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Working together for success

Posted: April 3, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Many years ago, Henry Ford famously said, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success.”

In a true testament of working together for success, the county of Los Angeles and College of the Canyons collaborated to bolster our region’s economy, positively impact local residents with job opportunities, and help small business grow.

Demonstrating mutual commitment and a desire for innovative programs, the county and college developed a public/private partnership with $250,000 in grant funding from the county.

This effort has helped prepare workers for high-demand entry-level positions; enabled companies to better compete in both local and international markets; support student success in training for growth industries; and effectively evaluate the outcomes of the college’s career technical education programs.

The measurable benefits to the Santa Clarita Valley are impressive.

To date, the college has trained more than 30 unemployed individuals in a “Fast Track” program. This intense, hands-on training in computer numerically controlled machining and commercial equipment repair moves students from unemployment and into jobs in growing fields where qualified personnel are in short supply.

Thus far, area companies have hired 80 percent of the participants. The average unemployment insurance payout in California is approximately $16,000 per year, compared to the average annual wage received by Fast Track graduates at approximately $40,000 per year.

So an investment of $2,000 for each placed participant resulted in an average aggregate benefit of $34,000 or a return of 17:1. This represents a substantial return on the county’s investment.

The grant funding from L.A. County also assisted companies in their efforts to expand into international markets.

The college’s Center for International Trade Development, part of the Small Business Development Center, conducted a series of five export-related workshops that served nearly 150 attendees.

In addition, the SBDC provided international trade consulting services to 17 clients over the course of the partnership. In total, over 40 area businesses received direct assistance in their preparation for import and export opportunities.

With the funding from the county, the SBDC offered business training to 860 entrepreneurs and provided no-cost, one-on-one consulting to an additional 450 businesses.

These county-funded services resulted in a net increase in sales for these businesses of more than $12 million and acquisitions of more than $5 million in new capital.

Ensuring students are trained with current industry-standard equipment and procedures is a key goal of the college’s Career Technical Education programs, but securing the funding necessary to do so has been a continual struggle.

To help address on-site needs, the county grant permitted the college’s Welding Technology program to add a testing lab, which enables students to evaluate the quality of their welds and learn supplemental techniques needed to become an American Welding Society Certified Welding Inspector.

In addition, the college’s new electronic systems program needed equipment to deliver the more advanced lab courses to train students in hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics and computer controls used in running packaging lines, other manufacturing processes and theme park rides.

The final outcome of the funding was to evaluate the effectiveness of the college’s Career Technical Education programs. More than 2,000 former students were surveyed to determine the impact of courses on their employment prospects.

Before their educational studies, less than half of the respondents (47 percent) worked full-time. After completing the program, 70 percent had full-time employment.

Furthermore, the average hourly wage of respondents increased 39 percent, to $23.55. Half of respondents were working in the same field as their studies and training, and another 20 percent were working in a field “close” to their studies and training.

This successful collaboration illustrates that public/private partnerships can magnify the impact of their contributions when they work together, as Henry Ford said, and create measurable benefits for those they serve.

Michael D. Antonovich is one of five Los Angeles County supervisors and represents the Santa Clarita Valley. Dianne G. Van Hook is chancellor of College of the Canyons.



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