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Friday, Jun 9, 2023

Community Colleges React to Job-Training Requests

Community Colleges React to Job-Training Requests By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter From manufacturers to wholesale trade to the services sector, San Fernando Valley companies are having a hard time recruiting qualified workers, the results of a Cal State Northridge economic forecast survey found. Of 105 medium-sized businesses surveyed, most listed inability to find employees with the type of skills they sought as one of their top problems along with exorbitant worker’s compensation costs. “What that means is that they’re starting to hire people and the labor pool doesn’t have the skills they want,” said Daniel Blake, professor of economics and director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at Cal State Northridge, which did the survey. “It’s not as easy to hire people they want.” With the problem stated, solutions are in the works at the area’s community colleges, including L.A.Valley College in Valley Glen, Pierce College in Woodland Hills and Mission College in Sylmar. They have programs in place to train workers and match them with employers. The programs differ in scope and orientation, depending on location and local industries. In part as a response to the results of the forecast, which was presented May 25 at a Universal City breakfast summit, L.A. Valley College has initiated an effort to find out how it can help to train qualified manufacturing workers. The college will host manufacturing company representatives on campus on June 23 where it will ask for their input. “The purpose of the meeting is to identify specific training needs for employees in the manufacturing industry,” said Deborah diCesare, the dean of Economic and Workforce Development at the college. “Valley College strives to be responsive to the needs of businesses in the San Fernando Valley.” While Valley College has targeted the manufacturing industry, the Pacoima Workforce Development Initiative aims to be a pipeline for health-related employers. It has developed relationships with Mission College, which refers students to the program. Entry-level training Underwritten by the Valley Economic Development Center, a program called H.E.A.T., which stands for Help Entry Level Access Training, seeks to train Pacoima’s primarily poor Latino population for entry-level jobs in the medical field. The Initiative also offers financial literacy classes, a computer center, pre-employment workshops and placement services. It was started five years ago through L.A. Urban Funders and other funding. But H.E.A.T. is the Initiative’s golden egg. Since inception, 100 out of 109 participants in the program went through year-long training that led up to internships at local hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente and Mission Community Hospital, said Jenni Kwon, director of Workforce Development and Training at VEDC. Most of the internships have led to full-time positions, and more than 80 of them offer benefits to employees, Kwon said. The focus on healthcare is due to the region’s demographics and economy. With hospitals complaining about the lack of bilingual employers and 90 percent of the Initiative’s graduates being fluent in Spanish and English, it makes sense to match job seekers with employees, Kwon said. The region has a number of medical facilities, and there are opportunities for advancement in registered nursing. “Our programs can be good feeders for a higher level of professionals,” Kwon said. “We do have a specialized focus on health because it’s a booming industry and there are a number of healthcare facilities in the northeast San Fernando Valley.” Customized approach Meanwhile, Pierce College is taking an even more customized approach. In only two years of existence, the school’s Workforce Development Department is providing instruction for more than 30 Valley companies. The department employs Pierce instructors to teach specific classes at the companies’ offices. This type of training is a departure from Pierce’s traditional modus operandi. The community college has traditionally served a student population that sought to transfer to four-year colleges and universities, but administrators saw a change in the type of students that began coming in. The newcomers sought “to raise their skill level,” said Judy Trester, the Pierce’s program director. In return, she said: “We’re addressing the workforce and trying to keep up.” In 2002, Pierce surveyed 170 employers in its vicinity and documented specific skills that employers wanted to see. Then, presentations were made to department chairs, asking them to tailor class offerings. Pierce then built up the infrastructure of the development program, hiring Trester to lead it. It has since opened an auxiliary facility called the Pierce Business Center on Nordhoff and Mason in Chatsworth that functions as a standardized testing site. Trester said business communications and English as Second Language training are among the most popular class offerings for the self-funded department. There are also 350 online courses, to accommodate companies that prefer online learning to classroom instruction for their employees. One of the department’s major clients has been Agoura Hills-based Digital Theater Systems. When the training is wrapped up in August, Pierce will have trained most of the digital audio company’s workforce 120 to 150 people, Trester said. The project has taken a year, and during that time, a Pierce instructor went to the company’s site every Friday to spend six hours teaching employees in such areas as basic grammar and usage skills, e-mail etiquette, business writing do’s and don’t, creating a letter report, editing/proofreading business documents and language, Trester said. DTS has a number of employees overseas, and that training was important for that reason, she said. Other companies that are working with Pierce include regional offices of McDonald’s Corp., Scherzer International, Johnston Group, First State Bank, City of San Fernando, Boeing, Toyota, Rexam International and Alcatel. “We’ve had the backing of the president and the vice president,” Trester said. “If a person like myself doesn’t have the support of my administration, I really can’t move forward.”

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