While California’s economy is strong, many businesses in Los Angeles are having trouble expanding due to a shrinking labor pool and a shortage of skilled workers, particularly in occupations requiring technological experience. Despite that demand, one in five Angelenos lives in poverty – unaware of, or without access to, the kind of training that could transform their lives.
The solution to both of these challenges lies in the ability of business and education to work together – to build a talent pool that meets the needs of growing businesses while creating advancement opportunities for those struggling to move towards prosperity.
Leave it to one of the biggest companies worldwide – Amazon – to help lead the way. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and its global initiative AWS Educate has just unveiled a partnership to provide future or current tech professionals with the skills needed to thrive in the new economy while helping companies meet their labor needs. AWS is partnering with 19 community colleges in L.A. County to offer courses that will allow participants to earn an industry-recognized cloud computing certificate.
Cloud computing delivers extensive data capacity without requiring costly on-site servers. AWS Educate has already collaborated with faculty at Santa Monica College – one of the 19 schools involved – to create a 15-unit certificate. Curriculum from this successful pilot program will be rolled out at the 18 other community colleges, with East L.A. College next in line.
This marks the first time in the nation that a region’s community colleges have come together to offer an AWS cloud computing certificate, putting students on a career pathway in a high-paying field considered the biggest growth sector in technology. It’s a natural fit. Community colleges have the expertise and infrastructure, and are open-access institutions – truly the most democratic – and serve students from diverse backgrounds, including many who are the first in their families to attend college. Thus, community colleges can also help bring greater diversity to the high-tech sector.
While this groundbreaking program would not have been possible without AWS, most students will probably not work directly for AWS but rather at the thousands of Los Angeles businesses that are moving information technology systems to the cloud.
Although momentous, the Amazon announcement is a small example of what can happen when business and education collaborate. For L.A.’s growing industries like aerospace, bioscience and digital media, there’s never been a better opportunity to build a talent pool. The stakes are high on both sides. Los Angeles needs the well-paying jobs these industries create. For the businesses, having a readily accessible talent pool is more efficient than having to recruit from elsewhere.
The timing, also, is perfect: In 2016, at the recommendation of the California Community College Board of Governors, Gov. Jerry Brown and Legislature approved the Strong Workforce Program to support the state’s goal of producing one million middle-skill postsecondary credentials by 2025. The $248 million annual investment will bolster career pathways in high-growth, high-opportunity industries and fuel upward mobility and regional economic success.
The engagement of businesses is critical to the program’s success. So, we encourage human resources executives at mid-size and larger businesses to reach out directly to the community college system or via the Center for a Competitive Workforce, a partnership dedicated to progress on this issue. The colleges have all committed to providing a liaison for businesses.
As technology adoption accelerates, we risk leaving many workers behind. That would be detrimental to businesses and miss an opportunity untapped to create income equality. A certain way to keep our region’s economy strong for all is to ensure our workforce has relevant skills. Let’s help future-proof our collective prosperity by creating more education-business partnerships.
Kathryn E. Jeffery, Ph.D., is superintendent and president of Santa Monica College; Francisco C. Rodriguez, Ph.D., is chancellor of the Los Angeles Community College District.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.