Learn how business, government and schools in Victor Valley are working together to prepare students for careers.
A key to keeping a steady stream of highly skilled talent flowing to Victor Valley’s growing industries lies in the success of innovative public-private workforce development partnerships that help guide students toward those high-demand jobs. San Bernardino County’s Workforce Development Board (SBCWDB), for example, helps match graduates with relocating or expanding companies. The agency works directly with businesses to generate job postings and accurate job descriptions, then helps companies screen candidates for each position. The SCWDB also works with Victor Valley College and Barstow Community College to develop industry-driven curricula and issues training vouchers for both traditional and nontraditional students looking for employment in high-demand fields.
“The business owners know what skills that they need. They come to us with their needs, and we go to the educational providers to develop specific curriculums to meet those needs,” says James Johnson,SBCWDB business Services Manager. “Now, the county has a pipeline or a career pathway to good jobs — living wage jobs — in areas such as manufacturing and utilities construction, health care and transportation logistics.”
The SBCWDB also helps facilitate partnerships between businesses and local school systems. The agency was instrumental in producing the premier Made in the High Desert trade show in 2016, which allowed manufacturers to showcase their products to an audience of K-12 students. Organizers hoped to introduce students — and future employees — to the various careers available in advanced manufacturing. The trade show was followed by an invitation-only job fair meant to connect companies with job-seekers holding specific skill sets.
On the Right Pathways
One of the companies participating in the job fair was Exquadrum, a research and development engineering firm in Adelanto specializing in rocket propulsion and weapons defense technology. Founded by Victor Valley natives Kevin Mahaffy and Eric Schmidt, Exquadrum regularly partners with local schools to promote careers in STEM – science, technology, engineering and math. The company, for example, supported Hesperia High School in establishing a Design, Engineering, and Manufacturing Academy.
“Kevin and I both come from the local public school systems, and we recognize the importance of inspiring and teaching the next generation about technology and technology-related jobs,” says Exquadrum President Eric Schmidt. “As a parent, I understand that it can be difficult for high school students to know all of the technology and engineering jobs that are out there and available, but kids need to know they have the potential to land a job with a technology company with a two-year degree or even right out of high school.”
Schmidt says his involvement in the education process also has business advantages.
“As an employer, the value proposition is that it’s much easier for me to hire and maintain an individual who is organic to this area versus relocating them from another portion of the country,” he says.
For their part, leaders at Victor Valley College are working to ensure companies, such as Exquadrum won’t need to look outside the region for talent. The college broke ground in 2016 on a new Automotive/Welding Vocational Complex, which, when completed, will boast a nearly 4,000-square-foot auto diesel mechanics labs and some 3,800 square feet of welding lab space. The new space will allow the college to upgrade to continue its training partnerships with local companies.
“Victor Valley College is the primary source of workforce training in the Victor Valley,” says Robert Sewell, director of marketing and public information officer for the college. “We monitor employment trends and tailor our career technical programs so that we’re teaching the fundamental skills that employers need.”