Even in an era of unprecedented job growth and record-low unemployment, people of color and workers who come from low-income backgrounds continue to see fewer job opportunities, lower pay and greater job instability. How can society — from our schools to financial institutions to companies — remove barriers to decent-paying jobs for these workers?

This critical topic was the focus of a recent panel at the Milken Global Conference, a major forum for business, finance, education and media leaders held at the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. UCLA Chancellor Gene Block joined executives from Google, the Amgen Foundation, Jobs For the Future and talent network OneTen to discuss potential solutions to the problem.

One major portion of the discussion centered on the role that corporate training and credentialing programs can play in helping secure jobs — and whether that kind of technical education could supplant a college degree.

“[UCLA’s] role is to be a residential, four-year institution for undergraduates,” Block said. “We do believe that college education, where possible, is helpful to students. It’s broader than technical training and it gives them the flexibility they may need as they change jobs.

“But I also recognize and applaud efforts in other types of education and training. Credentialing really is part of our future and it has to be taken seriously,” Block said, noting that UCLA offers many credentialing programs through UCLA Extension and is in talks with Google about partnering on new educational offerings.

Block also discussed the problems of unconscious bias in hiring, the need for support at the K-12 level to improve student outcomes, and whether California could benefit from another institutional tier in the state’s master plan for higher education.

Underrepresented and Underestimated: Diversifying the Corporate Pipeline from Milken Institute on Vimeo.