In February, President Barack Obama revealed his four-step plan to make the United States a “magnet for jobs.” His focus: manufacturing. His plan included more than $1 billion of investments toward growing industry and putting Americans back to work. There has been little, if any, talk about how this plan has been unfolding, other than the fact that industry is continuing to add jobs even if not at the pace he had hoped.  Locally, however, the Ventura County Community College District is ramping up the possibilities of stimulating manufacturing job growth with the construction of the applied science building at Ventura College.

In the late 1990s, the district received approximately $350 million in bonds to fund new construction and grow program offerings. In 2003, the projects portfolio was completed and now the last of the construction projects is underway. This is where the applied science building comes into play. While the district currently has a variety of niche career technical programs that lead to jobs as mechanics, drafters or welders, according to David Keebler, vice president of business services at Ventura College, it lacks a foundation curriculum of technology, meaning there is no educational pathway that leads to acquiring general skill sets needed in many manufacturing jobs.

As construction begins on the applied science building this fall, to be completed in the next two years, the programs to be offered will open up doors for many in the county. With around 29,300 workers employed in manufacturing in the county, it’s a good time to look at the golden opportunity that skilled manufacturing technicians may offer local employers. And for those companies that have maintained their workforce locally when so many have shipped jobs overseas, this may be just the thing to jump-start industry in Ventura County.

The fact of the matter is that not everyone is on the path to obtain a college degree and, according to a Georgetown University job outlook report, approximately 65 percent of the workforce indeed doesn’t have bachelor’s degrees. And while studies show that a four-year degree pays for itself and more over time, it’s not a requirement to be successful in a career. The new applied science programs at Ventura College will provide the training necessary for those who aren’t following the traditional educational pathway.

We fully support this endeavor at Ventura College to train area residents and prepare them for vocational opportunities, and despite the fluctuating employment numbers in the somewhat volatile manufacturing industry, if we really want to see the unemployment rate drop, then manufacturing and technical training may be a productive way to go.