by Ted W. Lieu, Senator, 28th Senate District
California is turning the corner. For the first time in a long time, we have a balanced state budget this year, with a projected surplus next year. We created more jobs last year than any other state, and at a higher rate. The Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation reports that we’ll continue to make gains over the next year, and those gains are translating into additional hiring in the near term.
With such progress comes a tremendous responsibility for elected officials. We must continue to exercise fiscal discipline, but also make the prudent investment decisions that voters have signaled they want – investments in education and quality of life.
I will continue to fight to increase funding for K-12 education and higher education. California’s comparative advantages include our wealth of intellectual capital, and our incredible diversity. We need to do a better job of building upon the talents of our citizenry. We also need to make sure our children learn not just basic concepts, but also life skills, such as financial literacy.
One of the investments that I’m particularly excited about will happen at our community colleges. The state currently funds the Economic and Workforce Development (EWD) Program, which is housed in our community college system. The program invests in industry-specific education, training and services that contribute to a highly skilled workforce for the 21st century economy.
California will never compete making socks.
California must emphasize its competitive advantages. There are numerous industry sectors in California that continue to thrive. Aerospace, high-tech, biotech, agriculture, health care, entertainment, trade, and tourism have done extremely well. Most of these industries require higher education or skills training.
Federal economists estimate that more than two million jobs go unfilled today as a result of training, skills and education gaps. The skills gap is a national problem that has left business without a crucial pipeline of the skilled workers they need in a rapidly changing economy.
Because of the skills gap, it was very important to me to author Senate Bill 1402, which was signed into law last year and became effective this January. The law saved the EWD program from expiring, and made the program even better. SB 1402 was identified as a “job-creator” by the California Chamber of Commerce.
Career Technical Education classes prepare students for jobs that don’t necessarily require a bachelor’s or advanced university degree.
In a state as big as California, addressing this skills gap requires more than a one-size-fits-all jobs training program. Our workforce training dollars need to help the communities in which the training programs are based. Training programs that work for jobs in Silicon Valley or Fresno, may not work for Los Angeles basin jobs.
We need to identify these regional needs so we can modify the economic and workforce development program to operate according to specific principles. We required the program to work with local business, labor and professional representatives to develop alternatives for workers in the state’s competitive and emerging industries. Our problem solvers will be local, working with local business leaders to train the workers that they need.
In an era of belt-tightening, state spending must be effective, so the bill included provisions to create accountability measures that promote student success and meet industry’s need for skilled workers.
Community College Chancellor Brice Harris has released a vision website called “Doing What Matters for Jobs and the Economy.” I invite you to take a look at their initiative at DoingWhatMatters.cccco.edu/.
Ted W. Lieu represents the nearly 1.3 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance, as well as portions of Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro. With redistricting, Lieu also is responsible for constituents in Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, PalosVerdesPeninsula, West Hollywood, West Los Angeles, and portions of Hollywood.
For more information, visit senate.ca.gov/lieu. ER