The LARC’s Industrial Clusters

Pam Sornson, JD

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the State of California is looking ahead to rebuild/recreate its economy to withstand better future catastrophes like those wrought by social justice inequities and climate-induced floods and wildfires. Virus vaccines and treatments are changing the course of the COVID concern. The challenging realities it revealed are informing a new way forward for communities, businesses, and whole industrial sectors.

In Los Angeles County (LAC), a new collaborative is uniting its 19 California community colleges (CCCs) into workforce development engines that serve its ten primary industrial sectors and five emerging ‘economies.’ Shifting the economic development onus from individual schools to a regional collaborative will reduce curricula redundancies while powering best practices to inform the activities of all. Efforts by all 19 schools (now dubbed the Los Angeles Regional Consortium, or LARC) are already underway to identify teams, strategies, and first steps. Pasadena City College’s (PCC) Economic and Workforce Development (EWD) department is the selected coordinator of the project and has embraced the LARC as its sixth pillar.


The LARC’s Industrial Complex

As the largest county in the country, LAC is home to thousands of businesses that populate hundreds of industries. To maximize economic growth opportunities, the Los Angeles Regional Plan used labor market information to identify ten major industry clusters as the focus of its workforce development strategy. Additionally, there are also five newly recognized ‘economies’ emerging from the COVID-19 fog, each of which provides critical corporate infrastructure inputs through all industries. The work of the CCCs is to collaborate with the businesses within these industries for training and skill-building guidance to develop and implement educational strategies that produce the highly skilled workers they need.


LA’s Industry Clusters

An industry ‘cluster’ represents all the businesses contributing to the overarching industrial production capacity. Parts manufacturers, transportation agencies, and consumer-facing commercial companies, among many, many other contributors, all play a pivotal role in each sector’s success.


The Manufacturing Cluster

LAC produces an immense volume of high-value assets through several notable manufacturing industries. These four have been identified as having the capacity for substantial growth opportunities for the region:

Its globally renowned entertainment industry generates over $100 billion annually for the State of California through both its film and television efforts and those related tourism receipts. Thousands of companies contribute resources to the industry, from entities producing visual effects to developers facilitating enhanced distribution capacities. The burgeoning digital gaming industry is a sub-industry of the entertainment sector, which pulls talent from the digital, entertainment, and media arts sectors to create globally popular online games.

Information and communications technology (ICT), including that used in the entertainment industry, is also a growing industrial concern in the LA basin. The Center for a Competitive Workforce estimates that almost 10,000 middle-skilled ICT jobs will be available in the region in the coming years.

Based on its enviable climate and access to vast expanses of agricultural assets, LAC’s food manufacturing industry produces internationally acclaimed foods and services. Not insignificant is the region’s multi-ethnic population, which supports a wide range of food products with origins that span the globe.

The fashion, apparel, and lifestyle industries rank at the top of the nation’s ‘creative design’ sector, producing more high-quality furnishings, cosmetics, and fashions than any other region in the country. Collectively, the sector comprises the region’s fourth-largest business sector and generates over $115 billion annually.


The Aerospace and Defense Cluster

The Aerospace and Defense industries also contribute significantly to the regional economy, playing a leadership role in the national defense sector. Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Palmdale’s NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center are global leaders in space exploration technologies. The Space and Missles Systems Center at the Los Angeles Air Force Base generates $9 billion a year designing and developing space and missile systems components and configurations.


The Advanced Transportation and Logistics Cluster

Home to the most extensive port system in the western hemisphere, the San Pedro Bay port complex (comprising Los Angeles and Long Beach shipping ports) handled over nine million cargo containers in 2020, valued at more than $259 billion. It accounts for one in twelve jobs in the region and 74% of the West Coast’s market share for the shipping industry. Five airports in the county also contribute to its logistics industries, as do the businesses involved in electric vehicle development, alternative fuels, emerging mobility capacities, and more.


The Energy, Construction, and Utilities Cluster

Businesses involved in these industries may be facing the steepest challenges as the world turns more toward digital solutions for emerging concerns and the LA region prepares for the 2028 Olympics. Across the sector, older workers are retiring, taking their years of experience with them. Candidates for these positions will need advanced training and enhanced skills to fill in those gaps. The addition of technological advancements increases the complexity of many middle-skilled jobs, which points to an increase in labor market demand.


The Healthcare Cluster

Business services in this cluster are growing at exponential rates across all levels of industry, from entry-level data-processing jobs to advanced healthcare technology and engineering careers. The cluster includes both traditional healthcare industries as well as some of the world’s most acclaimed teaching hospitals, the UCLA Medical Center, the City of Hope, and Cedars-Sinai Hospital, to name just three. The California Institute of Technology – Caltech – has been ranked the world’s premier research hospital for several years running.


The Bioscience Cluster

LAC’s bioscience research and production industries lead the world in scientific research, discovering new avenues of inquiry and developing life-saving treatments for myriads of illnesses and diseases. Drawing on the unparalleled resources of the region’s top research universities, medical centers, and teaching hospitals, the sector accounts for more than $44 billion in economic activity.


The Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Cluster

World-class shopping venues highlight just one aspect of this economic sector, ranging from the internationally famous Rodeo Drive to the bustle of downtown LA’s Fashion District. The Hollywood Walk of Fame attracts thousands of visitors each year, as do the County’s many theme parks, performing arts venues, sporting events, and other cultural attractions. With more than 50 million visitors a year, this cluster brings in more than $18 billion for the regional economy.


The LAC economic community is large, thriving, and in need of well-trained workers to maintain its current upward trajectory. The mission of the LARC and its 19 CCCS is to ensure that those businesses, and the region’s economy overall, have the human resources needed to maximize all that potential.


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