During an era of fast-paced technological advancements and economic growth, higher educational institutions in Long Beach are strengthening partnerships within growing industries to ensure their curriculums keep up with in-demand skillsets and to create new programs designed for the future workforce.
Program heads at both Long Beach City College (LBCC) and California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) regularly consult with contacts in industries experiencing growing employment opportunities, according to leadership at the institutions.
High job-growth fields in the region include advanced manufacturing, cyber security, cloud computing, welding, advanced transportation and health care, according to LBCC’s research. CSULB’s research reveals other fields with increasing job opportunities, including hospitality, engineering, logistics, supply chain management, project management and human resources management.
“We conduct industry research to find out what are the jobs of today and what are the jobs of the future in terms of market demand,” Romali said. “We’re in constant touch with our industry advisory groups – for all of our major career and technical programs, we have advisory groups that are made up of major industry players. They are continually meeting and providing us advice on curriculum that they need, particular soft or hard skills they need from our students, particular equipment or
software that they need to be trained on, industry certifications that might be needed,” she explained.
“We are members of the L.A. Economic Development Corporation, and they do that research and share it with us,” Jane Close Conoley, president of CSULB, said. She also noted that academics within CSULB’s economics and business colleges conduct their own research on the local business community. Most of the university’s colleges have multiple industry advisory councils specific to individual departments or programs, she noted.
Both LBCC and CSULB update curriculum and even form new degrees and certification programs based on input from industry advisors. For example, LBCC created a number of new programs because “the economy is really cranking out manufacturing jobs,” Romali said. These include an associate’s degree in science and advanced manufacturing technology, a certificate of achievement in advanced manufacturing technology, and programs centered on core skills in that industry.
“To give you an idea of the kind of job a student can get with that curriculum, they can get a logistician job that pays upwards of $75,000 with that kind of a degree in their pocket,” Romali said of LBCC’s manufacturing-related programs. “They could get a job as a business operations specialist making around $66,000. . . . That is just one example of how we partner with industry to understand what is the need today, what is the demand 10 years out, then specifically how do we need to shape our curriculum to meet particular industry demands so there is not a skills gap in Long Beach.”
LBCC students have an advantage when it comes to the expanding field of cybersecurity, according to Romali. “LBCC has been named a national center of academic excellence in cyber defense education by the National Security Agency [NSA], and we’re only the third community college in California to have this designation. By 2021, it’s anticipated that there is going to be three and a half million jobs in this industry,” she said. “Students who go through the LBCC program get an additional certificate from the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security . . . so our students are going to have a leg up when it comes to trying to snare some of those government jobs.” These occupations typically earn more than $80,000 per year, she noted.
Justin Hectus, chief information officer for Long Beach-based law firm Keesal Young & Logan, is an industry advisor for LBCC. He and others within his firm have worked with the college to push for cybersecurity programming and provide feedback about changing industry dynamics. “We have got a pretty informed field of view on where the opportunities and challenges are, and . . . how it is really rapidly changing environment,” he said of his firm.
“We just feel like they run a really quality program. They turn out good candidates, and we want to be a good community partner to them,” Hectus said of LBCC. “As recently as six months ago, we needed to hire an engineer with some cybersecurity [training] and . . . they found us a candidate who I think just completed or was completing his program at LBCC. And he is amazing. He works with us on an ongoing basis and has done work for some of our tenants in the building as well.”
CSULB has numerous industry partnerships that create direct interaction between students and prospective employers. “For example, in engineering we actually have a Boeing lab on campus, so our faculty and students are working side-by-side with Boeing scientists on aerospace industrial applications,” Conoley said. “They have worked with them on developing new substances, new materials.”
When it comes to health care, CSULB has partnerships with local hospitals including MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center and others, Conoley explained. “All of our nursing candidates are interning or having practicum experiences in the hospitals . . . and what they tell us there is that they love to hire our students and that the students are already oriented [to their procedures].” Academic staff in CSULB’s nursing program have partnered with Kaiser Permanente and other health care providers to ensure curriculum is up to date, she said.
Degrees added due to industry demand in the past few years include a bachelor’s in biomedical engineering and a master’s in supply chain management. The latter falls under CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT), which operates within the College of Professional and Continual Education (CPCE).
Tim Mozia, associate dean of CPCE, said that most programs within his college have individual industry advisory boards “because each program has its own unique needs and requirements.” Program staff confer with advisors every other month, he said.
Tom O’Brien, executive director of CITT, said the university uses grant funds to pilot test professional training programs. “Right now, we’re piloting a class that we call ‘the battle for the curb,’ which is [about] how do you plan for all of the demands on new spaces in urban areas, from freight to Uber and Lyft to scooters to bike lanes, and that sort of thing, using grant funds,” he said.
O’Brien noted that certification programs and skills courses are increasingly popular. “This is a big change in the educational sector over the last few years. There is a generation emerging that appreciates a more a la carte option, where they like to choose specific competencies they want to focus on. And our programs help to respond to that demand,” he said.
Conoley noted a decline in interest in humanities degrees as students “migrate toward more professionally focused degrees.” For example, she said, “fewer people are choosing to learn foreign or international languages, and I think that’s a big mistake. We’ve been doing things to try to make that easier for students to either upgrade their existing bilingual skills or add at least one other language.”
Employers aren’t just looking for job candidates who have certain technical skills, Conoley observed. “They are also looking for people who write well, speak well, show up on time, who work well in a group, can manage conflict and so on,” she explained. Additionally, she reflected, “It’s a complicated business to prepare students to be not only experts in a particular area, but really have a breadth of skills that give them the chance to remake themselves – because all the literature we read tells us that it’s unlikely that you’ll stay in the same profession or job for the rest of your career.”
Moving forward, both schools plan to expand relationships with the regional business community to leverage job opportunities for students. The Long Beach College Promise program – a partnership between the City of Long Beach, Long Beach Unified School District, LBCC and CSULB – was recently updated to include its first industry partner, the Port of Long Beach, which opened an institute at LBCC. More partners are coming, according to Romali.
“We are soon going to be signing on another city, terminal operators at the port, construction companies and a variety of companies . . . and what they are going to be doing is allowing our students an opportunity to interview for jobs and internships,” Romali said. “They are going to be able to post on a job board what their open careers are, and then partner with our career planning and placement center to funnel students into interviews for the positions.”
CSULB is working on creating one point of contact for all employers, according to Conoley. “The idea is we’ll build an electronic portal so that industry [employers] can put who they are, what they do and what they are looking for. Do they want to be on an advisory board? Do they want an intern? Do they want a high school kid? Do they have a paid internship available?” she explained.
Higher education isn’t just about earning a certificate or degree – it’s about a student’s entire life, Romali reflected. “I haven’t done my job if I just let them graduate and walk out with a degree,” she said. “I want them to walk out with a life. And the way I do that is to get them excited about what education can do for them, where it can take them, how it can create prosperity in their life, and then ultimately land them a job, ideally in the Long Beach surrounding area.
The overall idea of industry partnerships, according to Romali, is this: “Ultimately what we want to do is make Long Beach an attractive location for companies moving in – so we’re giving them skilled labor.”