When the California Economic Summit began in 2012, one thing became pretty clear. In dozens of regional meetings across the state, we heard that California’s workforce has a skills gap.
As the conversations have continued over the last three years, something else happened—there is agreement that California’s Community Colleges will play a huge role in bridging that gap.
That’s why the news this week that the California Community Colleges have created a task force on jobs and workforce education is worthy of note.
Chancellor Brice W. Harris has appointed 24 individuals to what is being called the Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation and Strong Economy. It is charged with developing policies to prepare more students for existing high value jobs and to promote job creation with workforce training.
The result, it is hoped, is to spark more small business development in California and lure out-of-state business investment in key industry sectors to California.
As we have learned through the Economic Summit, California’s economy is not one economy, but a series of regional economies. The Task Force will follow that model by holding town hall meetings in regions across the state with elected officials, as well as business, economic development, labor and education leaders (among others). Those regional meetings begin in February.
Chancellor Harris has put a good group together. Dr. Sunita Cook, who leads MiraCosta College in Oceanside, will chair the task force. Tim Rainey, who is executive director of the California Workforce Investment Board and Dr. Lynn Shaw, president of the Community College Association of Long Beach City College will serve as co-chairs.
Labor, finance and the California Chamber of Commerce are also represented.
One of the appointees is the president and CEO of California Forward, Jim Mayer. CA Fwd is one of the founding organizations of the California Economic Summit. Mayer points out that while the regional economies may have different industry clusters and different employment opportunities, they have something in common—the skills gap. He believes that California workers will increasingly need more college level experience to develop the skills, knowledge and ability to be successful in this economy.