The greater Los Angeles region is residence to more than 10 million living across more than 4,750 square miles with 88 incorporated cities, each with its own ethnically rich community. We are also home to hundreds of thousands of businesses and an economy exploding with opportunity. As our lives get back into full gear after the worst of the pandemic, Los Angeles is back on track to lead the state’s economy from cutting-edge technology to clean sources of energy.
Yet, even with the promises and opportunities of our regional economy, many Angelenos struggle to find jobs that pay well and provide the upward mobility that is foundational to economic security. In many instances, there is a mismatch of skills needed by employers and the current experience and knowledge of our workforce. In others, there needs to be more awareness among employers of the career technical education offered at community colleges that align with the skills required for specific occupations.
Further placing downward pressure on our shared economic prosperity is a disconnect between job seekers and the opportunities at a community college that can lead to a high-wage career. And those who are head of household earners or could be the first in their family to attend college are often unaware that college can be free, low-cost, and flexible to help them realize their career ambitions.
Taken together, it’s no surprise that community college enrollment had declined across the country, even before the coronavirus pandemic. K-12 enrollment, the main pool of community college attendees, is also expected to decrease by 11.4% by 2031, according to California’s Department of Finance. These factors indicate a downtrend in well-trained individuals entering LA’s workforce pipeline.
How can we better connect Los Angeles to support our workforce with economic mobility and encourage those left out of the workforce to begin on a path to a successful career? How can we ensure that employers know that the state’s most talented and well-prepped workforce is right here in Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles Regional Consortium (LARC) was established at the beginning of this year to be the central hub for LA County’s 19 community colleges and serve as a single point of entry for emerging and high-growth industries looking to partner with the network and recruit community college graduates. Our network of colleges aims to support learners from all walks of life through career technical education programs to build the skills they need to be successful in high-growth, in-demand industries. Through work-based learning, credit for prior learning, and hybrid virtual and in-person classes, students can earn certifications, degrees, and occupation-specific credentials on a schedule that works for every individual in any situation. Whether they work full- or part-time, are a parent, are returning to school after many years in the workforce, are economically challenged, or are first-generation college students, there is a path for all.
By working collaboratively, LARC stretches access to all our colleges for students and employers from the South Bay to the San Fernando Valley. Given the size of our county, it is easy for employers and students alike to be aware of the college in their community but have little to no information on the types of training programs available throughout the region. The list of innovative career technical programs, support services, and welcoming environments at any of our 19 colleges is unmatched anywhere in the state and as a result, it is our commitment to ensure employers and prospective students know of the opportunities that await them.
Moreover, LARC’s work is guided by regional economic needs. LARC members are informed by the regional Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research and LAEDC’s Institute for Applied Economics to provide workforce information and insights that, in turn, support industry-driven career education and workforce development programs. These ongoing data sets help LARC colleges strengthen industry engagement across the region. The data we are capturing is shared across all our colleges, allowing each to make aligned and informed decisions on how to adapt and be flexible to meet the needs of the ever-fluctuating trends of our regional economy. This means that any student entering any LA County Community College will receive a highly relevant education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
Finally, we know that achieving our vision of upward mobility for all Angelenos cannot be done alone. Industry and non-profit partners, like the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation and Unite-LA, are invaluable in creating equitable access for students into high-growth and emerging industries. When industry, community-based organizations, and our community college network collaborate, there is nothing we cannot achieve.