How to prepare skilled workers for high-priority jobs: A workforce plan for California

150 150 Justin Ewers

(photo credit: Egan Snow)

California’s economy may be rebounding, but jobs aren’t growing everywhere they are needed: The unemployment rate in Marin County is down to just over 5 percent—a promising sign—while 600 miles south, in rural Imperial Valley cities like El Centro, more than one in four people still can’t find work.

Bridging these two realities—and laying the foundation for well-paying jobs, a sustainable environment, and equal opportunities for every Californian—is the aim of the 2013 California Economic Summit.

This Summit’s work starts at the beginning of the workforce pipeline: The first critical step toward bringing well-paying jobs to all of the state’s regions is preparing the skilled workers to take them.

This is the focus of the Summit’s Workforce action plan, one of seven proposals summarized in the Summit’s Policy Playbook that together provide an economic strategy for growing the middle class across the state.

“We’ve clearly heard the call that we need to meet the workforce needs of the regional economies,” Van Ton-Quinlivan, vice chancellor of workforce and economic development for the California Community Colleges system, told an assembly of Summit team leaders in a briefing with state officials last week.

A workforce action plan for California

Last year’s Workforce plan focused on developing partnerships between existing workforce training programs and regional industry—enjoying some notable successes. This year’s plan expands on that effort, promoting new ways to expand career-technical education in high-demand fields—especially science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“We’ve had a 10-year pattern of diminishment in state investment in these fields,” says Ton-Quinlivan, co-leader of the Summit’s workforce action team. “Using a shared investment model, with regions and employers both having skin in the game, we can create more career tech education capacity—and get the money and the metrics aligned so the resources of the state move together.”

Two of the Workforce plan’s specific ideas for jumpstarting investment in career technical education (CTE) include:

  • Creating a California CTE Shared Investment Fund to make matching resources available to regions. With enabling legislation, the Fund would provide incentive funding for CTE that is well-aligned with regional workforce demand, encourages regional collaboration, and rewards commitments from business and community partners.
  • Encouraging greater local and regional commitment to CTE by expanding tax incentives for equipment and materials donations, targeting student financial aid to incent enrollment and completion in high-priority fields, and launching a statewide campaign to promote the importance of CTE to California’s economic future.

At the Summit, more than 500 business, government, nonprofit, and civic leaders will review and refine the details of this Workforce plan—and begin the work of outlining pragmatic ways to implement its ideas, from building coalitions to preparing to overcome likely obstacles.

Take a closer look at the action plan in this year’s Policy Playbook—the first step toward developing an integrated economic strategy for California.


Justin Ewers

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