Dianne Van Hook | AB 1457 Will Boost Recovery

College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook. Courtesy

While California’s COVID-19 data continues to trend positive with the number of new cases dropping to lower levels not seen since spring, there is also good news from Sacramento on efforts to alleviate the economic impact of the quarantine on business viability and volume. 

Assembly Bill 1457, authored by Assemblywomen Sabrina Cervantes and Eloise Reyes, and supported by Santa Clarita’s Sen. Scott Wilk, Assemblyman Tom Lackey and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, represents an important step in jump-starting California’s economic recovery. 

If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill would establish a network of regionally focused business training centers to work hand in hand with business leaders, small business service providers, as well as other workforce partners, to get people back to work.

That initiative couldn’t come at a better time. More than 8.6 million unemployment assistance claims have been filed in California between March 14 and Aug. 15. In July alone, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 13.3%. The estimated 2.5 million people out of work represented a 225% increase in unemployment over the prior year.

The business training centers envisioned by AB 1457 would be guided through a partnership between the California Community Colleges, Employment Training Panel, Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, California Workforce Development Board, and Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The centers will provide critical training programs that address the needs of industry sectors projected to see growth in the post-COVID economy, including advanced manufacturing, and help get people back to work. 

While several industry sectors have been adversely impacted by COVID-19, advanced manufacturing has seen a resurgence during the pandemic. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reported in July that manufacturing activity in the U.S. climbed to its highest level in 16 months. Closer to home, more than 2,300 jobs in advanced manufacturing are expected to be created annually in the region served by College of the Canyons.   

COC is uniquely qualified to serve as one of the regional training centers. Doing so would enable us to expand our capacity to meet the demands of employers, support local small businesses, and offer training that promotes job readiness and economic mobility for community members.

Because of the significant potential benefits AB 1457 could provide our community, the college voiced strong support for it during deliberations at the end of the legislative session. In particular, John Milburn, director of the college’s Employee Training Institute, was active in calling legislators and writing letters to make the case for its passage. Now, we are respectfully urging Gov. Newsom to sign the bill. 

COC has been serving the needs of businesses in the Santa Clarita Valley and northern Los Angeles County for more than 30 years by providing customized, accelerated training solutions tailored to the needs of employers. This past year alone, our Economic Development Division trained more than 3,000 individuals from more than 900 employers. Given that there are more than 250 manufacturers in the SCV, AB 1457 will enable COC to be well-positioned to support these employers in meeting their critical workforce needs. 

The state needs a new approach to addressing the scale of the employment challenge it faces in the wake of COVID-19. AB 1457 is a good start. It will help train people for new careers, and COC stands ready to help lead that effort. 

Dianne Van Hook serves as Chancellor of College of the Canyons.

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