West Hills College wraps up Essential Elements series

From West Hills College

West Hills Community College District wrapped up its year-long Essential Elements series and posted summaries, resources, and outcomes online. Three day-long conferences held between March and November attracted more than 250 federal, state and local/regional leaders to talk about big-picture problems facing the Central Valley.

The list of more than 65 panelists and speakers was a veritable who’s who of industry, business, agriculture and government.

Throughout the series, a number of Outcomes Action Reports were created offering proposed solutions to issues facing the San Joaquin Valley. WHCCD called together Valley leaders in agriculture, water, energy and trade to brainstorm ideas and put together a list of action steps.

While earlier conferences focused on water and energy, the final session, Trading Partners: Export Evolution, Logistics and Valley Economic Development, closed out the series with discussions regarding an educated workforce, transportation of exports via ports and railroads, and growth of the economy in the San Joaquin Valley.

California agricultural exports support more than 1 million jobs in the state, according to Jeff Williamson, state director for the California Community Colleges Centers for International Trade and Development.  While this is true particularly in the San Joaquin Valley, agriculture on the West Side suffers from an image problem and gaps in the workforce.

Bill Phillimore, executive vice president of Paramount Farming Co., summed it all up when he said demand will spark growth in Valley agriculture but that an under-educated workforce will hinder it. The focus of the forum was how to foster growth while working to properly educate a workforce.

Solutions to spur economic growth in the Valley were discussed, particularly in the area of transportation. Williamson said that in order for the economy to grow, goods must be exported. Representatives from the railroad and shipping ports were present to discuss their insights.

An educated workforce is also important, and economist Jordan Levine said businesses will be drawn to the Valley as a result of skilled workers and growing infrastructure as the area continues to emerge from nearly a decade of hard economic times. West Hills College, which facilitated and hosted the series, was cited for taking the lead in providing career technical education and degree and certificate programs. 

For more information on the series, visit www.essentialelementsseries.com.  

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