Professional Services Industry Emerges as Major Economic Driver for the LA Basin

By Smith, Kevin | Pasadena Star-News, December 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

Professional Services Industry Emerges as Major Economic Driver for the LA Basin


Smith, Kevin, Pasadena Star-News


The professional services industry — which includes everything from legal services and accounting to architecture and engineering — has emerged as a major economic driver for the Los Angeles Basin, according to a recent report.

The study from the Center for a Competitive Workforce forecasts that by 2021 the Los Angeles/Orange counties region will have nearly 400,000 payroll jobs in that industry, boosted by 14,000 new jobs that will be created between 2016 and 2021. And nearly half of that increase — over 6,300 jobs — will be in middle-skill occupations that typically pay well and are accessible with less than a bachelor’s degree.

A changing economy

That speaks to the mission of the center, a regional project of the 19 L.A. region community colleges and the LA/OC Regional Consortium, the Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research at Mt. San Antonio College, the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. and its Institute for Applied Economics, and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to understand how the economy is changing and where the emerging middle-skills occupations are,” said Richard Verches, the center’s executive director. “We want to see how our community colleges can calibrate course offerings and certificate programs. This is the new mandate for community colleges.”

The sector’s biggest employment boost, according to the report, is expected to benefit computer support specialists and graphic designers. Fifteen growing middle-skilled occupations — including web developers, bill and account collectors, veterinary technologists and interpreters and translators — are highlighted in the report, and all 28 community colleges in the region offer programs that prepare students for work in those industries.

Shannon Sedgwick, a senior LAEDC economist who co-authored the report, said the industry’s influence is especially powerful in Southern California.

“The professional services sector accounts for 4 percent of employment in the U.S., but it’s 6.5 percent of employment in the L.A. Basin,” Sedgwick said. “And it’s a knowledge-based industry, so human capital is important.”

Gig workers number 300,000

The study found that, as of 2016, the professional services industry employed 383,280 private payroll workers in the L.A. Basin. It also found that that a large number of professionals work on a per-project basis as part of the nation’s burgeoning gig economy. In the L.A. Basin, that number currently stands at about 300,000.

And operating as a freelance, self-employed professional requires a whole different set of skills, according to Verches. …

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