Metal cutting demonstration at Cerritos College (Photo Credit: John Guenther)
When Governor Jerry Brown signed dozens of bills into law last month, most of the media attention was focused on plastic bags and guns. Some of the new laws will affect many Californians and some will affect only a few. And one has the potential to help bolster how the state educates its skilled workforce.
Sponsored by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, AB2148 will “mandate a cross agency workforce investment/career technical education (CTE) dashboard using existing data collected by each major workforce program.” In other words, it requires that the California Workforce Investment Board (CWIB) work with the Governor to gather data from all the agencies involved in CTE and workforce investment to better track students’ progress in their education and then when they are out in the labor market.
“We want to know what outcomes we are getting from the investments we make into workforce development programs,” said Mullin. He added that the information already exists, but it is scattered amongst all the agencies involved and not easily accessible, “At the moment, programs are often reporting good data, but it’s siloed. If a person wants to have a snapshot of California’s overall workforce investments, she must go to each agency separately to request that information and then try to put it all together on her own.”
The term “dashboard” is used by other states that are developing this same metrics system. “We can think of California’s workforce systems as the internal workings of the vehicle of ‘workforce development,’” said Mullin. “The dashboard, then, is an informative location where we can get a general read of how things are going within the system.”
The dashboard will include two specific metrics: wage change outcomes of students (two years prior, two years after and five years after program participation) and degree and credential attainment. The board will also show demographic statistics, including ethnicity, gender, age and veteran status.
The bill was supported by members of the Workforce Action Team of the California Economic Summit. And, with increases in the 2014-2015 state budget for CTE and workforce training, tracking the effectiveness of these programs will be important to guide future investments. Reports generated as a result of AB2148 will be available at CWIB to the public, which makes the investments more accountable to all those interested.
“I think that the most important contribution of this particular bill is to see the ways in which various efforts maximize their resources and where there are actual gaps,” said Rita Cepeda, Chancellor of the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District.
Eloy Oakley, Superintendent-President at Long Beach City College, agreed. “I think it provides the state one more opportunity to improve outcomes for students hoping to get into the workforce by actually creating metrics that allow the state to measure how we’re doing in terms of the numbers and types of college credentials and certificates that we’re awarding.”
And in the next ten years, the demand for skilled laborers will increase and the burden for training them will fall largely to California’s community colleges and other regional workforce training programs. A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that, by 2025, the state will face a shortage of nearly 1.5 million skilled workers, those with “some college.”
Oakley added that AB2148 will help alleviate the predicted labor shortage. “The more that we can gear up to fill that void, the better, and you have to begin by being able to measure some metrics to determine even if we’re making progress. So this is a step in the right direction.”
As California increases its efforts to better measure the effectiveness of its investments, it will hopefully lead to increased enrollments and training programs that will benefit both skilled workers, the labor market and regional economies.