In an effort to help rebuild California's economy and lower its unemployment rate—currently at 9.8 percent—Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) has introduced a plan to invest in a workforce that reflects the state's unique advantages over other states and countries, his office announced on Thursday.
"Were not going to compete in California making t-shirts," Lieu told Patch. "Our cost of living is too high. Places like Vietnam will always be able to make factory t-shirts at a far less expensive price than we ever could."
The way California succeeds, said Lieu, is by emphasizing the roughly 15 industries sectors that drive some 70 percent of the state's economy, including high-tech, bio-tech, agriculture and ports.
"Eighty percent of the strawberries in the U.S. are from California," Lieu said. "Idaho will never have a water port; Switzerland will never have a deep water port; we have an entertainment sector that's hard to replicate; we have tourism."
State and local workforce investment boards have been focusing on getting unemployed low-wage workers into similar low-paying jobs instead of into jobs that will grow California's economy, Lieu said.
The senator is looking to Governor Jerry Brown's state budget—specifically the allocation for higher education—for the money needed to retrain California's unemployed and prepare them for higher-paying jobs.
"It is not easy to do this because it will require investment, it will require time, but if we don't retrain people and give them the skills that they need then our economy is not going to continue forward," said Lieu.
What do you think? Should low-wage workers be retrained and educated for placement in higher-paying jobs?