The Kern Community College District (KCCD) and Bakersfield College have been awarded $1,999,725.30 to convene industry, worker organizations and community around shared interests in energy, workforce, and industry needs of Kern County and the central valley. This initiative, known as The Kern Regional Workforce Coalition is a High Road Training Partnership (HTRP), aimed to create a stronger, healthier, and more economically resilient community by focusing on equity, education, industry security, and job quality. The KCCD Board of Trustees accepted the award today, February 23, 2021 at its board meeting.
In collaboration with The Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment and UC Merced Community and Labor Center, KCCD and BC aim to scale multiple initiatives that will fall under and utilize the state’s funding to improve regional outcomes in regards to health, employment, energy, education, and poverty by 2030. To meet these objectives, the Kern Regional Workforce Coalition will work with many local industry stakeholders and contributing partners including the Community Action Partnership of Kern (CAPK), The Kern, Inyo, and Mono Counties Building Trades Council, The Kern, Inyo, and Mono Counties Central Labor Council, Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce, Kern Taxpayers Association, and others to conduct research, strengthen and expand regional workgroups, and invest in worker-centered workforce training, development, economic diversification and the right industry sectors to build the region’s foundation for high road training partnerships.
Kern Community College District Vice Chancellor, John Means, knows that education, skills, and community colleges are critical components of the solution. “Our purpose in higher education is to be the vehicle of upward mobility, both for individual students and the greater community. With this coalition, we are committed to bringing different voices to the table, to engage in the dialogue which is necessary to drive strategic and united action so that we can strengthen and build a dynamic homegrown workforce and expand well-paying jobs here in Kern County.”
With an estimated population of 896,764 residents in 2019 (an increase of over 35% since 2000), Kern County is the eleventh most populated county in the state and has a larger population than each of the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. Kern County residents are diverse and, in general, younger, less educated, have a lower income, and more likely to be Latinx/Hispanic compared to the rest of California and the nation. Data provided by the Kern Council of Governments projects population growth to more than 1.6 million by 2050, with over 1 million identified (62%) as Latinx/Hispanic. Currently, the county’s unemployment and poverty rates have steadily outpaced the state and national rates with people of color experiencing higher unemployment and poverty rates than non-Hispanic White residents.
The project will target key local industries including energy, agriculture, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation, and logistics, and others with the goal of bolstering and strengthening these sectors with stable job growth, offering family sustaining wages and ample employment opportunities for skilled workers throughout the region. Additional focus will also be given to telework across all sectors including healthcare, government services, IT/technology, and education.
“Both the Kern Community College District and Bakersfield College have been long standing partners in the work to advance workforce development in Kern County,” said Director of Employers Training Resource, Teresa Hitchcock. “I am pleased that Kern County will have this opportunity to guide our future in a way that makes sense, giving strength to our industries, new energy and skills to our workforce, and revitalizing the place we call home.”
The California Workforce Development Board’s High Road Training Partnerships are known for being industry-based, worker-focused training initiatives that build skills for California’s high road employers – firms that compete based on quality of product and public entities that strive to provide a high level of service through innovation and investment in human capital.
“California’s Central Valley region is rapidly expanding and while many of our communities have established an economic stronghold through prominent industries, such as agriculture, energy, space, and high-tech, the region also faces unique challenges,” said Norma Rojas-Mora, BC’s Director of Communication and Community Relations. “High Road Training Partnerships are known for creating opportunities for diverse populations with barriers to gain employment through innovation and investment in human capital. We are working towards the future we can create together with active participation, visionary foresight, and economic diversification. Our future is one where family sustaining employment and stable careers are more common than not, and community members have voice and investment in the places that their children and grandchildren will live and thrive.”
“We are absolutely invested in finding ways to help diversify Kern County's economy, bring benefits to communities and workers, and center voices that too often are left out of important conversations and decisions. We are excited to work with our partners and stakeholders across Kern to fashion real solutions in response to a rapidly shifting economy,” said Ingrid Brostrom, Assistant Director with the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.
High Road Training Partnerships create opportunities for populations with barriers to employment through innovation and investment in human capital, to generate family-supporting jobs where workers have agency and voice. To date, the CWDB has awarded over $23 million in 13 High Road Training Partnerships to demonstrate how the high road sector approach can be implemented. The previous round of awards went to projects such as High Road to Public Transit, High Road to Water, High Road to Healthcare, and more. To read more on the The Kern Regional Workforce Coalition, visit the Bakersfield College web page. More information on HRTP projects can also be found on the CWDB High Road Training Partnerships Initiatives web page and on the California Climate Investments web page.
The Kern Regional Workforce Coalition (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.