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OCCF launches pilot phase of new Workforce Development Initiative

The Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF), based in Newport Beach, recently launched the pilot phase of a new Workforce Development Initiative. The program is designed to build pathways to brighter futures for graduating high school seniors enrolling in community college, disconnected older youth and underemployed adults who may not have the means to advance their employment opportunities due to barriers such as poverty and lack of access to education and job training.

OCCF awarded grants totaling $500,000 with a focus on connecting community colleges, nonprofits and businesses through strategic pipelines to identify, support and ultimately place potential employees in middle-skills jobs. The programs all aim to provide individuals with the necessary tools to secure well-paying jobs primarily concentrated in the healthcare, advanced manufacturing and information technology sectors. 

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A student enrolled in the Hope Builders partnership technology program

“Our commitment to the Orange County community drives us to seek opportunities for game-changing impact, such as this newly launched Workforce Development Initiative,” said Shelley Hoss, OCCF president and CEO. “This initiative will help individuals struggling to make ends meet to acquire in-demand technical acumen in continually evolving industries and prepare them for a strong and successful future. It will drive our community’s economic growth and fuel successful outcomes for next generations.”

There is a critical need to better prepare potential employees across the nation: A Gallup poll indicates that one in three young adults are underemployed in the United States; further, at 21 to 24 percent, California has been ranked among the states with the highest rate of underemployment. However, even full-time employment may not provide an escape from poverty in expensive regions such as Orange County, where the high cost of living still leaves nearly 20 percent of working poor struggling to live here. Local barriers to exiting poverty include low wages, a high cost of living and a changing job market. This initiative provides an answer to each of those challenges.

The good news is that there are well-paying jobs that can fuel our economy and enhance the quality of life for all Orange County residents. The middle-skills job market is projected to grow 25 percent over the next 10 years in Orange County – equating to 17,678 new jobs requiring education beyond a high school diploma, yet less than a four-year college degree. According to the 2019-2020 Orange County Community Indicators Report, the most in-demand occupations reflect Orange County’s fastest-growing industries which include information technology and healthcare.

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This youth participates in the Information Technology certificate program, whereby Santa Ana College partners with Hope Builders

The Santa Ana College (SAC) Foundation, selected to receive a $250,000 grant, exemplifies the initiative’s targeted approach to preparation for middle-skills jobs. With their grant, the SAC Foundation will expand an existing Information Technology certificate program. In partnership with Hope Builders, High School Inc. Academies, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Orange County and the Inland Empire, and Alteryx, the program will also provide wraparound support services for college students as they complete a college certificate program, an eight-week internship, and specific industry credentials in preparation for high-demand employment opportunities in the technology field.

OCCF will track the success of this new Workforce Development Initiative by measuring the increase in individuals completing certification programs, being hired into middle-skills roles and demonstrating increases in income as a result. Ultimately, OCCF hopes to create a model that can be successfully scaled across Orange County and replicated for different industries.

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