People peruse job opens at the Verdugo Jobs Center.

People peruse job opens at the Verdugo Jobs Center. (Times Community News / December 14, 2012)

If federal lawmakers can’t reach a budget agreement by the end of the year to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the Verdugo Jobs Center in Glendale could see an 8.2% funding reduction, a top official at the agency said.

Don Nakamoto, executive director of the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board which oversees the Verdugo Jobs Center, said there is a push at the state level to target prominent high-growth industries with vocational training programs.

That means for the Verdugo Jobs Center — which services the Glendale-Burbank-La Cañada Flintridge area — officials focus on the entertainment industry, a top employer for the region, followed by healthcare, retail and manufacturing, Nakamoto said.

State legislation passed in 2011 requires workforce agencies to use 25% of their federal Workforce Investment Act funding for vocational training.

“[Government officials] see that there’s a skills gap that exists and there are not enough skilled people in certain types of occupations ,” Nakamoto said. “If more unemployed people could be trained for those positions then the economy might function better.”

The Verdugo Jobs Center uses between 15% and 20% of its federal budget for vocation training, so it won’t be much of a change locally. Nakamoto said. However, other workforce agencies throughout the state are lagging in their vocational training goals, he added.

The study period for creating the legislation was in 2009 at the height of the recession.

“We were losing jobs faster than you could see,” Nakamoto said of the time. “It didn’t make a lot of sense at that point to be training a lot of people for jobs that just weren’t there.”

Technology is always changing in the entertainment industry, so up-to-date training is essential for unemployed workers to land a job in production work, particularly in the Los Angeles area.

“When [a studio] wants to produce high-quality films, the first place they’re going to look is Southern California,” he said.

Regarding healthcare, the federal Affordable Care Act is going to create a substantial increase in the number people seeking health services, Nakamoto said, with an estimated 1.7 million more people eligible for health insurance after 2014 in Los Angeles County alone.

“This huge growth is going to create a big need for a lot of more employees in that field,” he said.

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