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Monday, May 20, 2024

Leader Board: OC Leaders Commit to Upskill Local Talent by 2030

Editor’s Note: Liam Griffin is chairman, president and CEO of Skyworks Solutions Inc., Orange County’s most valuable publicly traded technology company, which has about $5.5 billion in annual sales.

Brett Wall is executive vice president and president of Medtronic’s Neuroscience Portfolio, overseeing five units—Neuromodulation, Cranial & Spinal Technologies, Neurovascular, Pelvic Health and Ear, Nose and Throat.

Together, these operating units generate over $8 billion in annual revenue and employ approximately 15,000 employees worldwide. Wall, who works out of Medtronic’s Irvine office, also serves as a member of the company’s Executive Committee.

The pair, who are members of the CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County, wrote this Leader Board for the Business Journal.

To achieve a sustainable, thriving Orange County for all, local businesses need to work together to make tech talent development a top county priority, and deploy our strategic resources to achieve operational scale.

Building a strong innovation hub in OC will deliver positive financial and social outcomes for our companies and the people who live and work here. According to research from McKinsey & Company, innovation hubs—including OC growth industries such as technology, healthcare, defense, electric vehicles, and emerging cross-sector functions, such as artificial intelligence—outperform other regions and business districts economically, financially, and socially.

Talent is a fundamental driver for any innovation hub. The cluster effect of a strong innovation talent hub like we are building in OC solves many of our talent challenges.
Organizations gain a competitive advantage through access to a larger, highly skilled talent pool to drive research and innovation. Studies have shown that the number of patents, a proxy for innovation, goes up with the density of a specialized talent pool.

A strong tech talent pool can motivate CEOs to stay and grow their businesses in OC, in turn, generating more good jobs, and attracting investment in people across a wide range of disciplines. Brookings research has found that 95% of executives rate the availability of skilled labor as “very important” or “important” to their investment location decision.

Upskill Local Talent

OC leaders are among the first in the nation to bring public and private sector organizations together to reimagine workforce development and agree on a collective strategy for talent.

We’ve seen remarkable results from employer-led talent pilots and programs the CEO Leadership Alliance Orange County (CLAOC) has launched in the past three years, learning from other OC organizations. Now we are ready to scale.

A newly formed OC Talent Collaborative (OCTC) is made up of 35 to 40 leading community stakeholders across all sectors in our OC ecosystem.

University of California, Irvine, California State University, Fullerton, and Chapman University are institutional anchors, as are K-12 leaders such as Orange County Superintendent of Schools, Al Mijares, and Anaheim Union High School District Superintendent Mike Matsuda. Leading workforce nonprofit executives and seven of CLAOC’s 55 member CEOs are participating, plus select funders, such as the Samueli Foundation.

This influential group will grow as more leaders commit to working together to achieve OCTC’s important talent goals.

Working together, we can move faster to close the gap for employers who face an undersupply of local talent, especially for tech jobs, and open opportunities for more OC students and residents who want to build in-demand skills.

Key to OC Success: Talent

Talent must be a top five priority for OC leaders. Without a dedicated approach to keeping our exceptional people here, we risk losing our edge.

We face fierce competition from regions across the U.S. Many people and businesses are choosing to move where the cost of living is low. The number of companies relocating their headquarters out of California in 2021 was twice the rate it was in 2020.They need a reason to stay.

The decision on where to build out your operations is a major factor in cost structure and profitability. Still, costs aren’t the whole story. Talent is a critical factor in these decisions.

Where will you find the best people to build the business you envision?

Our opportunity in OC is unmatched when it comes to top-tier talent. People here are skilled, diverse, resilient, out-of-the box thinkers with entrepreneurial spirit—just the kind of employees our companies need.

Surveys from UCI suggest that 80% of graduates would prefer to stay here. Yet, OC retained only 49% of recent STEM grads from 2015-2020, with 51% moving outside of OC for a tech role.

At the same time, OC companies can’t fill skilled tech jobs fast enough. Connecting with them early and helping create clear paths to good local jobs can keep them—and their skills and potential—here in OC.

For us to reach critical mass with our OC talent, we need to reach 20,000 new participants with OCTC mentoring and internship programs. We expect OCTC leadership will create a ripple effect—a tipping point—with other OC employers engaging with an additional 80,000 participants to total 100,000 by 2030.

The Talent Tipping Point

Reaching 20,000 participants will establish OC as a tech-talent hub.

Whether we are competing with other states, regions or countries, OC offers a distinctive and critical set of attributes for businesses and talent:

  • World-class universities, with research and thought leadership in varied disciplines.
  • Influential employers that are global in their structure, reach and ambition.
  • Unmatched lifestyle and environment, including world-class healthcare and other services.
  • Diverse population base further enhancing our ability to generate creative solutions and ideas that are truly representative.
  • Emerging technical leadership and innovation.

OC employers can embrace our unique ecosystem and work together to develop the talent that stays here and thrives here.

We challenge every OC employer to take action.


Engage local high school, community college and four-year university students in on-the-job work experience at your organizations. About 94% of tech jobs in OC require a BA degree which eliminates 60% of the OC working population from consideration.

Ensure your talent pipeline strategies include more skills-based hiring and career pathways for all local talent. Interview more local candidates for tech job openings rather than assuming hiring from outside OC is the default best option. Locate your innovation jobs and R&D in OC.

The OC Talent Collaborative can connect you to programs and resources for your organization.

To learn more, see the March 6 Leader Board, “Developing the Talent Pipeline in OC.” It describes the CLAOC’s flagship program, the Career Exploration Experience, which provides students, high school through university, the opportunity to explore careers, develop new technical skills, gain practical work experience and refine their professional skills.
For more details, visit our website: CLAOC.org.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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