Local educators and industry leaders in Humboldt County have teamed up to boost area businesses and give local youth a better shot at living-wage jobs.

The Humboldt County Office of Education has created a coordinating council to align business, workforce and economic development with education and training to strengthen the county's economy.

”In essence, it will make education as relevant to student and community needs as possible,” Humboldt County Office of Education Superintendent Garry Eagles said. “Ultimately, this is a structure that will bring these networks together in a way that if well-coordinated, will lead to a more vibrant economy.”

County high school districts, College of the Redwoods, Humboldt State University, the Headwaters Fund Board, the Humboldt County Workforce Investment Board and industry representatives will all participate.

Eureka City Schools Superintendent Fred Van Vleck said he thinks the council is fantastic.

”I think in Humboldt County we need to take a proactive approach with helping our students get in some sort of field where they can make a living wage,” Van Vleck said. “We need to bring in the next factor of the equation, and that's some of those leaders in industry right now.”

Jeff Nelson, the CEO of SHN Engineers and Geologists, and the chairman of the workforce investment board, said he thinks this is a worthy goal and that this has a very good chance of working.

”We hear two things repeatedly in this county: One is there are no jobs, and secondly, from the business community, we don't have a qualified workforce. We can't find good people to hire,” Nelson said. “Those two things seem to be very contradictory. So, I think an effort like this to really try to prepare and educate a workforce for the opportunities that do exist here can be a very positive thing.”

Participants will work to promote career exploration, work experiences and internships for students; identify business, industry, education and training needs; and assist in integrating entrepreneurship education, according to a county office of education handout.

The idea for the council stemmed from a change in California's new funding formula, which gives districts more flexibility in what they offer students, Eagles said. There also was a major push at the state and federal levels to ensure a closer working relationship between high school career education courses and business and industry.

Classes such as auto mechanics and aquaculture may still be taught, but the emphasis may change. More community college classes might be taught in high schools, or more apprenticeship programs may be offered. And business and industry representatives may help design the programs, said Jon Sapper, the county office of education assistant superintendent.

”We really look at the future as being bright with significant opportunity if we take advantage of working together aligning education and training resources with the needs of local business and industries and economic development and workforce issues,” Sapper said.

The council will be launched in January.

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.