Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom admonished California for getting away from its roots as a “state of dreamers and doers” Tuesday.
Newsom, along with business and education leaders, participated in Cal Poly Pomona’s Engineering and Cyber Security Workforce Development Summit.
Students, alumni, and faculty attended the on-campus event, which included panel discussions on the future of workplace development, aerospace and cyber security.
Newsom said as someone fairly new to state government, he considers himself a “frustrated optimist” with regards to the California’s economic and educational future.
“I think the state needs to step up its game,” he said. “I think the state needs to get back in the future business.”
Between 1950 and 1980, no state grew more jobs than California, which had a 3.7 percent annual growth rate during those decades, he said. In the past 30 years, that growth has stalled to around 1.1 percent annually, he added, pointing to complacency as a problem.
“We have become average,” he said.
Newsom, who sits on the board of trustees for the CSU system, pointed to education cuts, adding that California’s public universities saw more then $2 billion slashed last year.
He said it took 143 years to build up the University of California system, and now it is in peril because of cuts.
“Were not just cutting into the muscle and the bone, even here at CSUs, we’re cutting into the artery,” he said. “When you don’t have a plan for cuts, you cut the wrong place and you bleed out."
A solid future requires investment in education, he said.
“You can’t have an economic development strategy without a workforce development strategy,” he said.
The lack of training in key fields also is an issue, specifically those involving technology. The state has more than 500,000 jobs available that employers can’t fill because the skill set is not there, he said.
“We’ve got to educate past or at least up to technology,” he said. “We’re not conveying enough talent.”
Newsom called for more partnerships between businesses and colleges and universities.
The challenge to get back to greatness is to give up the idea that Sacramento needs to be the place of inspiration, he said.
“There is not a problem in this state, economic or otherwise, that hasn’t been solved by somebody somewhere,” he said. “So the challenge is scaling it. Go local. Regions rising together. Don’t wait around for Sacramento.”
Business leaders from companies such as Visa, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ducommun Inc., and Occidental Petroleum Corp. talked about the importance of luring college graduates from the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields to work in their industries, the skills needed to get hired, and the average six-figure salaries that come with those jobs.
Per Beith, Boeing’s director of global network operations, said his company has hired many engineers from Cal Poly Pomona and is looking for employees who have software, network, and electronics skills.
Also needed are leaders, as long-time employees get set to retire, he said.
“Don’t just think about your technical skills,” he said. “Think of your leadership skills because your opportunity to grow at an accelerated rate at companies like Boeing I think is unsurpassed.”
William Leubke, technical director of the Corona-based NAVSEA, also said Cal Poly graduates play a big role in his agency.
Around 10 percent of NAVSEA’s workforce comes from Cal Poly Pomona, he said.
Mayar Amouzegar, dean of Cal Poly’s College of engineering, said that the university has one of the largest engineering programs in the country.
One out of 14 engineers in California comes from Cal Poly, he said. Companies have been receiving talented students from the colleges, but with very little investment back into the future of the university's engineering and science programs. That needs to change, he said.
“I am looking not to Sacramento to help us grow, but I am looking local at our partner companies,” he said. “To continue to produce wonderful engineers and scientists, we need investment and not necessarily all from Sacramento.”