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Filling the human capital pipeline
By: Milken Institute
November 15, 2012
   
   
This panel was an advanced course in solving the state's looming shortages of well-prepared, talented workers in crucial industries such as energy, health care, even entertainment. The skills pipeline is narrowing, they warned, especially for those with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the famous STEM cohort.

The stateaEUR(TM)s dearth of doctors persists, and nurses will soon be retiring in droves, said James Lott, executive vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California. Almost everyone working in the massive health care industry, even in ancillary fields, needs to be schooled in science. ChevronaEUR(TM)s Linda Padon and Van Ton-Quinlivan of the state community college system noted similar worries in the energy industry, where technology is changing and professionals with know-how are retiring.

The panel urged expanding the corporate presence in the educational system to help develop the next generation. Chevron takes in about 500 college interns a year and now has a program for high school students as well. Ton-Quinlivan spoke about "stacking credentials" for workers in midcareer, underscoring the need to constantly update skills to meet the ever-changing demands of employers.

But companies need to be even more engaged, more hands-on, many panelists argued.

Michelle Kydd Lee, who founded the CAA Foundation at the Creative Artists Agency, presented one model. Her operation funds programs that cultivate youth of all ages and socioeconomic levels. One partner agency, Communities in Schools, places "site coordinators" on campus to look after the needs of students who may be struggling with family problems or those who could benefit from guidance with a college application. Kydd Lee expressed deep admiration for these on-campus advocates, calling them "rock stars" who have a unique, holistic view of how to support the student. This kind of outreach and investment in students, she emphasized, isn't philanthropy. For companies that need a reliable quality workforce, it's self-interest.