Community Colleges could be answer to unfulfilled skilled labor jobs

150 150 Ed Coghlan

Graphic courtesty of the OC Register

As unemployment stays high in California, it positively rankles people that so many jobs go unfilled because they can’t find qualified people to fill them. 

Just last week, we shared a national op-ed that said a whopping 300,000 skilled manufacturing jobs go unfilled in the U.S.!  And you’ll  remember that at the California Economic Summit in May, that Lt. Governor Newsom said one website he knew of showed over 400,000 job openings in California alone.

The Summit Action Plan has identified a number of steps that can prioritize and align existing workforce-training and career education resources to focus on major regional industry sectors. Those steps support passage of legislation that promotes regional industry partnerships. 

For a large number of people, this whole area is an opportunity for California’s much-discussed community college system, which has been hit very, very hard by the state budget cutbacks over the last two years.

As we have all learned through the Summit process, California doesn’t have one economy, but a series of regional ones. 

The Community Colleges to a great extent mirror a lot of those regional economies, making them primary candidates to help answer a region’s specific workforce needs.  The system has created a data rich website with the catchy url of doing what matters.

Among other things, it shows which industries are important to which regions. With that knowledge in hand, regional workforce preparation initiatives that the Summit is talking about are far easier to address via curriculums tailored precisely for those needs.

Easy, right? Not so fast. 

Don’t forget the state budget problems. The Community Colleges, already eliminating classes by the hundreds due to a $500 million cut, are bracing for another reduction if the state tax initiatives fail at the ballot in November. This is a problem for career technical education in particular, because community colleges are reimbursed based on the size of their classes.

As one leader told me,”When it comes to cutting budget, an English class with 30 students seems more efficient than a welding class of 15.”

That may be true, but those 15 people in the welding class might have a better chance of landing a job in this economy. 

These funding decisions won’t be made statewide, but at the regional level by Community College district trustees and by the colleges themselves. 

Whatever the decision, the one thing that is hard to forget is that we have more jobs than people to fill them, which seems kind of silly in a state that has an 11 percent unemployment rate, don’t you think? 


Ed Coghlan

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