Gary Horton | From Herding Sheep to Herding Jobs

Gary Horton

I’m writing today as the vice chairman of the College of the Canyons Foundation board, representing the full COC Foundation in celebrating a recent remarkable and beneficial achievement: The grand opening of the Advanced Technical Center. 

My wife Carrie and I have been Santa Clarita Valley residents for 40 long, fruitful years. We built our lives here, raised our three kids here, and grew our business here. 

Back then, sheep grazed on the hills off the Interstate 5 crossing into the San Fernando Valley. Nearly everyone saw those now-vanished sheep because nearly everyone commuted “over the hill” for work in the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles. 

Oh, there were some local businesses, but a whole lot of SCV professionals and tradespeople dragged themselves over multiple hills for their means of support. 

Oh, how that has changed!  

During our long time here, we’ve seen the fulmination of so many people’s efforts in the development of local business, expanding education, and of course, our valley infrastructure. 

Our fine community is no accident … It’s the direct result of many visions for productive growth in the public and private sectors, all coming together. 

College of the Canyons is one of our valley’s most visible, notable achievements, routinely breaking new ground for how a community college can help a community prosper and thrive, often by creating public-private initiatives. 

From its advanced-education University Center to the iQUE culinary arts school, to dozens of vocational programs from nursing to welding – COC has enabled hundreds of thousands to access and benefit from high-impact, high-value learning. 

Meanwhile, with the success of the SCV Economic Development Corp. (launched at COC 20 years ago), and the hard work of so many of our entrepreneurs, the SCV no longer herds sheep; rather, we shepherd high-tech businesses and their high-paying jobs … over to this side of the hill! 

We manufacture here, design here, create here, we do high-value-added industry, both enabling highly skilled workers to work close to home and create successful lives in a beautiful town.  

And we have a conundrum with an opportunity inside. Our local SCV businesses need skilled workers. Meanwhile, local citizens need high-paying skills to develop successful lives. 

Availability of required numbers of highly skilled workers is today a limiting factor for manufacturing businesses in the SCV. Accessing these high-level technological skills can be a limiting factor for people entering tech and manufacturing professions. 

As the SCV grows with the times, our local population needs to train up, and remain trained up with the skillsets required in these super-fast-changing times. 

This past Friday COC cut the grand opening ribbon on its new Advanced Technology Center (known as the ATC.) This new interim facility, soon to be followed by a permanent, purpose-built campus, empowers our citizens and businesses to succeed together in the SCV. 

Said COC per the event brochure: “Equipped with cutting-edge technology, the 13,500-square-foot interim Advanced Technology Center is purpose-built to provide hands-on training and ensure students are equipped for the world of industry 4.0, which is marked by big data, robotics, system integration, augmented reality, cybersecurity, and the internet of things (IoT).” 

Labor market projections show L.A. County will add more than 500,000 jobs in advanced technology fields within the next four years, and the ATC will provide the training students need to access both entry-level and mid-career positions in high-wage, high-demand jobs.” 

Functioning as a “virtuous circle,” the ATC helps train students to become the highly skilled workers our growing businesses need, while empowering them to earn the high wages these high-tech skills deliver. 

And with completion of the permanent 30,000-square-foot facility in 2025, the ATC will further expand its benefit to the community. 

With this ribbon cutting, the COC Foundation concurrently announced its fundraising campaign to raise $3 million over three years, providing funding for facility improvement, equipment and continuous updates as the ATC grows and adapts to changing needs. 

By design, the ATC must stay current with the latest software, equipment, processes – as science and technology forever advances. 

The foundation’s job is to kick in behind effort that got us this far, ensuring the facility remains properly equipped for our community’s success in meeting fast-changing times. 

The College of the Canyons Foundation is very pleased to be part of this important SCV business and educational initiative. 

And there’s serious work to do to get to our $3 million, 3-year goal. Please help us. Your grandkid or niece or nephew or perhaps even you personally might be the one you assist! You may reach the COC Foundation at 661-362-3639. 

Special thanks to our college and community business leaders who visioned/planned/directed this project. Thanks especially to Rep. Mike Garcia and former Assemblywoman Christy Smith who raised/facilitated over $4 million in initial funding. 

Thanks for the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that gets great things like this done in our town. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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