LA County’s Economic Collaborative
Pam Sornson, JD
Pasadena City College and LA County’s 18 other community colleges are in the beginning stages of evolution. Collectively known as the LA Regional Consortium (LARC), this collaboration is working to build a cohesive, comprehensive, county-wide workforce development strategy that provides critical training and support for regional workers and the businesses that hire them. Informing their process are LA County’s many economic, social, and political agencies that generate the data and activities that will drive their decisions. Understanding the basics of LA County’s economic infrastructure gives context to the work that PCC and LARC are and will be doing.
Following the Data; Defining the Opportunities
Building a sustainable, equitable, and resilient economy is the work of all regional entities, and the non-profit Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) provides guidance and leadership for those efforts. It gathers data created by County business and industry activities, educational strategies, and political initiatives, then tracks regional economic growth opportunities as those emerge from the community. The LAEDC recently released its 2022 Economic Forecast, and it sees a reasonably bright future for the County.
Despite the COVID-19-driven drops in both employment and productivity numbers, LA County’s hard-hit industries are actually recovering at ‘a particularly high rate,’ according to the LAEDC. In 2020, the County’s GDP dropped more than 6%, total employment numbers fell by over 11%, and the unemployment rate averaged 12.8%. This year and looking forward, the LAEDC predicts that the GDP and overall employment growth will top more than 10% over the 2020 losses, and the unemployment rate will drop to as low as 6.4%.
The agency suggests that full recovery (back to pre-2020 levels) won’t likely happen until at least 2024. Further, their data also shows which industries are expected to grow fastest and where job openings will likely be clustered. This information helps define where new training and skills development should occur if the County wants to produce a workforce capable of filling those existing and future occupational vacancies.
California and LA County Partner Inputs
In addition to the economists affiliated with the LAEDC, the LARC will also be working closely with three other community pillars: the many governments that preside over the State, the County, and the County’s 88 cities, the California Community College Chancellors Office (CCCCO), and business and civic leaders involved in LA County’s significant industrial complex.
California’s Enlightened Governments
For the past ~decade or so, California’s state government has been remaking its 116-strong community college system (CCC) into a world-class workforce development engine. The State has invested billions of dollars building its ‘Vision for Success,’ which sets parameters for college programming, so schools train students to meet the needs of the State’s economically critical industrial sectors. Rather than simply counting classes and credits, the CCC organization is now looking at student employment metrics to measure its success. The shift in perspective has also shifted the views of the State’s 116 community colleges. They are now tasked with tracking student activities beyond graduation to understand how well their programs put students into the jobs and occupations that they’ve chosen.
County and city governments are included in the plan to the extent they also contribute money and resources to their higher education institutions and strategies. It is far more likely that California will succeed in its economic recovery plan because it is actively coordinating the higher education efforts of all its regional and local governments.
The CCCCO is tasked with implementing the Vision for Success strategy and has organized the state’s 116 community colleges into eight ‘regional consortia.’ The LARC is one of those regional entities. Each consortium is now collaborating to pool all relevant school assets into a County-wide ‘economic and workforce development’ engine that serves the needs of its regional businesses and industries. The initiative incorporates both economic and equity principles into all its elements, and each school is responsible to its constituents, its regional colleagues, and the State for ensuring those mandates are achieved.
LA County’s Vast Economic and Industrial Base
Driving the LAEDC’s positive outlook are the efforts of LA County’s 244,000+ businesses and the many major industries in which they work. While LA County is a global hub for several industrial sectors, the County government focuses much of its attention on the seven ‘targeted’ industries that offer both the biggest economic base and the widest scope for growth:
– Healthcare services, which employed more than 12% of the County’s workforce in 2015-2016;
– Manufacturing activities – LA County is home to more manufacturing jobs than all of the state of Michigan;
– Trade and Logistics became front-page news as the pandemic disrupted global supply chains. The extensive Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach annually receives more than 40% of all containers entering the country;
– Leisure and Hospitality services are built into the fabric of the LA culture, and they attract millions of visitors every year;
– Entertainment is also a fundamental element in LA’s make-up. Television, film, and music are just three of the creative, LA-based industries that entertain the world;
– LA County’s Bioscience sector isn’t as well known as Disney®, but millions of people benefit from the breakthroughs and medical developments that emerge from its labs;
– The Construction industry is also a critical element of LA’s future growth. New housing, factories, and facilities for all kinds of ventures ensure that today’s and tomorrow’s companies have the space they need to build and grow.
Hundreds of supply chains and support sub-industries are tied to these seven primary industries. Together, they comprise an industrial complex that is one of the most extensive single economic zones in the world. The number of jobs, occupations, and careers that are available now and will be available in the near future is almost unlimited in Los Angeles County.
Numerous civic and business groups exist in the County, too, keeping communication channels open between colleagues, industries, governments, and educators. The LAEDC is one such group. It works closely with the County of Los Angeles Economic Development Program to connect community efforts to government efforts. The San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership is another economic workgroup that focuses its attention on the businesses and industries within that Valley. Further, there are 125 Chambers of Commerce within LA County, with each representing the economic needs of an average of over 80,000 LA County residents.
These economically focused entities directly connect the economic growth in their area with the consumers who shop those services and the employees that populate their workforce.
Pasadena City College sits at the heart of the LA County economic region and plays a leadership role in developing current and future economic initiatives. With its substantial cadre of Economic and Workforce Development collaborators, government partners, and economic directives, the school and its partners are working together to build a new, post-COVID economy one well-trained student at a time.
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