Gino DiCaro

Conference Highlights Workforce Development and the California Ecomomy

By Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications

Capitol Update, April 9, 2004 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

The California Workforce Association and California Association for Local Economic Development jointly hosted a conference this week to discuss policies that should be embraced to grow the California economy, with an emphasis on the critical need for a skilled workforce to fuel that economic growth.

One speaker called the looming workforce crisis in California a "perfect storm" of state, national and global conditions: immigration of undereducated citizens, retirement of highly skilled baby boomers, an increasingly high-tech economy, declining manufacturing employment, attractive locations outside California to outsource production, lagging public investment in housing and infrastructure, and declining budgets for education and workforce retraining.

Complicating the task of developing policy solutions for California, but also offering opportunities for success is the deep and diverse nature of the economy, both regionally and by industry sector. There are nine economic regions described by the "Regional Economies Project" being conducted by the California Economies Project. Each has its own complex of attributes - demographics, population density, industry types, natural resources, infrastructure - and each requires a unique and focused plan for the future.

Representatives of the Schwarzenegger administration described how he plans to support economic recovery in California.

Sunne McPeak, Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing, emphasized the need for planning on a regional basis. She described the tremendous need for infrastructure investment and the current impediments to regional planning, particularly the misalignment between tax revenues and local development decisions. She was joined by Mark Mosher, Acting Director of the California Commission on Jobs and Economic Growth. The commission, established by Governor Schwarzenegger, has been fighting to keep and attract companies, including Genentech, Virgin Records and Amy's Kitchens. The state will soon embark on an aggressive campaign to counter the poaching efforts of our neighboring states.

Victoria Bradshaw, Acting Secretary of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency, described how to make the most of our programs to support workforce development and training in California. Noting that there is not enough money to fund all our training needs, we must ensure that the existing dollars are not diverted to other uses. We must also prioritize the spending of discretionary dollars to high wage jobs in growing industries, lower wage jobs at the bottom of career ladders, and focus on identified needs, such as healthcare and nursing. Adult-training must focus on getting a job and being adaptable and employable as jobs descriptions change. Finally, there is a huge need to understand the workforce needs of companies that have not yet been created but promise to lead California into the 21st Century..

The California Manufacturers & Technology Association was on hand to describe the workforce needs of manufacturers. Dorothy Rothrock shared research conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers that found more than two-thirds of the employer associations surveyed ranked "hiring, retaining and maintaining the skills of the workforce" as the number one problem facing their members. She described the challenges in California, including a lack of emphasis on industrial arts in K-12 education, insufficient funding for incumbent workforce retraining, and the growing number of small businesses without human resources departments or formal in-house training programs.
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