While providing a workforce for the local manufacturing sector, community colleges are also impacting lives. “This course gave me the ability to change my life,” says Jonathan Santos, a former EMT. Another student, MJ, is a 50-year old graphic designer seeking to spread his wings beyond his saturated profession. He decided to make a change, learn a new skill, and in the process reinvent his life. With no prior knowledge of mechanical manufacturing he enrolled in a six-week course at Los Angeles Valley College, paid for by a grant from Propel L.A. through the Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers Fund, and had two interviews with manufacturing employers before he even graduated. MJ is one of many in the workforce stepping up to the line for the first time to grow the manufacturing center right here in LA County.
Jonathan’s and MJ’s stories are only possible because of the new, strategic commitment by industry, education, and non-profit stakeholders in LA County to adapt workforce development to today’s realities. With help from the collaborative power and process of the Propel L.A. Countywide Strategic Plan, community colleges are moving toward the bold re-tasking of their purpose and methods to focus on building curriculum in partnership with local industry to rapidly train workers for existing job openings. The results are maintaining the region’s advantage in retaining and securing new manufacturing businesses.
A powerful example of the success of this campaign is the 85% placement rate at the Manufacturing Academy at Los Angeles Valley College led by the tireless Program Manager, Roberto Gutierrez. On May 21 another 15 students, six recipients of Propel L.A. grants, celebrated their completion of the six-week CNC machine tooling course at a graduation ceremony attended not just by their families and teachers, but by prospective employers and industry as well. An employer representative was thanked for constantly stopping by to install equipment and help design the curriculum, and past students now representing employers were praised by current graduates for recruiting them into the program. The program is particularly special and significant because of the personal investment, with shared commitment to combined success.
Jonathan Santos has a similar story of changing his profession and taking on a new career. While he loved his job as an EMT, the unpredictable schedule was no longer realistic when he became a father. He needed a “9 to 5” profession. He did some research and that led him to the Work Source Center at Los Angeles Valley College, who introduced him to Roberto Gutierrez, who connected him to a Propel L.A. funding. Surrounded by his fellow students, he smiles when he talks about his commitment to his new profession and how surprised he was to have met with employers even before graduating. “They told us this is entry level training, but it doesn’t end here, there are a lot of opportunities to grow.”