By Mary Jane Olhasso, Assistant Executive Officer, County of San Bernardino
One of the most rewarding aspects of the San Bernardino County Economic Development Agency’s work is improving the job prospects of residents. Working with the business community on relocation and expansion opportunities and implementing proactive workforce development programs are just some of the ways the agency makes an impact. Moreover, the department’s efforts are augmented by valuable partners in education, investment and real estate who work in collaboration to ensure job creation opportunities.
A great example now being led by education partners is the implementation of a nearly $15 millon grant awarded to Chaffey College and the Inland Empire Regional Training Consortium (IERTC) in 2014. The competitive grant was awarded by the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT), which is co-administered by the Department of Labor and Department of Education, to improve manufacturing training for the Inland Empire. The IERTC includes 10 community colleges, 2-four-year universities, and the Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire as well as several faith-based and community organizations.
In March Chaffey and the consortium celebrated the opening of the Industrial Technical Learning Center (InTech Center) located on the campus of California Steel Industries (CSI) that will train thousands of workers in advanced manufacturing, advanced transportation, logistics, energy and utilities, as well as computer/ICT/digital media. These programs are conducted at no or low cost to employers and employees, thanks to the TAACCCT grant.
Through TAACCT funding, Barstow Community College now offers a low-cost, two-year plan in Industrial Maintenance Mechanic Technology. This program offers National Center for Construction Education and Research(NCCER) stackable certificates. Barstow offers this program at a lower cost compared to similar programs offered at private colleges.
These programs and others are true job creation successes. California Steel accepted five Barstow Community College students into their paid internship program over the last several years and a few have stayed on to become full-time California Steel employees. A number of other companies have partnered with Barstow Community College, either by recruitment, placement, advisory, or donations, including: NRG Energy, Abengoa Solar, Rio Tinto, Trinity Construction, National Training Center-Fort Irwin, Marine Corps Logistics Base, and Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
Another example of how community colleges are increasing job prospects is the work being done by Victor Valley College. The Welding Department at Victor Valley College has been an active department in the community for more than 35 years as a Los Angeles Certified Testing Facility for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, an American Welding Society Certified S.E.N.S.E educational facility, and a Fabricator and Manufacturers Association International Educational partner. Today, the Victor Valley Welding department has evolved into a robust program that has placed students throughout the years with government agencies such as NASA, the Naval Nuclear Submarine Assembly dock in Virginia, and the Marine Corp Logistics Base in Yermo. It has served as a pre-employment testing facility for Northwest Pipe and Casing, partnered with local industry to create internships and pathways, and is continually working to provide students with job placement opportunities.
Thanks to additional funds, Victor Valley’s successful Welding department will expand its training in metal forming and fabrication with the planned addition of space and resources. Construction will begin on their new facility, which is slated to be completed by the end of this year.
The efforts of Barstow Community College, Victor Valley College and InTech Center are all part of a collaborative solutions-oriented effort to provide an economic boost to the county by providing new skills to workers who are then able to quickly fill jobs in manufacturing, distribution and related technology sectors.
The Economic Development Agency has also been focused on a manufacturing initiative that builds awareness of the county’s advantages for manufacturing businesses: it identifies opportunities for manufacturers outside the county to consider expansion or relocation to the county; identifies obstacles to expansion of existing county businesses; and informs businesses about workforce incentives and programs.
The team has already reached out to nearly 1,000 unique manufacturing companies, resulting in more than 258 direct contacts that allowed staff to share information on the benefits of San Bernardino County. More than 90 of those contacts were sent follow-up letters and general cost comparisons for manufacturing in San Bernardino vs. Los Angeles or Orange County. This effort will continue throughout this year.
The department also hosted educational workshops in collaboration with other partners, provided resources to educate and prepare local manufacturing businesses that are interested in exporting or expanding their export base, and engaged in business-to-business matchmaking meetings, both locally and in other countries. Additionally, the county is participating in the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership’s (AMP SoCal) efforts with USC Center for Economic Development as the lead agency to promote and support the aerospace and defense industry in Southern California.
These multiple outreach efforts and the progress to date will continue to position this region as a premier choice, especially in Southern California, for new investment and job creation.