Bakersfield College

Kern High Road Coalition (Kern HRC)


The Kern High Road Coalition is part of the California Workforce Development Board’s High Road Training Partnership, which is funded through California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health, and the environment — particularly in disadvantaged communities.

California Workforce Development Board   California Climate Investments   High Road Training Partnership   

The initiative was designed as a campaign to advance a field of practice that simultaneously addresses urgent questions of income inequality, economic competitiveness, and climate change through regional skills strategies designed to support economically and environmentally resilient communities across the state.

The industry-based, worker-focused training partnerships build skills for California’s “high road” employers — firms that compete based on quality of product and service achieved through innovation and investment in human capital, and can thus generate family-supporting jobs where workers have agency and voice.

The High Road Training Partnerships (HRTP) program will meet the GHG emission reductions requirement by supporting projects that either:

  • Build climate and economic resilience through training partnerships and systems that:
    • address critical skill issues emerging as industry faces challenges of climate change and environmental sustainability;
    • increase the capacity of firms and workers to adapt and compete in a carbon-constrained economy; and
    • help California communities prosper by creating accessible local pathways into safer, healthier, and more highly skilled jobs; and focus workforce development efforts in industries and occupations involved in: implementing climate change mitigation and adaptation measures; producing, operating, and maintaining new technologies and equipment that reduce GHG emissions; and planning to identify additional industry and workforce needs.
  • Or establish partnerships for comprehensive, regional economic and workforce planning.


The purpose of this industry-driven work is to assess Kern County’s environmental and inform workforce assets, including workforce education, to determine and identify any other industry sectors that would or could be attracted, incentivized, and expanded in Kern County.

Kern County’s current primary industries are: Agriculture, Energy & Natural Resources, Healthcare Services, Aerospace & Defense, Healthcare Services, Trade, Transportation (Logistics) & Utilities, Education & Workforce. Other advantages include an affordable quality of life, ranked 1st to raise a family in California, 29 occupations earn more than the national average, ranked 4th best housing market in the nation, ranked 3rd for human capital availability, and this is the geographic center of California’s 40 million consumers.

The 2018 assessed value of the top five Kern industries are Oil & Gas $15.6M, Agriculture $8M, Renewable Energy $4.8M, Healthcare $2.16M (Kern County Assessor’s Office), the economic impact of the Aerospace & Defense sector is over $3.39B and payroll of over 1.2B (KEDC, 2020). Another way to view the footprint of Kern’s current industries is to consider each industry’s contribution to the county’s gross domestic product. The top contributors to Kern County’s $37.3B GDP include Agriculture $4B, Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Rental & Leasing $3.9B, Mining - Oil & Gas $3.8B, Manufacturing $2.7B, Retail Trade $2.7B, Educational services, healthcare and social assistance $2.4B, Construction $1.5B, Wholesale Trade $1.5B, Transportation & Warehousing $1.2B (US Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2017).

The share of total county employment by industry sector are agriculture employs 19%, trade, transport, & utilities 16%, education and health 11%, leisure and hospitality 8%, professional and business 8%, construction 5%, manufacturing 4%, mining and logging 3%, financial services 2% and other services 1% (KEDC, 2019-20 Market Overview). It is worth noting that locally, a significant component of the construction and mining and logging employment, serves in the oil and gas extraction industry. In its 2019-20 Market Overview, KEDC predicted the addition of 41,200 non-farm jobs by 2024.

However, not all jobs that are created are good jobs. There are plenty of historical case studies where an industry faced competitive or regulatory pressure that reduced its footprint and resulted in significant long-lasting economic impact. For example, the steel crisis of the 1970s and early 1980s which affected the manufacturing and services industries and devastated communities in the Midwest. Or, the auto industry crisis that resulted from a combination of high oil prices and increased competition in the 1970s.

In some cases, the economic shifts occur so quickly that there isn’t time to respond and develop greater economic diversity to reduce the impact of the shift. The California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) is offering the High Roads Training Partnerships grant to engage in regional planning. The Energy TT&WD partnership will be applying for this grant that we believe will help Kern County further diversify its economy, expand its renewable energy industry, and perhaps identify other aligned or new industries that would support Kern County’s shift into a prosperous future.

In our view, these discussions must necessarily focus on and prioritize opportunities to replace lost jobs and incentivize the recruitment and expansion of business and industries that offer a proportionately large share of quality jobs. Why? Because of the 12 million jobs created since the end of the Great Recession, the majority have been low-wage occupations. In fact, average wages for working Americans have dropped by 23 percent. Low wage work also features low hours, scheduling instability, rarely raises family incomes above poverty, and doesn’t move families off of public benefits. This is why we must be focused on growing quality jobs in Bakersfield and Kern County.

What is a quality job? Several definitions have been offered by researchers. There is agreement that a quality job will vary by industry and occupation and that there are several core components: living wage, benefits, stable scheduling, skill based advancement opportunities and a work environment that is fair, safe and complies with workplace laws. Pacific Community Ventures (2016) defines a quality job as one that includes at least three of these core elements. The Aspen Institute’s Economic Opportunities Program has been engaged in this space for years, examining and promoting a number of jobs strategies such as Good Companies Good Jobs, UpSkill America, Workforce Strategies Initiatives and the Quality Jobs initiative, among others. The Aspen Institute curated several tools and operational strategy guidebooks to identify and improve job quality. The Aspen Institute and the Pacific Community Ventures’ definitions of job quality are very similar to the definition adopted by the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB).

The CWDB defines a quality job as one which may vary by sector and occupation but generally, 
  • pays a living wage
  • provides benefits, like health care, retirement, paid sick days, and paid family leave
  • offers a stable schedule, 
  • offers wage increases as skills are acquired, and
  • provides safe and health working conditions and complies with all workplace laws (e.g., wage and hour, employee classification, health and safety, anti-discrimination, workers’ compensation and right to organize laws)   
We believe these definitions highlight the types of jobs we need to focus on, recruit, and incentivize the creation of in the Bakersfield/Kern County area. We know that oilfield and oilfield construction jobs pay well and, if we are expecting a decrease in the number of oilfield and oilfield construction jobs in Kern County in the future, we need to be thinking about how to address that challenge, how to inspire upskilling, how to support our workers in preparing themselves for these changes.
We know that quality jobs mean a lot to individuals and families. Quality jobs also have a tremendous impact on the local economy. KEDC quantified the value to our local economy of every 100 jobs in one-year results in the following investment in our community - $7.4M in residential real estate, $1.39M in car and insurance payments, $962,000 in recreation, entertainment & restaurant spending, $825,000 in clothing, apparel, furniture & appliances spending, and $2.376M in business services. 

The Kern Regional Workforce Coalition already has existing engagement networks that were carefully developed and nurtured using previous investments from the state, the feds, as well as private foundations and philanthropy. This new infusion through the HRTP grant will immediately leverage these previously established networks.

As a result, this web of connections will move together in the same direction due to the continuous norming and the relationships that have been built over the years.  This network is nimble with relationships covering the employee spectrum from CEOs, to mid-level managers, to professional staffers, to the entry level workers. 

To efficiently address at scale the engagement needed for the HRTP planning, this coalition will adopt a sustainable engagement structure strategy that reflects a 21st century way of working, leveraging the networked nature of entrepreneurial teams who are empowered by real-time information through near-instant communication.  In an entity in which systems are integrated, members are emboldened to act swiftly and with agility.  As a result, sustainability of engagement becomes a non-issue.

Ensuring a robust and diverse set of stakeholders have participatory engagement in the planning process is key to the success of the HRTP. In order to meet the successful outcomes for the project the following stakeholders have been engaged in the process. We invite you to consider joining the coalition. This list of stakeholders will continue to grow as the work advances.

Apply to be a HRTP Community Stakeholder & Supporter