Art Bilger at LA Future Forum: Community colleges are critical to reskilling workforce

At a forum on the future of work in the Los Angeles/Orange County region, the WorkingNation founder offered solutions to creating the next workforce.

Community colleges will play a “critical role” in creating the next workforce of the Los Angeles region, WorkingNation Founder and CEO Art Bilger said at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation’s and CSU-Dominguez Hills’ forum on the future of work.

Bilger delivered his keynote speech Tuesday warning of the implications globalization, longevity and automation will have on the regional workforce. Taken together, Bilger said, these problems could result in job losses, a large population who have aged out of employment and a skills gap which is increasing.

Despite these problems presenting an “overwhelming” challenge for policymakers and industry leaders to address, Bilger said that events like the Future Forum – where the Center for a Competitive Workforce unveiled its first report on the current state of the skilled talent produced by Los Angeles County and Orange County’s community colleges – are where solutions to these problems can be found.

RELATED STORY: LAEDC CCW releases its inaugural report on workforce development

“In looking around this room, seeing all the different sectors focused on this issue, this is exactly what we need. It is very exciting,” Bilger said to event attendees, comprised of academic and business leaders who are joining forces via the CCW to share ideas and strategize for the future.

Bilger talked about the problems that will affect workforce development at the Future Forum. Photo -WorkingNation

The CCW, funded by California Community Colleges’ “Strong Workforce Program” and supported by founding partners LAEDC, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the Los Angeles/Orange County Regional Consortium, the Southern California Leadership Council and JP Morgan & Chase Co., convened the Future Forum to promote more cooperation between local businesses and community colleges to identify workforce needs and match curricula to support them.

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The center’s report tackles the problems Bilger noted in his speech by assessing the current level of middle-skill talent being produced at regional schools. The study’s authors found that only 58 percent of the workforce demand in growth industries where Los Angeles has a competitive advantage will be met by the current graduation/certification rate within the near future.

Since the regional system of community colleges produce the largest sector of middle-skilled talent, taking things as they are will only increase the skills gap, according to the study. This is why California is investing heavily in community colleges by rebranding “vocational” education and providing more career pathways to emerging industries.

“Whether it is the driver of vehicles, lawyers, et cetera we are all going to need massive reskilling,” Bilger said.

By fostering a tighter relationship between businesses and the community colleges, the CCW is laying the foundation for reskilling Los Angeles’ workers who face an uncertain future if their skill sets do not match with technological advances. Bilger said that community colleges with support by continued investment in career technical education offer a proven pathway for success for workers and for their future employers.

The Future Forum Panel (L-R): Bilger; Bill Scroggins, Ph.D; Dr. Somjita Mitra; Ken O’Donnell and Mitra Best.

The future of work in Los Angeles will depend on increased cooperation between industry and education. Bilger’s fellow speakers, Mitra Best, Innovation Leader for PwC, LAEDC Institute for Applied Economics’ Dr. Somjita Mitra; Bill Scroggins, President of Mt. San Antonio College; and Ken O’Donnell, Interim Vice Provost of CSU-Dominguez Hills agreed that the economic outlook for the Los Angeles region is “bullish” and community colleges, as well as employers, are taking the necessary steps to continue its economic success.

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