State awards BC, college district $2 million workforce grant to help address energy, economic issues

·2 min read

Feb. 24—Nearly $2 million in state cap-and-trade money has been set aside to help Bakersfield College work with other local organizations on a workforce training program intended, in part, to lessen Kern's economic reliance on petroleum production.

The grant award announced Tuesday will fund an effort by BC and its parent agency, the Kern Community College District, to develop and carry out a plan for meeting the county's "future energy, workforce and industry needs."

Arriving at a time when many in and outside Kern are considering how to phase out oil production without devastating the county's employment and tax base, the grant adds to local economic planning efforts, including the so-called "B3K" economic diversification collaboration.

Details were sketchy Tuesday but a news release said the grant is aimed at creating a "stronger, healthier and more economically resilient community by focusing on equity, education, industry security and job quality."

The release said BC will work toward the grant's goals together with the Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment and the University of California, Merced. Labor unions, local chambers of commerce and organizations including Community Action Partnership of Kern are also expected to contribute to the effort.

CRPE Assistant Director Ingrid Brostrom said by email the grant will help address the state's transition away from fossil fuels.

"Our specific project, however, is not limited to replacement sectors for fossil fuel workers, but instead will look at all sectors that have the potential to diversify the local economy and workforce," she wrote.

The grant is among 13 "High Road Training Partnerships" that have received more than $23 million through a statewide initiative called California Climate Investments, which is funded by the sale of "cap-and-trade" emissions credits. The idea is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the economy and improve public health and the environment.

KCCD Vice Chancellor John Means said in a news release the coalition being brought together by the new grant will lead to local economic gains.

"With this coalition," he stated, "we are committed to bringing different voices to the table, to engage in the dialogue which is necessary to drive strategic and united action so that we can strengthen and build a dynamic homegrown workforce and expand well-paying jobs here in Kern County."

The effort will specifically look at improving regional outcomes in health, employment, energy, education and poverty by 2030, according to the release.