GMSP! EDC-VC leader tells of impacts of education on county’s prosperity
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: August 16, 2013
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula Times
Education is key not only to personal prosperity, but also regional economic vitality, those attending the July Good Morning Santa Paula learned.
Bruce Stenslie, president/CEO of the Economic Development Collaboration of Ventura County (EDC-VC) was the featured speaker at the monthly Santa Paula Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, held at Garman’s Irish Pub. Stenslie was introduced by Chamber President John Chamberlain, who noted, “Bruce is very low-key, has a great demeanor” while imparting information vital to the economic well being of Ventura County.
The collaborative has representatives from each City Council and the county Board of Supervisors, as well as about 25 major businesses all working together “to create better communities by creating new jobs that will build community and quality of life.” The organization assists business owners in a variety of ways, ranging from consulting and job training to providing access to capital and other services that are free. The goal of the EDC-VC is to create a more solid business base in Ventura County through business ownership support and opportunity.
When it comes to direct lending, “We make loans to businesses when banks won’t... we can better identify if a business plan is sustainable” and make it easier for local businesses to access cash needed for their enterprise. The group also can facilitate loans from others, overall striving to provide capital that is “the right size and the right price for your business... and people that start their own businesses are the lifeblood of the economy.”
The collaborative also works to attract business to the county, a particularly attractive place to live and do business in. It offers quality of life, financial stability, a diverse economic base, and a “quality education system and abundant workforce skills.”
But, “When we talk to businesses the number one issue is can they find people with the skills,” a question often asked by mid- and larger companies. Ventura County has overall “workforce educational excellence,” but although “there’s a relatively high rate of educational achievement, it is inconsistent by community.”
Preschool, a recognized positive impact on learning and adult income, is not always utilized by all households - whether because it is perceived as a financial drain or supported by all cultures. “Kids who enter preschool by 4th grade are performing much higher than their peers,” a trend that only strengthens in high school. In addition, families that participate in preschools become more a “part of the community fabric” and interact more with other families.
Ventura County has “excellent resources in local colleges and universities.” But there is the reality of opportunity and desire that is not always tied to a higher education, but can still be high paying.
Those with more than high school but less than a four-year degree can receive an AA degree or certificate at a community college or be an apprentice leading to often high-paying jobs. About 34 percent of all jobs nowadays do require a college degree, but about 50 percent of the economy relies on middle skills jobs - those that require training.
“We’ll always need plumbers and electricians and firefighters and police officers,” said Stenslie, but no matter what the field or training, “They say the reason people get fired is because they’re doing the same job they were hired to do,” and have not evolved.