Addressing the Skills Gap in California’s Workforce - United Way Bay Area
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Addressing the Skills Gap in California’s Workforce

March 13, 2017


California assembly members Marie Waldron (R-Escondido) and Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield) have jointly introduced AB 316, a bill that aims to strengthen workforce development in California, which is a bipartisan solution to address the skills gap in our state’s workforce through key strategies and investments in education and training.


In 2012, the National Skills Coalition reported that, “middle skills jobs account for 50 percent of California’s labor market, but only 40 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level.” This trend continues today as many Californians do not meet the qualifications for the available middle class jobs, i.e. jobs that require a certificate, an associate’s degree, or an industry-recognized credential that is less than a bachelor’s degree but more than a high school diploma.


AB 316 was developed and consists of three key components:


  • Skills Gap and Seed Money Grants – Establish competitive performance contracts ($100 million to be spent over a five year period), to be administered by the Employment Training Panel. The grants would be available to organizations that facilitate creative training solutions that help people move up the workforce ladder. Priority would be given to programs established in regions that are troubled by high unemployment rates or facing workforce shortages.


  • Systemic Barriers to Employment – Establish a competitive performance grant program ($200 million to be spent over five years) that links workforce boards to community-based organizations that help people with multiple barriers to employment receive the remedial education and work readiness skills that will help them to get training, apprenticeship, or other employment opportunities. Targeted populations include youth disconnected from education and employment, English language learners, previously incarcerated, economically disadvantaged, CalWORKs participants, veterans, people with developmental or other disabilities, etc.


  • Accelerator Grants – Provide additional resources ($10 million to be spent over five years) to supplement the existing Regional Workforce Accelerator Grant program. The Employment Development Department would prioritize awards to applicants that focus on improving persistence and completion rates of community college students that face multiple obstacles to completing an associate’s degree, vocational certificate, or to progress to the UC or CSU systems.


United Way Bay Area (UWBA) supports education and workforce policies that lead to improved alignment between the education and workforce systems and better outcomes for individuals to be career-ready. AB 316 provides an opportunity to make a smart investment in the education and training of California’s workforce to attain middle skills. Furthermore, AB 316 recognizes that investments targeted at certain populations are necessary to lift up people who are among the most vulnerable and likeliest to face systemic barriers to employment. We are particularly excited about the proposal to supplement the existing Accelerator Grant program by connecting supportive services like those we offer through SparkPoint to community college students at Skyline and Cañada community colleges, and in the coming months will be offered at the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Workforce Institute.


In her essay When Colleges Get it Right, Students Succeed, Dr. Regina Stanback Stroud, President of Skyline College of the San Mateo County Community College District wrote, “At Skyline College, we have demonstrated that strategies that promote financial well-being can successfully be incorporated into the typical operations of an institution of higher education, and that doing so contributes to student success.”


Not only do SparkPoint services mitigate economic disparities which improves educational access and outcomes for students, but community colleges also improve persistence rates – defined as the percentage of students enrolling in the fall semester and returning for the spring semester. It’s a win-win. AB 316 will help close the skills gap, bring more people into the workforce, and provide better career opportunities for all Californians.


AB 316 has been referred to the Assembly Committees on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy; and Labor and Employment. UWBA encourages our individual constituents and our partner organizations to endorse AB 316 by sending a message of support to: Robert Wilson, Office of Assemblywoman Waldron —