quinlivan. She cited a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll.

What is becoming more apparent nationally and statewide is the skills gap that exists between available jobs and workers to fill them. And it’s the Community Colleges that are trying to leap into that breach and improve our workforce training in the country.

“We are laser focused on what our local industries need,” Lou Anne Bynum, Executive Vice President of Long Beach Community College told the NCLR attendees. Her school has ongoing discussions with public and private sectors in the Long Beach area to make sure that Career Technical Education at LBCC is meeting the regional needs.

It’s those regional needs that Ton-Quinlivan was emphasizing in her discussion this week. There are fifteen distinct economic regions in California and not all of them demand the same skills from their workforce. But they do demand that workers be prepared.

In fact, Ton-Quinlivan said that the community colleges have distinct goals in workforce preparation:

“We want to supply skilled workers, create relevant credential for those workers, get Californians into open jobs and to ensure our students success in the workforce,” she said.

When the California Economic Summit was held in May, it developed seven signature initiatives to help improve the state’s economy and to spur the creation of new jobs. Not surprisingly, workforce development was one of the leading issues.

The Summit emphasized the regional nature of the state’s economy. Because what drives the economy of the Central Valley is different in many ways that what drives the economy of Silicon Valley, the nature of workforce training becomes regional.

The Vice Chancellor highlighted the Community College’s own regional effort, the Critical Conversations forums being held around the state this fall in each of the economic regions with public and private employers. 

“Thus, California’s workforce system needs to refocus its training by economic sector and by regions, which is what we are doing a better job of.”


Ed Coghlan

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