Case Study - Southern California Water Industry Cluster

The Southern California Water Industry Cluster is an effort to stimulate the growth of the region’s water efficiency industries by growing companies, increasing jobs, and improving water conservation and efficiency in the region at the same time. This endeavor is being undertaken as a partnership between the Los Angeles Water Efficiency Workforce Development Program and the So Cal Green Growth Initiative, with additional partners being sought. Funding includes a $2.5 million Green Innovation Challenge grant from the State of California to grow the water efficiency sector and develop a workforce for the future as well as a Regional Industry Cluster of Opportunity grant.

The cluster launched formally in late 2010 but has been able to quickly pull together a strong group of businesses and partners. These include manufacturers, landscape designers and contractors, environmentalists, higher education, and public agencies. The cluster has been strongly employer led, with cluster staff asking the employer participants to identify worthwhile initiatives, and using this guidance to create a strategic plan to guide the clusters work. Employers value being in such a diverse group, with a variety of companies and partners that would not normally meet together.

While workforce development and training is an important component of the partnership, the cluster is first and foremost about market development in order to grow the sector and achieve environmental benefits. The assembled businesses have identified improving outdoor water efficiency as their major opportunity area and will be addressing it through a comprehensive strategy of user education, entrepreneurship and adoption of emerging technologies, and targeted worker training. Workforce development activities are already underway, and the cluster has adopted an integrated approach that includes recruitment, classroom training, on-the-job training, support services and job placement services. These all take place in the context of a social enterprise approach where training participants gain real-world employment experience while they are learning.

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