Dislocated Aerospace and Defense Workers Retrained, Returned to Work in Jobs in Three Southern California Counties

Long Beach has responded to area military base closings and aerospace industry cutbacks with an aggressive job retraining and placement project for displaced workers. A joint effort of the City and California State University, the project is Southern California’s first region-wide voucher program and is available to 11 participating Private Industry Councils in the region.

The City of Long Beach’s innovative Southern California Regional Demonstration Project (SCRDP) began in September 1994 through the collaboration of the Long Beach Service Delivery Area, which is administered by the City’s Training and Employment Development Division, and California State University Long Beach’s Center for Career Studies. With the closing of military bases and severe cut-backs in the aerospace industry at that time, Long Beach experienced one of the worst recessions in memory. In response to an overwhelming and growing number of unemployed individuals, the City and the University joined together to take an aggressive approach to job skills retraining and job placement services.

The union of the two organizations led to the development of Southern California’s first voucher-based, region-wide Job Training Partnership Act Title III dislocated worker project. Since 1994, 11 SDAs in three major Southern California counties – Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside – have followed Long Beach’s lead and joined the present-day SCRDP. "I’m proud that the City of Long Beach took the initiative to develop this innovative regional training program," says Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill. "Our employers draw from many areas in Southern California and our out-of-work neighbors have commuted significant distances. The program provides easier customer access, improved training opportunities, and stellar results."

The partnership has helped to establish a voluntary, regional and cooperative voucher program available to all participating Southern California region Private Industry Councils. From the very beginning of the project, officials say, the collaboration of these agencies has had an immediate impact, strongly felt throughout Southern California.

Target Groups – The dislocated workers served come from various industrial classifications and from companies of all sizes throughout the three counties. The occupation areas most affected by the layoffs include aerospace, defense, and supporting industries and contractors.

As Southern California continues to recover from military and aerospace cutbacks, and the economy continues to improve, many unemployed individuals may be left behind because they lack necessary skills due to the rapid change in technology and, hence, to obtain employment. This is the case for many dislocated workers who participate in the program.

The SCRDP program has been highly successful at retraining and placing in jobs both fairly well skilled dislocated workers and those with outdated skills. A majority of the workers in the latter category require a minimum of four to six months retraining in order to obtain jobs at a skill level comparable to that of their former occupations.

Hundreds of individuals with little chance of finding related work in their former fields have turned to the SCRDP program for job skills retraining in advanced computer technology, and many of these have been placed in positions that pay salaries comparable to those received in their previous positions.

Training and Placement – The program utilizes remote classroom training sites around the project area. Classroom experiences are enhanced through on-the-job training opportunities and aggressive placement services.

Since 1996, SCRDP has expanded from its initial 160 trainees to 240 dislocated workers at three training sites. Among examples of program success:

The Microsoft System Support Administrator course has placed 46 people in permanent employment, and 26 more are currently in class or completing their Microsoft certification tests.

The Powersoft Powerbuilder Programmer course has seen 41 of its 90 enrollees accept training-related employment, while 30 more remain in class or are completing internships at various companies.

To date, this collaborative effort has served more than 450 dislocated workers and has experienced an 83 percent placement rate. Participants have earned annual salaries totaling $10.8 million and an average hourly wage of $22.05.

SCRDP has proven extremely cost-effective, officials say, because many of the participants are placed in well-paying positions and, in effect, repay the cost of their training in income taxes alone in eight or nine months. In addition, training costs through the program are considerably less than they would be on the open market.

As the program continues to retrain and place clients in occupations throughout the Southern California region, it also continues to plan for future training. It has developed a flexible class curriculum that changes as needed, ensuring that only the latest technology is taught. Program officials believe that there is a strong case for the continuation of the program for two more years.

Contact: Ray Warden, Director, City of Long Beach Training and Employment Development Division, (562) 570-3811

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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