The following was written by Howard “Buck” McKeon in The Santa Clarita Valley Signal:
Among the highlights of my 22 years in Congress was the opportunity to serve as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
Leading this important committee afforded me a firsthand look at the interaction of education and workforce development, which are critical components of our economy’s long-term vitality and development.
What quickly became clear to me then — and is even more true today — is that education beyond the high school diploma is critical for workforce development.
Technology is reshaping existing industries and launching entirely new industry sectors, which means the labor market increasingly requires a more skilled workforce.
In the 1970s, just 28 percent of jobs required college-level education or training. That’s not necessarily a bachelor’s degree, but some combination of classes that provides training and expertise in a particular field of study.
That percentage increased to 56 percent just 20 years later. Looking ahead, 65 percent of jobs nationally will require some college coursework — though not necessarily a four-year degree — by 2020.
Here in California, more than 1 million jobs will require some college education by the year 2020, but not a bachelor’s degree.
With its economy anchored by five industry clusters — advanced manufacturing, aerospace and defense, medical devices, digital media and entertainment, and information technology — Santa Clarita will certainly experience that need.
So what can we do to ensure that our local economy continues to thrive in the years ahead?
Provide access to education and training that will benefit local residents and prepare students for cutting-edge, next-generation careers.
Nobody does that better than College of the Canyons. From manufacturing, to computer animation, to welding, to medical lab technician, to land surveying, Santa Clarita’s community college offers a wide range of education options.
COC excels at training nurses and emergency medical technicians. A Sheriff’s Department Academy trains new Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.
Local workers who enroll at COC to advance in their careers see a significant return on their investment. After successfully completing just two classes related to their field, they see an average salary increase of 22 percent.
Looking ahead to the future, College of the Canyons needs to expand to meet the growing demand for access to education and training that the local economy requires.
Today, the college serves 20,000 students per semester. That number will increase by 50 percent over the next decade, bringing 30,000 students to the college’s campuses in Valencia and Canyon Country.
With that demand in mind, as well as the growing need for workforce training, the college placed Measure E on the June 7 ballot to generate $230 million that would fund facilities construction.
If voters approve the measure, the Canyon Country campus would see the construction of four new classroom and laboratory buildings, which would triple the amount of space currently available on campus.
On the Valencia campus, Measure E would fund the construction of an Allied Health and Public Safety Center to expand training for nurses and house new instructional programs to expand training in related health care fields, such as respiratory therapy technician, radiological technician and more.
As well, the college would modernize 350,000 square feet of classrooms, labs and student service spaces, many of which date to the 1970s, when the college’s first permanent facilities were built.
Another addition to the campus would be a much-needed 1,000-space parking facility.
As chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, I had the opportunity to visit many colleges across the country.
Some offered impressive programs, but none matched College of the Canyons and its consistent innovation, strategic planning, and long-term commitment to supporting the community’s need for workforce development.
In moving forward with Measure E, the college is clearly planning ahead to ensure the Santa Clarita Valley economy is equipped to thrive. For that reason, I endorsed Measure E, and I encourage local residents to vote Yes on E on June 7.
Howard P. “Buck” McKeon represented the Santa Clarita Valley in Congress from 1993 to 2015, serving his final two terms as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.