Ventura County is taking some big steps toward creating the workforce of the future.
On Dec. 2 at Rio Mesa High School, the Ventura County Civic Alliance, Oxnard Union High School District and State Superintendent Tom Torlakson will be on-hand to talk about a new program designed to dramatically increase high school students’ aptitude in technology-related skills.
The initiative is being developed under a Career Pathways workforce development strategy that’s appearing in various iterations throughout California. Part of the goal is to create new academies that can bridge the gaps between classroom instruction and what’s needed in the workplace.
Programs like those being rolled out at Rio Mesa High School are critically important to the region’s future. California is doing a very good job of creating jobs and an even better job at retaining businesses — witness the recent resolution of a long-running tax issue that’s allowing Oxnard-based Haas Automation to expand in Ventura County rather than Texas.
But unemployment is stubbornly high in the greater Oxnard area and in the Santa Maria Valley, even as technology centers such as Thousand Oaks, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo are seeing unemployment rates below the national average of 5.5 percent. The divergence between our wealthier communities and poorer ones goes beyond unemployment rates — it extends to housing affordability, access to health care and access to broadband services.
We recognize that pre-school and after-school programs are vital to bridge the achievement gap between wealthier and poorer communities. But equally important are programs that operate more like academies or charter programs within public schools and expose students to careers paths that are critical to creating the workforce of the future.
We hope that other districts up and down the Central Coast pay attention to what works — and what doesn’t work — as the Career Pathways program in Oxnard gets under way. It should hold important lessons for creating a 21st-century economy across our region.