As we officially enter into the 2015 summer and prepare to put hundreds of young people to work in what often might be their first job through Earn & Learn East Bay, it is worth pausing to reflect on the remarkable trajectory of our region’s economy and labor market over the past five years. During the summer of 2010, in the depths of the Great Recession, the East Bay’s unemployment rate peaked at 11.3% as even the most highly skilled people found themselves out of a job, in many cases having to think about transitioning into new careers for a reshaped economic landscape. Fortunately, the high-wage, high-growth industry sectors that characterize the Bay Area’s economy have helped the East Bay become one of the most vibrant regions not just in California, but nationally, as was highlighted last week in a piece from KTVU that included interviews with job seekers at one of our local EASTBAY Works American Job Centers of California.
It was out of the harsh reality of the Great Recession that the Workforce Development Board of Contra Costa County (WDB) began working with economic development and research organizations to better understand and position ourselves by leveraging our regional assets for the much-anticipated economic recovery that we are now enjoying. This has led to the launch of Slingshot, our regional industry sector partnership initiative that focuses on five (5) priority industry sectors in our region – advanced manufacturing, biomed/bioscience, healthcare, information communication technology (ICT), and transportation/logistics, all of which have a strong concentration of middle-skill and high skill jobs. This business-led initiative, whose coordinating body includes the East Bay Leadership Council, the East Bay Economic Development Alliance, the Contra Costa and Peralta Community College Districts, and our neighboring three workforce boards (Alameda County, Oakland, and Richmond), is bringing together companies from across the East Bay to help them aggregate priorities from their respective industry sectors that can support continued growth.
The aforementioned work with Slingshot perfectly aligns with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which takes effect July 1, 2015. For the past few years, the WDB has been working with a multiplicity of partners from business, economic development, education, labor, and other organizations in the public and nonprofit sectors to support the development of a highly-skilled talent pipeline that is equipped to meet regional economic and employment needs.
There is no doubt that there is still a lot of work to be done ahead, but by working with key stakeholders in the region, we will be better positioned to link, align, and leverage federal, state, and local investments that will help more East Bay residents realize opportunities for upward mobility that support regional prosperity.