Launching LARC

Pam Sornson, JD

Pam Sornson, JD

May 17, 2022

As the 6th pillar in Pasadena City College’s (PCC) Economic and Workforce Development division (EWD), the LA Regional Consortium (LARC) has begun laying the groundwork for its future activities. As a collaborative initiative that is funded by California’s Strong Workforce Program, the LARC (LA County’s 19 community colleges) is designing a workforce development strategy by accessing resources already available throughout LA County to inform its next steps and make short-, mid-, and long-range plans. These five foundational projects build on work already done and use that impetus to expand them into the emerging ‘future of work.’

 

UNITE-LA & LARC

Since 1998, UNITE-LA has provided job and skills training for young (16-24 years) future workers. With over 100 business partners already engaged, this organization leverages work-based learning and internship opportunities to provide critical, valuable labor skills to the newest wave of employees.

UNITE-LA has devised two unique career-oriented pathways that guide participants into the Health Care or Technology occupational fields. Each pathway exposes students to a diverse population of employers, which opens opportunities and alternatives to job and career choices. In some cases, they also provide ‘soft-skill’ training (communications, deportment, etc.), mentoring, and ‘Workforce Ready’ certifications. In collaboration with LARC, UNITE-LA will reach out to more employers across a broader scope of occupational fields to replicate the successes they’ve had in these two.

 

The LAEDC’s ‘Industry Engagement and Employment Pipeline Development’ Project

The non-profit Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) builds on its relationships with its cadre of industrial leadership members to create talent pipelines between community college graduates and the employers who need them as workers. By first connecting employers with the college faculty members who train their future employees, students are guaranteed to achieve the workforce standards and credentials they’ll need to find and hold a job.

For LARC, this project asserts two goals:

      1. Building a network of companies seeking employees with in-demand ‘middle-skills’ and ensuring that the curricula of the colleges engaged in providing ‘middle-skills’ training match the skills needed on the job.
      2. Providing career awareness and exposure to hundreds of regional college students to help them make their best college and career choices.

Notably, several of the careers and occupations targetted for this project are those related to the ‘five economies’ that have emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic as critical resources for future economic success. Skills in these occupations translate across multiple industries and sectors, so newly trained workers will have an excellent opportunity to find well-paying jobs after graduation.

 

The CCLA-19 Foundation

The ‘CCLA 19’ effort is a marketing project that promotes the work and opportunities embodied by the 19 Community Colleges of Los Angeles. It acts as a portal that identifies the 200+ programs offered across the County and provides access to those programs to potential students. Once the site visitor finds a course of interest, the CCLA’s website then directs the learner to the schools that offer those programs. The primary intention of the CCLA group is to build enrollment in each of the schools using advanced digital and social media marketing tools. The CCLA initiative has been reaching out to new CC students since 2019.

However, its activities aren’t only directed at potential students. Businesses can connect with the group to obtain insights into prospective student interests, concerns, motivations, and other educationally relevant issues. When students indicate an interest in a program or company, the CCLA connects the two to further their opportunity to develop a relationship. Not insignificantly, the organization also provides training, production resources, and marketing and media management skills for businesses and programs to ensure that the students they want to attract are receiving their messaging.

 

The LARC’s Faculty Innovation Hub Project

LA County is known for its immense population of imaginative and creative minds, many of whom teach at its 19 community colleges. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted most, if not all, traditional educational processes. This group of talented teachers navigated the emerging demand to shift academic activities from in-person to digital platforms. The demand was felt across the County, too, so it compelled every teacher in every college to innovate their lesson plans into new forms of digital training materials. As that pandemic evolves and even as students return to in-person classes, many of these digital training trends remain popular and offer better opportunities for learning to a broader population of potential learners.

The Innovation Hub connects Career Education and General Education professionals to develop educational ‘best practices’ across numerous community college programs. Once established, the revised programming can be scaled consistently to schools across the entire County so that students within those programs obtain the best possible training for the occupation of their choice regardless of the school they attend.

In addition, the Hub offers professional development opportunities for the teaching faculty and industry alignment between businesses and the schools that are training their future workers. The ‘regionality’ of the project engages all County community colleges in the effort to build the regional economy through consistent, high-quality job and occupational training.

 

LA County Alumni Outcomes

Another change stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic disruption is how the system will measure the success of its community college investment. Up until now, accountability measurements for community colleges did not include how well their graduates performed in the work world. Instead, they were focused on more administrative details, such as the number of students enrolled, the number of programs offered, and how long it took for students to attain their desired educational credentials. None of these statistics reveal how well the school met its student’s goals of finding well-paying jobs.

The LA County Alumni Outcomes project aims to determine how many LA County community college graduates actually obtained work within their chosen fields, how much they’re paid for their work, and how long those careers lasted, among many other economic occupationally relevant factors. Using both school and labor market data, the project will help community colleges measure their programs’ relative economic and occupational value from their students’ perspectives. With this information, school leadership can modify where needed to ensure that their courses can lead directly to jobs in the learner’s chosen fields.

The economic and education analytics firm Burning Glass provides the services that drive the project. Their work will keep the schools, regional industries and businesses, and local and regional governments apprised of where jobs exist, the skills needed to land them, and the economic impact on the community that they will have.

 

These five projects span the workforce development spectrum, connecting community college participants to the businesses and industries that are constantly needing a well-trained labor force, and measuring the economic impact on the region. The LARC will be bringing much-needed resources to PCC, each of the County’s community colleges, and all of the County’s business and industry colleagues.

 

 

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