With a push from blue-collar industries, the trades are back at LBCC

The demand for skilled trade workers is rising steadily each year, and as local industries and companies are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill roles, they’re turning to Long Beach City College for help.

The problem is, many of LBCC’s trades programs were cut during the recession, leaving students in the city with the option of going to a community college in neighboring cities or to go to private programs.

“I heard the city of Long Beach said they’re tired of sending their students to Cerritos College for automotive technology for their buses,” said Gene Carbonaro, dean of career technical education at LBCC. “There’s a lot of opportunities for jobs in Long Beach.”

Carbonaro only recently started heading the technical education program. About two years ago, he was the department head of computer and office studies at LBCC. There, he helped clean up the decades-old curriculum, merge it with another department and streamline the degree for students. But then LBCC executives wanted him to duplicate his work on a broader scale in the technical trades.

“My main challenge from President (Reagan) Romali was: What can you do about the trades?” Carbonaro said.

And so began a two-year process of bringing the trades back to LBCC.

Carbonaro said he and his team had to start from scratch, rebuilding the several programs including welding, automotive and construction that had curriculum models that hadn’t been changed since the 1950s. They started implementing new curriculum, new courses and new degrees that were up-to-date and didn’t take 60 units or full-day classes to complete, he said.

“People could take a class that met twice a week for eight hours back (in the 1950s),” he said. “Now people can’t do that.”

These programs can lead students to entry-level jobs that pay $17-25 per hour to start, Carbonaro said.

A few programs had been barely hanging on since the cuts in 2013. Advanced transportation technology had been chugging along with no full-time faculty dedicated to it, Carbonaro said.

He and his associate dean, Anthony Pagan, worked with longtime adjunct professor Greg Ling on getting the program up to par for a relaunch in fall 2019. The advanced transportation technology program trains students on repairing and maintaining electric vehicles, hybrids and alternative fuel vehicles.

Ling went through the program as a student in the 1990s and has seen firsthand how the industry has changed. He taught part-time for years while working in the industry and now he is a full-time faculty member for the program.

Car manufacturers have been approaching Carbonaro about becoming partners with the school, often donating or heavily discounting equipment students need to work on. The industry partners also serve on the program’s advisory board and they’re able to help the leaders decide what they should have their students focus on.

“We haven’t even tried to get industry partners, but they seem to be coming to us,” he said. “Now we got industry professionals to tell us exactly what the students need to get a job.”

Long Beach Transit needs more technicians to maintain its fleet of buses, Ling said, and the Port of Long Beach is going through an electrification process to reduce emissions. Both entities need workers who can fix their equipment.

That information is crucial in industries with evolving technology and an aging work force where companies are expecting more, and more job openings require certain qualifications. With the relationship between car manufacturers and the program, for example, regional managers can go to program heads and tell them what the latest technology is and what students need to know.

“We collaborate with the industry to provide them with the entry-level technicians they need,” Ling said.

In the advanced transportation technology program, students will work on all-electric cars, including a Tesla and a Nissan Leaf, hybrids, including a Toyota Prius, and plug-in hybrids, including Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs. The vehicles came to the school at a big discount, Carbonaro said, and Southern California Edison gave them $50,000 to purchase equipment.

In total, LBCC has invested about $2 million into the revamped career and technical education program, according to Carbonaro.

“Most classes are full now, the students are coming back,” Carbonaro said.

Here’s the new and revamped trade programs at LBCC:

  • Advanced manufacturing technology
  • Advanced transportation technology
  • Automotive technology
  • Construction technology
  • Electrical technology
  • Engineering technology
  • Welding technology

To learn more about LBCC’s trade programs, click here.

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Valerie Osier is a breaking news and crime reporter for the Long Beach Post. She’s a Riverside native who found her love for journalism while at community college. She graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach journalism program in 2017 and covered the Palos Verdes Peninsula for the Daily Breeze prior to coming to the Post. She lives in Long Beach with her husband, Steven, and her cat/child, Jones.
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