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July 9, 2015

Over 60 community leaders and residents gathered at the Otay Mesa-Nestor Library on July 8 for a roundtable discussion of how to connect San Diegans to our innovation economy and bring economic opportunity to all neighborhoods. 

The forum, titled New Jobs – The Next Generation of Jobs Programs, was organized by One San Diego and featured four panelists:

The panel was moderated by Ruben Barrales, President and CEO of GROW Elect, former CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and former Deputy Secretary to the President of the United States.

Mayor Faulconer spoke about the Workforce and Economic Advisory Committee, which has been meeting since March to identify and develop programs that can help San Diegans get the training they need to fill the region’s good paying jobs. He pointed to research conducted by SDWP showing which sectors show new good paying jobs still being created.

Speaking on boosting job skills, Avila mentioned not only the need for STEM skills but also the dire need for soft skills for youth seeking jobs. “Real-life experience,” she said, “is needed to close the gap on soft skills,” such as communication and collaboration.

In order to do that, Callstrom calls for investing in young adults and summer jobs, which, along with volunteering and internships, can help close the soft skills gap. Soft skills are highly sought after by employers in San Diego and nationwide, but are not often demonstrated by youth job seekers as mentioned by Avila.

Dr. Abeyta also sees the value of internships. In fact, he would like to see participation in internships as a high school graduation requirement. He believes internships can help young people understand and tolerate differences, and find meaningful experience and engaging work.

In addition to picking up soft skills, Callstrom believes internships and first jobs help youth pick career pathways. “How can kids aspire to what they don’t know exists?” He asked.

Mayor Faulconer cited CONNECT2Careers as a key component connecting youth job seekers to jobs, adding that learning about careers that don’t interest youth is just as important as learning about those that do.

Dr. Abeyta and Callstrom praised “maker labs” for giving people the hands-on experience to understand all available opportunities. Abeyta said, “Kids could say ‘I get how I can apply that.’”

One of the concerns Mayor Faulconer addressed was that too many technology sector jobs are too far north of Interstate 8, with many companies situated in Torrey Pines, for instance, making transportation an issue for San Diegans who reside in communities farther south.

“Torrey Pines is running out of space,” he pointed out. “That’s okay — we have a lot of other space; there is opportunity for growth in Otay Mesa and Barrio Logan.”

“We are one of the best cities in the country, but we are not a great city until every neighborhood is doing great,” said Mayor Faulconer. “As we’re getting back from the recession and growing, my job is to keep it growing even more.”

Middle & bottom photos by Kate Mills

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