By Phillip Cothran, San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board Chair
As we continue to enjoy one of the tightest labor markets in recent history, including a situation where the number of open jobs exceeds the number of people looking for work, we find that many industries in the county, especially manufacturing, are still finding it a challenge to fill open jobs.
A shortage of workers is not just a county challenge, but is a recognized national issue.
According to the 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute Skills Gap and Future of Work study, as recently as August 2018, there were 508,000 open jobs in U.S. manufacturing, part of the best annual job sector gain in more than 20 years. While the job gains are positive indications that the industry continues to recover from the Great Recession and reflect strong production levels, it also means that finding talent with the right skills to fill the open jobs could reach crisis proportions.
The study further reveals that most manufacturers believe that the No. 1 cause of the skills shortage is “shifting skill set due to the introduction of new advanced technology and automation,” followed by “negative perception of students/their parents toward the manufacturing industry.” Baby boomer retirements complete the top three causes of today’s skills shortages, according to manufacturing executives.
San Bernardino County’s Workforce Development Board (WDB) released its Labor Market Intelligence Report earlier this year and found some of the same issues as it relates to sector growth in key industries for the region: transportation, logistics and manufacturing.
The study noted that in 2017, the transportation sector accounted for around six percent of San Bernardino County employment. Since 2010, employment in transportation has grown by approximately 27 percent, which is in line with the sector’s growth at the state level. However the report further noted that the transportation sector has created more jobs than the locally available talent pool can accommodate. Based on this data, the transportation industry has pulled in more workers from the county resident pool and it has had to go outside the county to fill vacancies, increasing the percentage of county transportation workers who don’t reside in the county.
This trend is also impacting our local manufacturing industry. In 2017, the manufacturing sector accounted for around nine percent of all jobs in both San Bernardino County and the State of California. Although historically declining, manufacturing employment has grown 22.5 percent since 2010 in the county (CA, 6percent and U.S., 8 percent). The industry in the county has been growing at three times the pace of the industry’s growth in the rest of the state. To meet that need, the report found that, from 2012 to2017, the number of manufacturing workers commuting from Los Angeles County to San Bernardino County doubled. In this case, we are importing workers to meet county demand.
The WDB is working proactively to look at ways to both upskill existing talent as well as create a pipeline of workers for our region’s growth industries to ensure they are able to thrive and expand in the county.
A major initiative to help meet this challenge is a new High Desert Training Center at Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) in the city of Victorville set to open in early 2020.
Stirling Capital Investments (SCI) and Prologis, Inc. entered into a 10-year agreement with the Victor Valley Community College (VVCC) to donate an existing building at SCLA for a 10-year term. At the new center, VVCC will facilitate hands-on training programs to better prepare the High Desert region’s workforce in the skills identified as in demand by local businesses.
Victor Valley Community College Superintendent-President Daniel Walden, Ph.D, who will be operating the new High Desert Training Center, notes that this is an opportunity to work with local High Desert industries such as avionics, manufacturing, building materials and mining. For all of these industries there are common skillset required when seeking workers. The High Desert Training Center can provide this basic level of training referred to as mechatronics, a multidisciplinary branch of engineering that focuses on the engineering of both electrical and mechanical systems, and also includes a combination of robotics, electronics, computer, telecommunications, systems, control, and product engineering. These skills sets, along with specialized training, are all part of the offerings at the planned High Desert center. Walden says businesses gain a significant advantage by employing workers who already have an important knowledge base that they can build upon.
The creation of the High Desert Training Center underscores an important part of the workforce solution. For our county to have a strong, skilled and abundant workforce requires an ecosystem in which public and private stakeholders work side by side to develop and train a workforce prepared for career opportunities.
The benefits for all involved are numerous.
For Prologis, this type of community-based partnership is an extension of its commitment to deliver superior customer service to its tenants while strengthening local communities, enhancing regional economies and helping tenants located within its buildings to address labor needs and expand their talent pipelines. Moreover, Prologis and SCI recognize that an added benefit of having this training center housed at SCLA helps support current and future tenants by providing an in-place workforce as well as training for additional skills that could be useful in the advancement of their manufacturing procedures. As an educator, VVCC can now expand its impact by forming more relationships with local employers. These partnerships can also help to convince prospective students that they can find jobs at the end of their studies. The county benefits from the growth of a local training institution that provides more career options for residents through high-quality career and technical education.
Looking ahead, the WDB welcomes the opportunity to celebrate the grand opening of this new training center as well as increasing opportunities to partner with education and the private sector to propel our county economy forward.