New Horizons for a New LARC
Pam Sornson, JD
Despite coming into reality as a single entity in summer 2021, the Los Angeles Regional Consortium (LARC) has actually been active since 2016. Back then, the California Legislature allocated funding to launch its ‘Strong Workforce Program.’ Its ‘consortium’ strategy collects the State’s 116 community colleges into seven regional groups – seven ‘consortia’ – each of which to design and develop career and technical education (CTE) programs that would meet the needs of regionals and local businesses and industries. A merger of the 28 California Community Colleges (CCCs) located in Los Angeles and Orange counties comprised the Los Angeles/Orange County Regional Consortium (LAOCRC). In summer 2021, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) launched its ‘Regional Collaboration and Coordination‘ initiative (RCC) to further strengthen CTE education by streamlining CTE programming at a regional level. It quickly became apparent that the two merged counties could do better pursuing the RCC initiatives if they separated into two separate regions. Thus was born the Los Angeles Regional Consortium (LARC).
LARC – The Basics
The LARC comes into being well aware of the complexity of its agenda:
Los Angeles County is the country’s largest single county, with ~10,000,000 residents, half a million employed workers, and almost a quarter-million companies and businesses.
One in five residents (21%) are under 18 years (future CCC students!). Of those residents over 25 years:
– almost half (40%) have achieved a high school diploma or less;
– one in four (25%) has achieved a CCC-level education;
– less than one-third (30%) have achieved a bachelor’s or master’s degree or higher.
Its 19 CCCs include ten schools organized as independent CC Districts and another nine schools contained within the single Los Angeles Community College District. Together, these schools service ~375,000 students per year.
The work of the LARC is to coordinate CCC efforts across the county to provide CTE training and resources to county residents looking for well-paid, sustainable jobs and careers.
Fortunately, the LARC isn’t starting from scratch but instead has five years of experience behind it, as well as several guiding strategies already in place. As the LAOCRC launched, it devised a 2017-2020 Los Angeles Regional Plan, which incorporated data and factors streaming from the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Workforce Development Board, K-12 school districts, adult education providers, industry and business partners, and many others.
The plan established six priority industrial sectors that encompassed industries with strong metrics for growth, a growing demand for workers, and a correlated number of CCC graduates from relevant CTE programs. The six priorities include
Advanced Transportation and Logistics,
Business and Entrepreneurship,
Energy, Construction, and Utilities,
Information Communication Technology (ICT)/Digital Media, and
Because of its size and complexity, the region also identified life sciences/biotech and digital media (due to the County’s prominent entertainment industry) as emerging sectors. The strategy is to have the local CCC engage with companies in these sectors to share knowledge, define program needs, and build reliable, sustainable talent pipelines.
LARC – The Future
Looking forward, the LARC will be working closely with Los Angeles County as it pursues its 2021-2025 Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. It will also continue its pursuit of the strategies contained in its updated 2021-2024 regional plan, which incorporates regionally relevant Strong Workforce Program goals.
Further, and through the auspices of the RCC initiative, the Consortium will be developing CCC programs responsive to the five ’emerging economies,’ as those were identified in 2021’s ‘After the Storm‘ report, produced by Burning Glass Technologies. That industry, employment, and labor data analysis revealed that five ‘economies’ are emerging through the COVID-19 pandemic smoke. The coronavirus crisis exposed the need for expertise in each of these economies, as global systems broke down amid the sickness, and people were forced to recreate their jobs in a remote capacity.
The five economies address the systemic gaps and opportunities revealed by the pandemic and co-occurring environmental catastrophes:
The Automated Economy – Technology infuses every aspect of life these days, and cutting-edge programming is taking over many routine functions through automation. However, even automated services require development and maintenance as well as a well-trained and dedicated workforce.
The Green Economy – While the country was slowly shifting toward using more renewable energy sources, the tragic environmental disasters that coincided with COVID indicated that a more impactful action was needed to move away from fossil fuels. Many businesses and industries are emerging in this sector, all offering exciting new jobs and economic development options.
The Logistics Economy – COVID-caused disruptions in supply chains revealed (painfully) how dependent the world is on its global transportation systems. The work of this emerging economy will focus on examining those failures, repairing broken systems, and devising improvements to existing systems to avoid a repeat of the 2020 toilet paper debacle.
The Readiness Economy – Fundamental social and civic infrastructures were decimated by COVID-19 disruptions, leaving whole communities without healthcare, cybersecurity, social services, insurances, and other critical systems. The situation opens significant opportunities to develop programs responsive to these circumstances, both to build and maintain the infrastructures.
The Remote Economy – While not an option for many employees, working remotely – away from one’s principal place of business – became both mandatory and widespread through the pandemic and continues to be popular as that crisis continues. The process, however, requires enhanced technology and connectivity capacities, and many businesses need well-trained specialists to set up and maintain those assets.
Moving forward, the LARC will be pursuing the implementation of training and deploying CCC graduates into jobs related to these emerging economies, in addition to the efforts being made in the already complex LA County industrial and corporate environment.
California’s Strong Workforce Program and the CCCCO’s Regional Collaboration and Coordination initiative combine to provide guidance, structure, and shared goals for each of Los Angeles County’s 19 CCCs. The LARC will be working closely with all participants in those systems to help repair the State’s economy and provide its residents with the training they need to fully participate in the process.
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