Q&A: California millennials looking for ways around barriers to workforce

150 150 Ed Coghlan

San Rafael High School graduation (Photo Credit: Jessica Merz/Flickr)

Brian Burrell is a member of the California Community Colleges’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and a Strong Economy. Burrell represents an important point of view on the Task Force–that of the millennials. We asked him to answer a few questions about the issue of creating meaningful jobs for today’s California economy:

CA Fwd: “Why should millennials be paying attention to the work of the Task Force?

Brian Burrell: California’s young adults remain unemployed at a rate far higher than the rest of California’s workforce. The Task Force is creating recommendations on Career and Technical Education programs that could greatly impact skill training for our generation and provide an additional boost for young adults looking for high-paying, in-demand jobs.”

CA Fwd: “What do you think is the top issue (or issues) facing young people in California’s workforce?”

Brian Burrell: “Many young adults I’ve worked with cite a lack of job opportunities in their community as a huge barrier to starting a career. Whether it’s looking for that first step into the workforce or simply looking for jobs in a specific field, it remains difficult to gain job experience. Initiatives that increase training opportunities go a long way towards helping California’s young adults.”

CA Fwd: “Are there differences between millennials and other generations with respect to economic optimism and what they want to get out of work?”

Brian Burrell: “Many Millennials remain optimistic but those of us that grew up in this past recession have largely seen difficult times trying to find jobs. Many of us want the ability to support ourselves independently and one day buy a house or car or start a family, but that can be difficult in an era of low salaries. Despite these challenges, many young adults still push to succeed in the workforce and are looking for employers that are willing to invest in them.”

CA Fwd: “The role of the community colleges is critical to getting California’s workforce trained and aligned with the jobs that are available. What advice are you giving the Task Force to make sure it set policies into place to help achieve that?”

Brian Burrell: “Two major areas I’m focused on are access and completion. Investing in schools and students so that college costs and supplies are affordable and accessible is crucial to meeting the needs of students and workforce demand. We also need to educate young adults and their families about the programs and careers available so that they have the opportunity to pursue CTE training. Once students are in the community colleges, they need the support to see them to the finish line. Career and academic counseling are important in ensuring students succeed in programs and can find jobs directly out of school.”

CA Fwd: “You are very interested in CTE and STEM as areas to help improve our workforce. What do you tell millennials you meet about these two areas and how they can help them achieve their dreams?”

Brian Burrell: “California has made huge strides in introducing CTE and STEM to K-12 students and it’s reflected in young Californians interest in pursuing careers with this training. Young adults I talk with are drawn to the low unemployment rates and high salaries available in many of these fields, and see the community colleges as a quicker path to a job, and an alternative to taking on massive amounts of debt. For the young adults that aren’t familiar with CTE and STEM pathways, I advise them to look into the career demands, available jobs, and employment and salary data to see how these fields can support the lifestyle they’re looking for!”

CA Fwd: “As the Task Force completes its work later this year, what do you think will be an indication it succeeded?”

Brian Burrell: “Short-term, success will be the Board of Governors adopting the recommendations of the Task Force. Long-term, I hope to see an increase in young adults completing CTE programs and an increase in employment and earnings from Community College graduates!”


Ed Coghlan

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