Press Release

Senator Padilla’s Legislation to Revolutionize California’s Approach to Workforce Development Programs Passes Senate Floor

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Bill 534, Senator Steve Padilla’s (D-San Diego) legislation intended to reimagine California’s approach to workforce development programs, centering support on inland and rural communities across the state, was passed by the California State Senate.


There is a growing divide between rural poor and wealthy coastal communities in the state. Rural inland communities tend to have higher unemployment rates, lower levels of education completed, and families struggling to put food on the table. California’s Future of Work Commission stresses the need to address the gap between the state’s dual economies - “A growing divide in economic advancement between coastal and inland counties, and between rural and urban communities, leads to inequality in income and employment between geographic regions in California. Just five large California counties make up more than two-thirds of California’s economy in terms of economic output and employment.”


“California cannot continue to selectively invest in some communities, while leaving others behind,” said Senator Padilla. “We need give these development programs the depth of thought that our most vulnerable deserve. The future of California depends on everyone benefiting from this state’s prosperity, not just a privileged few.”


Inspired by the G.I. Bill, SB 534 would establish the Equitable Access to Job Opportunity Pilot Program to provide individuals without postsecondary education degrees from rural or low-income communities with financial aid for workforce development training and education with the goal of helping them gain employment in key industries. The Program would be administered by the Workforce Development Board and the Office of Planning and Research and would require them to identify key industries based on goals set by the state and develop partnerships, pathways, and opportunities to foster their growth in rural and low-income communities. The bill would require the Workforce Development Board and the Office of Planning and Research to work with local stakeholders to secure job opportunities and build pathways and partnerships.


SB 534 represents the first steps in a long overdue conversation about the underinvestment in rural and low-income communities, the need to identify emerging industries within these communities, and the need to build a workforce that supports both local economic development and helps the state meet our ambitious goals. Through this process, we can ensure that California’s innovation and economic position as the fourth largest global economy is felt throughout the state.


The bill passed the Senate on a 31 to 6 vote. It now heads to the Assembly.




Steve Padilla represents the 18th Senate District, which includes the communities of Chula Vista, the Coachella Valley, Imperial Beach, the Imperial Valley, National City, and San Diego. Prior to his election to the Senate in 2022, Senator Padilla was the first person of color ever elected to city office in Chula Vista, the first Latino Mayor, and the first openly LGBT person to serve or be elected to city office. Website of Senator Steve Padilla: