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February 16, 2021 – California’s job training system is a patchwork quilt that must be streamlined and better matched to employer needs in order to help workers displaced by the COVID pandemic, according to a new report from the state’s independent government watchdog.
 
The report from the Little Hoover Commission notes that as of late 2020, California had lost over 1.5 million jobs due to the pandemic – more than it did during the entire Great Recession. In the face of this historic crisis, the state must work with employers and training providers to develop training pathways that give impacted workers access to quality jobs as the economy recovers, the report says.
 
The report, First Steps toward Recovery: Job Training and Reskilling, focuses on immediate and near-term steps that California can take to support reskilling and retraining opportunities for impacted workers and communities. This is the Commission’s second report studying California’s response to the pandemic recession. In its first report on the topic, released in December 2020, the Commission called on the state to forge deeper partnerships with the private sector to support small businesses recovery.
 
“Job training and reskilling will likely be necessary to help workers impacted by COVID adjust to the post-pandemic workforce and transition to new jobs,” says Chair Pedro Nava. “Training and support are especially important for lower-wage workers – where job losses are concentrated – and for those in underserved communities.”
 
In its report, the Commission also highlights some of the significant barriers that can make it difficult for individuals to identify training opportunities that lead to in-demand skills, or to translate training into a good job. The report notes that the state’s workforce development and training systems are difficult to navigate and limited coordination among different programs further tends to lessen their cumulative impact.
 
“Many jobless Californians looking to learn new skills are left without tools to help them understand the economic value of different training program options (or even that options are available), evaluate what skills are in-demand, or select what training is best for them,” says Sean Varner, a member of the subcommittee studying economic recovery from the pandemic.
 
The Commission applauds the state’s efforts to strengthen and expand career training and workforce development but calls on the state to do more to expand existing training partnerships and encourage new ones, and ensure those partnerships have the resources they need to support workers impacted by the pandemic.
 
“High-quality training can help workers in industries impacted by the pandemic pivot to increase their earnings and advance their careers,” says Commissioner David Beier, who also serves on the study’s subcommittee. “The state must act now to develop a plan for providing this training as part of an equitable economic recovery.”