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Brown signs workforce-training bill

Politics: Legislation mandates how employment-resource centers spend annual federal funding

Posted: October 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
This photo shows the College of the Canyons Valencia campus, where the WorkSource Center is located. This photo shows the College of the Canyons Valencia campus, where the WorkSource Center is located.
This photo shows the College of the Canyons Valencia campus, where the WorkSource Center is located.

Employment-resource centers across the state, such as the Santa Clarita WorkSource Center, will now have to spend at least 25 percent of their annual federal funding on vocational training, under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week.

As at the local WorkSource Center, help is offered at all job centers to write resumes, search for work and learn how to interview, but the amount of money each center spends on actual vocational training varies.

“We have been following the legislation while it was being proposed,” said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita. Crawford’s division oversees the local WorkSource Center, which resides on the College of the Canyons Valencia campus.

“I think we already meet the new minimum, with that percentage of funds already being allocated to training,” Crawford said.

The vocational-training requirement is measured by services offered at both the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys WorkSource offices, Crawford said.

The legislation was backed both by labor unions and manufacturers who said there is a mismatch of skills needed by employers and skills potential employees possess. The problem is more pronounced in mechanical trades, such as steel-making and aerospace industries, said Gino DeCaro, of the trade group California Manufacturers Association.

Manufacturers have been saying they actually have jobs, said Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, author of SB 734. But the industry representatives said the workforce is not trained for the jobs.

The statewide average now spent on retraining is about 20 percent, but the mandate will rise to 30 percent in five years.

The emphasis on vocational training is a practice of other states, including Florida and Michigan, which require that half of workforce-training money be spent for specific job training. Illinois requires 40 percent, and Wisconsin 35 percent.

The Santa Clarita WorkSource Center is funded and supported by a number of parties, including the Federal Workforce Investment Act, Employment Development Department, County of Los Angeles Community and Senior Service, Goodwill Southern California and College of the Canyons.

“The SBDC and Economic Division at COC have a partnership with the WorkSource Center in Santa Clarita to provide a wide variety of training,” said Steve Tannehill, director of the SBDC.

“We have a menu of training and they can pick and choose from them when they want to utilize,” he said.

Due to the change in regulations, if the WorkSource Center wants to add to its offerings, the SBDC can meet those needs, he said.

The Fast Track training program offered by COC is also made available to approved WorkSource clients, said Pete Bellas, dean of economic development and Fast Track director with COC. Companies can secure approval from the WorkSource Center and receive a voucher to pay for the Fast Track training program.

“The Fast Track programs were developed to get people back to work and to help industry fill persistent openings,” Bellas said.

The idea of requiring a set percentage of the WorkSource funding to be dedicated to retraining is not new, he said. The states have the ability to provide their own set of regulations regarding how the money is spent and many have decided to make the move since the feds have not, he said.

“We currently have 11 courses approved for funding through WIA, and each time we add a new Fast Track course, we look to see if it is appropriate to submit for approval,” Bellas said.

While the local WorkSource Center places a high focus on both kinds of training, and meeting the minimum requirement is not a problem locally, Crawford said, some critics of the legislation have said it locks training into a formula, and isn’t fluid to address changes in the economy as they occur.

“What businesses offer as jobs, and what people are willing to do, don’t always match,” Crawford said. “The parameters move.”


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