The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a five-year strategic plan this week, which forecasts a need for skilled technical workers across the region over the coming years, and recommends the County sponsor training programs to prepare workers for those high-paying jobs.
"We talk about teaching English as a second language. That’s important," said Bill Allen, CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), which developed the plan. "We should be teaching code-writing as a third language. Because ever more jobs will require the ability to write code."
The LAEDC surveyed area businesses in 2015 and found that 59 percent of executives are struggling to fill key jobs, and more than half of businesses plan to expand operations in the next two years.
David Rattray, executive vice president of education and workforce development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce said many companies in Los Angeles are looking for workers with so-called "middle skills" - more than a high school diploma but less than a college degree. The problem is, not enough young people are finishing high school and completing some form of college or certification.
"That's where the biggest opportunity is: to see more of those young adults get to that place," said Rattray. "That's going to help both them and the whole economy, but it will also help employers stay here and grow their companies."
Rattray cited SpaceX as an example of a company on the hunt for workers at the "middle skill" level.
"It's such a great new powerhouse for Southern California," said Rattray. "They are struggling to get folks to work at what we used to call a machine operator, but now is a very highly-technical position that does require more than high school, but not necessarily a bachelor's degree."
The motion to approve the plan, introduced by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Mark Ridley-Thomas, establishes an Economic Development Policy Committee and instructs staff at relevant county departments to report back in three months on how they can implement it.
Supervisor Hilda Solis praised the plan, and said she hoped it would help displaced workers, including the formerly incarcerated and at-risk youth find a good job.
"We hear all the time that we’re the safety net, but why can’t we be that empowering net that actually helps to elevate and lift all boats," Solis said.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl agreed. "In the old days, economic development was seen as 'let's give money to businesses and let's hope they make jobs,' but it was not much measured. This is a smarter approach."