Southern California community colleges to give needed boost to global trade workforce

150 150 Ed Coghlan

(Photo Credit: John Guenther/CA Fwd)

When you talk about California as the gateway to the dynamic Pacific Rim economies, the impact that global trade and goods movement have on the state’s economy is staggering.

There are 600,000 jobs sustained in California because of activity occurring at our seaports, airports and our border with Mexico. There are an additional 1.5 million jobs connected to the movement of goods, known as logistics.

That’s a lot of jobs, and like in many other economic sectors in California, there is a desperate need for qualified workers to fill vacant spots.

In Southern California, seven community colleges from Los Angeles and Orange Counties have formed the Global Trade and Logistics Consortia to address the issue of educating and preparing the workforce in this vast sector.

“Global trade and the movement of goods are critical to the Los Angeles economy,” said Francisco Rodriguez, chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District. “The community colleges have an important role to play in making sure that people are trained for these and other jobs that are part of the 21st century California economy. “

To make sure the college courses are relevant to training people for jobs that are available today, a faculty group is looking at curricula offered at the seven colleges, according to Rick Hodge, dean of career technical education and workforce development at Los Angeles Southwest College and grant director for the Consortia.

“We have been very active meeting with students, faculty and employers, who are all important voices in this workforce development opportunity,” Hodge said. “Our goal is educating and training the next generation of workforce in global trade and goods movement, supply chain and digital e-commerce industries by promoting linkages between the education and business communities.”

In addition, informal “coffee houses” have been held at East Los Angeles College, Santa Ana College and L.A. Southwest College to inform students about job opportunities in the trade and logistics sector.

Other members of the Consortia are L.A. Harbor College, L.A. Mission College, Santa Monica College and West Los Angeles College.

The Consortia will hold their Global Trade and Logistics Summit which will attract business and students on May 20.

“Over 40 companies, associations and government agencies representing broad interests in trade, supply chain, logistics and ecommerce are involved in this effort,” said Brandon Shamim, co-director of the Consortia.

We may be seeing more of this type of multi-college effort involving faculty, students and business coming together to address workforce issues in various economic sectors in all of California’s economic regions. A proposal to increase workforce training funding is working its way through the Legislature.

Supporters of career technical education gathered in Sacramento Thursday to support two proposals that will generate nearly a quarter of a billion dollars for workforce development in California. A State Senate Subcommittee heard testimony on a $200-million investment for the Strong Workforce Program, as well as the $48-million annual commitment to the Career Technical Education Pathways Program outlined in the Governor’s proposed January Budget.

One of the 25 recommendations that came out of the Strong Workforce Task Force–convened by the Community Colleges Board of Governors–is to develop regional partnerships, like the global trade consortia, among community college, industry, labor, and other workforce groups to improve the delivery of all career technical education efforts.

The two workforce measures were also reviewed last month in an Assembly hearing held last month.

Justin Ewers, deputy director for California Forward’s Partnership for Economic Prosperity, represented at the hearing the California Economic Summit, which has targeted workforce development as a major priority. The Summit has supported the Strong Workforce Program as part of an action plan to generate one million more skilled workers in the next 10 years.

By the way, you’ll be hearing quite a bit about the economic impact of global trade on the California economy in May. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is hosting the 90th annual World Trade Week, which is the most extensive program of its kind in the country.

“One out of every seven jobs in California is directly related to international trade. With an expected sector growth of seven percent, the need for a qualified and skilled workforce is paramount to ensuring continued economic growth,” said Carlos J. Valderrama, senior vice president for global initiatives at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. “The community colleges are the lynch pin to addressing the employment and skills gaps to meet these hiring needs.”


Ed Coghlan

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