5 things we learned at CWA’s Workcon 2018

May 7, 2018

CWA big room

Workcon, sponsored by the California Workforce Association, is a unique gathering of workforce, education, economic development and government professionals and other key partners helping to provide a trained, skilled workforce to California’s diverse regional economies.

The 2018 conference, which took place in San Diego May 2–4, highlighted the most powerful and innovative collaborations and partnerships that provide the keys to unlocking prosperity for both workers and communities. Though roles and expertise vary, all involved share this common purpose. With many San DIego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) staff in attendance, here are some things we learned:

CWA groupTeamwork makes for better problem-solving

I particularly enjoyed a session on systems thinking, and in particular, what it taught me regarding problem-solving. The video that stuck with me was a TED Talk by Tom Wujec called Got a wicked problem? First, tell me how you make toast. It touches on visual road mapping to solve problems. I learned that the more people are involved in solving a problem, the more diversity and details make it into the map, showing how effective teamwork can be.

—Jennifer Lehner, Program Specialist

The field of data science is exploding

As I prepared for my session with Biocom, LiveGoode and the San Diego Regional EDC about the exploding job sector of data science and the use of competitions (such as hackathons) as a workforce development tool, I was shocked by how quickly this field has mushroomed in San Diego and around the state, with over 70,000 job openings related to data around the state recently, a comparable number to the job openings related to software. San Diego is the second biggest node for data science in California after the Bay Area, with Los Angeles lagging far behind.

The student data science hackathon that SDWP helped Biocom to put on last fall was a great way to inspire future data scientists, but it also got them ready for the world of work, since employers in the data science field increasingly use contests (“technical interviews”) in the hiring process.

—Laura Kohn, CLIMB Director

It’s our role to help change the hearts and minds of employers

A major theme in successful partnerships highlighted at breakout sessions was that we’re really in the business of changing the hearts and minds of employers. Because so often we’re told, “If you can train them, then we’ll take them,” but in order to lift people and families out of poverty we need to work with businesses to develop partnerships where they’re thinking of sustainability and career pathways/professional development for our participants as well as capacity building within their organizations.

—Alex Motter, Data Analyst

We need to ask ourselves, “Are we a great partner?” 

This starts individually and extends to SDWP overall—we need to find our “partnering style” and take into consideration best practices. To do that, it is necessary to:

  • Be a strong listener, remain open-minded and have a lot of respect for opposing views
  • Propose new things with the right degree of balance between visionary and realistic
  • Know tactful ways to talk about the “elephants” in the partnership room
  • Know how to appropriately use humor to move things forward (be an incredible facilitator)
  • Identify people who are better at certain aspects of being in partnerships than they are and create a partnership skill building agenda. Work hard and consistently on being a better partner.

Being a partner is not only about the other party(ies). We need to remind ourselves that to establish our organization as a leader means we need to bring equity, commitment and vision to the table.

—Myriam Sanchez, Business Programs Specialist

Labor market information makes better workforce development professionals

Gathering data has been one of the true benefits of this conference. I love the numbers! I learned so much, including information from Jobs for the Future and Center for Employment Solutions.

They tracked which industries and sectors were best for upward mobility, including promotions and pay increases over five years from placement. Because of this data, they are now steering people away from industries like housekeeping or janitorial due to little room for advancement and instead focusing on entry level positions such as manufacturing and customer service where opportunities are aligned and after five years they made much more and moved on to other occupations that were related.

—Amy Vance, Program Specialist

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