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L.A. workforce development program gets $36-million overhaul

L.A. workforce development program gets $36-million overhaul
Job seekers test out L.A.'s online jobs portal in the new WorkSource Center on the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College campu (Tiffany Hsu / Los Angeles Times)

A revamped citywide workforce development program powered by $36 million in federal funds, private grants and equipment will seek to combat a yawning skills gap in Southern California.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti introduced an upgraded online jobs portal and a new South Los Angeles career center located on the Los Angeles Trade-Technical College campus.

The Vernon-Central WorkSource Center is the latest of 17 around the city but the first in an area where the unemployment rate is 15% overall but as high as 50% for certain minority groups.

More than 6 in 10 residents of the neighborhood ages 18 to 24 don’t have high school diplomas. Garcetti said the improved program would target similar areas as well as vulnerable job seekers, such as high school dropouts, the homeless, veterans and those with convictions.

The goal, he said, is to nurture “the next Mark Zuckerberg out of South L.A.”

Visitors to the new center will have free access to career counselors, job fair notifications, and computers and copiers. The center will attempt to funnel job seekers into jobs in healthcare, advanced manufacturing, green technology and other high-demand, high-paying industries.

Each WorkSource Center is managed by community groups and educational institutions using grants from the city’s economic and workforce development department. Garcetti said he expects the system to enroll 45,000 job seekers this year, more than 10 times the 4,200 people it served several years ago.

On Wednesday, Gregory Atkins, 25, sat at the center in a collared shirt waiting to interview for janitorial or customer-service jobs at Los Angeles International Airport.

His current employer, a major retail chain, won’t give him more than 12 hours of sales associate work a week. Without being a college graduate – he’s slowly working toward an economics degree online – the hundreds of applications he sends out each month result in just a handful of interviews.

He’s now living out of hotel rooms and has sacrificed his cellphone and gym membership so that he can hang on to his car.

“It’s putting the hurt on my financial status,” he said. “Any chance I get to have a better job opportunity, I just jump right on it.”

Garcetti also announced the relaunch of jobsla.org, a website with a public database of government and private sector jobs – currently with 121,250 listings countywide. The city’s site is also connected to the state’s Employment Development Department site.

Users can apply to jobs online, post resumes and take free online training courses.

California job seekers are encountering heavier competition amid a growing post-recession labor market and increasing automation in the workplace. Hiring managers are increasingly picky – demanding more education, certification and experience.

But employers, educators and government liaisons battle over who should bear the brunt of the burden for vocational training and career development.

“I hope long gone are the days where we say the community college does its work, the school district does its work, the city does its work, the county does its work,” Garcetti said. “We are one team.”

Twitter: @tiffhsulatimes

 
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