Workforce Development: Why California Should Become The Next Colorado

Workforce Development: Why California Should Become The Next Colorado

By Margo Turner

Colorado has it right, and us Californians could make the same commitment in short order.

As we approach a statewide job shortage figure of 1 million by 2030, labor agencies, public education institutions and private enterprises must band together to remedy this impending economic crisis. Without a highly trained, technical and employment-ready workforce, our ability to produce the goods and services of tomorrow will not keep up with other areas of the country, let alone the world. No one entity can solve this. Collaboration by all stakeholders will solve this looming problem.

And it starts in the factories and offices with high school students.

Look no further than The Centennial State to see how this is done. As one of the fastest growing economies in the country, demand for skilled labor soared, but supply remained insufficient to meet it. Businesses, with the help of state workforce development agencies, began to create apprenticeship programs that offer high school students the ability to acquire relevant, job training that counted toward not just their high school diploma, but also advanced college credits. In turn, the participants received valuable skills that translated into greater education opportunities as well as a path toward well-paying careers, all while lowering the cost of college and bolstering the Middle Class.

What’s more, a myriad of Colorado-based industries, not just manufacturing, benefitted from these types of programs. California can most certainly do the same. Achieving optimum results, though, will require that apprenticeship programs include the following elements:

Industry-Driven Objectives

The kind of apprenticeships will depend not just on the current needs of industries within The Golden State, but future ones. State agencies should solicit the help of companies that reside within our border, but also others that its economic development task forces are wanting to attract. These organizations are wonderful targets for developing partnerships that will bring in new jobs as well as fill critical openings.

Businesses clamor to collaborate with government and educational institutions in workforce development initiatives. Today’s global economic environment means funding a well-trained labor pool on their own would hamper their ability to compete around the world, let alone here at home. State agencies that reach out to companies will obtain a very willing partner.

Financial Aid Incentives For Students

The amount of debt a student typically holds from their traditional four-year degree puts many of them at a distinct disadvantage. Apprenticeship programs that integrate high school students on job sites can be the catalyst to reducing the cost of education statewide. Incorporating trade level certification programs that tie into high school graduation requirements and, better yet, advanced college credits, will mean fewer days in the classroom for students and less overhead for campuses. Many businesses will also gladly offer these rising stars tuition assistance and other financial incentives to further their education.

From the students’ perspective, apprenticeship programs like these will put them on a faster route toward good paying, rewarding careers. They will also infuse more of their income into the economy that would have otherwise gone towards paying off their incredibly burdensome school debt.

Provide Options For Those With Certifications

Be clear to students that participating in apprenticeship initiatives doesn’t mean they’re tied to the companies after completing the program. The desire to continue employment should remain up to the businesses and the individual. Undoubtedly, some attrition will occur, but for the most part, it will stem from the students’ desire to take their newly acquired skills a different direction.

The economic benefit for the state and companies will remain, though. The individuals that complete the apprentice program, but find other opportunities, will be lucrative economic engines on their own. Those students that continue with the company will be valued assets who have completely bought into the business.

Apprenticeship programs will rise to prominence as the labor shortage in California continues to grow. The question then becomes how to make them successful. Looking at Colorado’s success is a good start.

About the Author: Margo Turner is the Founder and CEO of Powerminds, a tribe of strategic and creative minds invested in transforming education, workforce and economic development that spans every discipline and every kind of partner. She can be reached at margo@power-minds.com.