Closing skills gap in San Joaquin Valley gets Fed boost

150 150 Cheryl Getuiza

Career technical education class at College of the Sequoias, a member school of a new workforce development partnership
in the San Joaquin Valley (Photo Credit: Collge of the Sequoias)

It’s the moment many around the country have been watching closely—California’s unemployment numbers came out, this time for October.

Drumroll please—According to the state’s Employment Development Department, the Golden State’s unemployment rate is now 10.1 percent, down just .1 percent from September. Disappointed? Although it’s not the kind of gain we would have hoped for, look on the bright side: the state added 45,800 jobs from September to October. Better yet, the year-over-year change, October 2011 to October 2012, shows an increase of 295,300 jobs, up 2.1 percent.

While some counties, in the state, saw slight improvements, others weren’t so fortunate.

So is the case in the Central Valley. Only two counties out of 12 saw a drop in unemployment. The rest, excluding Sacramento County, who remained at 10.2 percent, spiked.

  • Fresno County: 13.9 percent (13.1 percent in September)
  • Kern County: 12.2 percent (12 percent in September)
  • Kings County: 13.9 percent (12.8 percent in September)
  • Madera County: 12.5 percent (11.6 percent in September)
  • Merced County: 14.7 percent (14.5 percent in September)
  • San Joaquin County: 13.6 percent (13.4 percent in September)
  • Stanislaus County: 13.9 percent (13.5 percent in September)
  • Tulare County: 14.4 percent (14.1 percent in September)
  • Yolo County: 9.7 percent (9 percent in September)

According to Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom’s office, more than 1.8 million people still out of work and more than 575,000 jobs remain unfilled. Closing the “skills gap” — a mismatch of workers’ skills for jobs available now — has become a priority across the state. 

The Central Valley will be able to tackle this problem, as a consortium of 11 central San Joaquin Valley community colleges and one college technical center was recently awarded a $19.9 million grant from the federal government to help those training for new careers meet specific industry needs.

The C6 Consortium stands for Central California Community Colleges Committed to Change.

“The White House and the U.S. Department of Labor recognize the enormous value and role of community colleges in getting the economy back on track and the unemployed back into the workforce quickly,” said California Community Colleges Chancellor Jack Scott.

The current level of skills and educational success in the San Joaquin region is low. For example, no one older than 25 in the city of Huron, population 7,000, has a bachelor’s degree.

The first two years of the grant project will allow each community college to design and implement high-quality training for people and industry partners in their area. The third year will expand capacity and sustainability by duplicating the model programs at other community colleges in the state.

“The C6 Consortium will provide hands on instruction and workforce development to help dislocated workers in16 counties quickly move from training to degree to work in areas that are in demand such as agriculture, manufacturing, health care and alternative energy,” said Scott.

Nearly $500 million in federal grants went to community colleges around the country. The installment is the first in a $2 billion, four-year investment designed to increase opportunities for the unemployed.

“This initiative is about providing access to training that leads to real jobs,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. “These federal grants will enable community colleges, employers and other partners to prepare job candidates, through innovative programs, for new careers in high-wage, high-skills fields, including advanced manufacturing, transportation, and health care occupations.”



Cheryl Getuiza

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