By Cynthia Montes
The most important question in deciding to discontinue programs is if students “are being prepared for the workforce in numbers that meet the labor demand in these areas,” LBCC Trustee Roberto Uranga said in an email.
Air-conditioning and refrigeration, welding, diesel mechanics and sheet metal are some of the programs that may be discontinued.
The programs are the few areas in the school with combined high enrollment, persistence and completion rates based on administration reports. These are also the rare areas where employers recruit students before they graduate, and most find jobs in their fields after training, program teachers said.
Based on recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data, employment for heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration mechanics and installers will increase by 34 percent for 2010-2020, faster than the average of most occupations.
The California Employment Development Department reports the median 2012 hourly rate for the jobs is $24.69 and $26.13 for Los Angeles County.
The majority of workers in the field are male and almost half are minority.
Larry Jackson, 63, an air-conditioning and refrigeration student and an African American said, “To take these opportunities away from the kids is bad. A lot of them have kids, too. How do you tell your kid to work when you are not working?”
The labor bureau states, the “rising demand for trained technicians with technical school training will result in excellent opportunities.”
Patrick Heeb, department head and teacher, said the biggest employers of LBCC graduates are the Port of Long Beach, the city of Los Angeles, California Gas Company, Boeing Corp. and Cal State Long Beach.
The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles are the leading container ports in the nation that handled about 7.9 million twenty-foot containers in 2011. The ports handles imports of fruits and perishables, Food and Drug Administration inspections, blast-freezing activities, among others that require a high number of skilled air-conditioning and refrigeration technicians.
The Long Beach-Los Angeles-Glendale metropolitan area has the highest industrial development rate in the state, according to the Employment Department. California has the highest concentration of welders in the nation and most are working in the industrialized corridor.
The median salary in 2012 is $51,060 and can go up to $200,000 based on specialization.
Martin Zambrano, 46, a welding student, said, “They are targeting trades because that’s where the minority and poor are.” Zambrano said jobs are available for welders and with good wages, too. He said, “I don’t want to go to college. I just want to get a technical training and go to work.”
Amber Maduro, 24, a welding student, a minority and the only female in her class, said, “It doesn’t matter if you are female or minority. If you can weld, you can weld.” Maduro graduated from the air conditioning and refrigeration program and took up welding to enter into a particular specialized field at the Port of Long Beach.
Skilled workers are not the only workers in high demand, their teachers are, too.
Based on the California data, in the Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale area, a 29.3 percent employment increase for vocational education teachers is noted. The median salary is $73,874.