LA County’s Economic & Workforce Agencies
Pam Sornson, JD
Many people will measure their life experience from now on by two standards: ‘BC’ (‘before COVID’) and ‘AC’ (‘after COVID’). Emerging in tandem with 2020’s social justice unrest roiling the U.S., the pandemic has irreversibly changed whole swaths of America’s foundational infrastructure. Many occupations simply ceased to exist, being either rendered obsolete by technology or just becoming unnecessary. The demand for highly skilled workers in other occupations skyrocketed as the country pivoted to an online presence in a modified ‘work-from-home’ world.
Through it all, leaders across the nation struggled to redirect existing resources to accommodate emerging demands. Those who already had a strategy in mind or in place had an advantage over their less prepared colleagues. Fortunately for Los Angeles County (LAC), the long-range economic development strategy was already in place and functioning. Its participants needed some time to regroup due to the coronavirus but are now forging ahead with their modified plans to build a stronger economy and engage a higher percentage of LAC residents.
Pursuing an Economically Sound Future for All
A 2016 essay by the Brookings Institute summed up the goal of achieving community prosperity through strategic initiatives: build regional economic growth by increasing the productivity of both companies and workers so that all regional residents experience a higher standard of living. The overarching strategy encompasses both markets (industrial clusters) and civics (the work of engaged stakeholders, including business and government leaders). The beneficiaries are the people who live and work within those regions, and their children, and their children.
The essay also lays out five action principles to ensure any initiative encompasses all the relevant aspects needed for success:
- Set appropriate goals that embrace an ‘opportunities for all’ mentality.
- Prioritize established companies and emerging industries and include innovations, trade, talent, and governance to enhance competitiveness.
- Look to do business with other markets to expand trade opportunities.
- Invest in building new skills and the people who teach and learn them.
- Connect with all available regional resources so that local communities can participate where they are.
The overarching strategy lays out a template that any entity can use to build a resilient and successful enterprise, regardless of its location or the nature of its resources.
LAC’s Economic Growth Collective
Leadership in LAC began its strategic growth trajectory well before that 2016 essay was written. Over the course of many years, regional, state, and local leaders collaborated on how best to manage the region’s resources. Those discussions got deeper and more meaningful as environmental, technological, and social factors evolved.
LA’s Chamber of Commerce
A key partner in LAC’s growth initiative is its 130-year-old Chamber of Commerce. The organization of business leaders works to advance opportunities to build a thriving, inclusive economy for all LAC residents. Its advocacy efforts reach toward local and regional governments as those agencies develop policies to facilitate and foster economic growth. Its members also collaborate extensively with each other and with colleagues within their individual industries to build longer, stronger sector connections that enhance the efforts of all. Not least significant to the group is the County’s geographical location, sitting as it does at the heart of a globally pivotal economic gateway. The Chamber works with national and international entities to reap the fullest benefit possible from its associations with the global economic community.
The LAC Economic Development Corporation
In 1980, LAC launched the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) to ” … reinvent [the LA region economy] to collaboratively advance growth and prosperity for all.” A private, not-for-profit organization, members of the LAEDC leverage area public and private intellectual, business, and financial investments to reduce the County’s regional social and economic disparities. These days, the group focuses its effort on incorporating lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and state-wide social unrest to maintain and build LAC’s vast industrial complex.
The Southern California Leadership Council
Informing each of these organizations is the Southern California Leadership Council (SCLC), a partnership of government and business leaders from seven counties who contribute their insights and opinions on critical regional policies that affect millions of Southern California residents. Launched in 2005 by a conference of former governors and civic leaders, the organization offers its experience-based wisdom as guidance for natural resource management (water, climate concerns, energy development and usage, etc.), business attraction and retention, regional logistics, and international trade opportunities. Its effort adds depth and breadth to LAC’s overall economic and development perspective.
The Center for a Competitive Workforce
In 2017, in partnership with the LAEDC, the County’s 19 community colleges launched the area’s first Center for a Competitive Workforce (CCW), tasking it with coordinating research and development of the talent and worker supply that the region’s industries demand now an will demand in the future. Its foundational purpose is to be a direct connection between the region’s businesses and the region’s workforce training organizations – its 19 community colleges.
The Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research
The Centers of Excellence for Labor Market Research (COEs) are working in conjunction with the CCW, providing critical labor market data to community colleges to inform their program and curricula development strategies. Mount San Antonio College is home to the Los Angeles/Orange County COE, which uses regional data to identify trends in workforce demand and supply for community college decision-making.
The Los Angeles Regional Consortium
Finally but certainly not least are the 19 community colleges that now make up the Los Angeles Regional Consortium (LARC). The LARC came into existence on January 1, 2022, specifically to build a collaborative, regionally based workforce training pipeline to feed the County’s vast industrial complex. With the assistance and support of its economic community membership, the schools included in the Consortium will be well able to provide the well-trained workforce that will drive the region’s economy for decades to come.
Together, the efforts of these and other LAC entities are combining to reduce or eradicate the social injustices of the past while embracing the full measure of value offered by the region’s multiethnic population. And, looking across the LAC landscape at its economic and workforce development assets, it’s clear that the area has fully embraced the strategic action principles suggested by Brookings.
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