What We Do
Finding answers to the region’s biggest questions to build a more competitive workforce and vibrant regional economy
The economy is undergoing a rapid and unparalleled transformation. New approaches are needed to close a severe and widening workforce shortage. Through an unprecedented regional collaboration, the Center for a Competitive Workforce fuses data analysis with insights from the public and private sectors. The goal? To catalyze new economic opportunities and workforce strategies in the greater Los Angeles region. This is no easy task. With 10 million residents, the Los Angeles area is the largest and the most culturally and socioeconomically diverse metropolitan region in the United States.
Generating $544 billion in annual output, the region’s 244,000 businesses make Los Angeles a powerful international economic force, rivaling countries such as Sweden and Norway.
Add to that more than 300,000 community college students preparing to enter the workforce, who comprise roughly one-third of the largest community college system in the world. Guiding this economic goliath to meet future workforce demand is a monumental challenge. It requires harnessing industry insights and drawing upon the expertise of the region’s educational leaders. The Center for a Competitive Workforce aims to do just that by aligning educational programs with the urgent and dynamic needs of employers, and investigating some tough questions:
Are educational programs and policies hitting the mark in the region? And what can be done to calibrate them for the best possible outcomes?
CCW Work Cycle
In 2016, California embarked on a path to train 1 million middle-skill workers and develop workforce opportunities to provide greater overall upward economic mobility and lift residents out of poverty. To this end, the Strong Workforce Program was established to spur career education in the state’s 114 community colleges. Seven areas of student success have been targeted: 1) student success; 2) career pathways; 3) workforce data and outcomes; 4) curriculum; 5) faculty; 6) regional coordination; and 7) funding. The purpose is to increase the number of students enrolled in career education programs that will lead to more certificates, degrees, transfers to four-year institutions and employment in high-demand, high-wage jobs.
To achieve the Strong Workforce Program’s co-equal goals in the Los Angeles Basin, the region’s top business and community college leaders partnered to establish the Center for a Competitive Workforce in order to structure, deploy and structurally integrate the following five-part program model:
- Acquire: Conduct economic research and applied analysis to better understand the region’s targeted industries, their associated labor markets, growth occupations and five-year forecasts.
- Engage: Validate and amplify the quantitative research and analysis with primary research, including survey instruments and firm-level intelligence gathered through the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) and Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce industry cluster councils.
- Distill: Collect and refine data elicited through the above processes into translatable, useable information for consumption by the community colleges.
- Translate: Connect quantitative research/analysis, primary research and firm-level intelligence to curriculum developers and other relevant decision makers at the community colleges; and
- Develop: Customize new programs and courses through collaboration with industry professionals, that correct, modernize or enhance critical competencies and/or skills training gaps.
The Center’s Activities Are Geared Toward:
The research approach applied by the Center for a Competitive Workforce combines data-driven analysis with up-to-the-minute, front-line input from employers.
Industry councils, organized by sector, offer extensive expertise in issues affecting workforce development. In their capacity as working groups convening on a regular basis, they provide immediate validation of emerging trends and consistent feedback on the effectiveness of new programs and strategies. Further, they serve a qualitative function that balances the quantitative aspect of the this industry data. This industry information is critical because it is often more timely than labor market data and offers foresight into emerging trends that may not appear in data sets.
Collectively, this knowledge represents comprehensive, verifiable and powerful intelligence that can propel CCW’s work in the areas of educational policy, curriculum development, faculty professional development and work-based learning opportunities for students.
The Center for a Competitive Workforce conducts data-driven research into the supply-and-demand of workers in specific industry sectors, occupations and skill sets.
A critical component of this research is measuring whether regional training and educational programs are preparing enough students with the skills needed to fill in-demand jobs.
With the help of industry councils, the center is able to produce accessible and timely economic reports that reflect both supply and demand data, taking into account the educational pathways preparing students to enter the labor market.
This type of analysis is vital to supporting and better aligning career education and other training programs to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving economy.
The center’s research approach is nuanced and holistic, recognizing that supply and demand are inherently linked. Employer needs and occupational requirements cannot be separated from college investments in educational programs, faculty development, facilities and work-based learning opportunities for students.
The Center for a Competitive Workforce convenes partners in education and industry to align workforce development priorities with regional training and community college programs, particularly career education programs.
The input collected from regional stakeholders is applied toward facilitating new and updated curriculum and training programs, expanded work-based learning opportunities for students and new forms of faculty professional development.
The activities most central to the center’s mission are aimed at sparking new economic opportunities in the Los Angeles Basin.
In particular, the center’s collaborative process is aimed at increasing internships, apprenticeships and full-time employment opportunities for students, job seekers, hard-to-place individuals and incumbent workers.