The California Workforce Association’s Meeting of the Minds focuses on high level discussion of the state and direction of the workforce development system. This year’s conference, which took place September 6–8 in Monterey, California, featured thought leaders from within and outside the workforce system speaking on topics meant to inspire and bring about critical thinking. Three San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) staff and two Workforce Development Board (WDB) leaders attended the meeting to learn and share about current issues.
SDWP CEO Peter Callstrom and WDB Chair Marlene Taylor, President of Taylor Trim and Supply, sat on the opening plenary panel to talk “Critical Conversations for Workforce Boards,” which was the driving theme of the conference. One such conversation, about the growing skills gap, weighs on the minds of the entire workforce development system, but Callstrom says there is another gap we need to bridge as well. “As equally important as closing the skills gap, is closing the awareness gap within the workforce,” said Callstrom. “We must have a unified message for job seekers from youth to gray to share current, local, in-demand jobs.”
As WIOA revitalizes service to job seekers with disabilities, it’s important to deploy strategies that lead to the anticipated outcomes required for this target group. During Breaking Barriers: Redesigning Employment Services for Jobseekers with Disabilities, Andrew Picard, SDWP Director of Adult Programs, joined Elizabeth Twamley, Professor, University of California San Diego; Investigator, Center of Excellence for Stress and Mental Health, VA San Diego Healthcare System, to discuss the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model. The model is a well-researched, customer-first approach in serving individuals with mental illness, which transforms typical service delivery designs to help people get and keep jobs. The session focused on diving deeper into this innovative program design and exploring how Breaking Barriers collaborates with required WIOA partners from TANF, the Department of Rehabilitation and County Behavioral Health Services to better serve their common customers. Core tenants of IPS include rapid job search driven by job-seeker preferences and abilities, placement in competitive jobs and no pre-vocational training. In one study, the competitive employment rate was 61% for supported employment (IPS) compared to 23% for the control group.
In San Diego, there are 53,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 not working and not in school. No single program can connect these opportunity youth and young adults effectively. This sizable challenge requires a system-level response. During a sharing session called Bigger Than Our Individual Programs, Andy Hall, SDWP VP and Chief Program Officer, alongside Taylor and fellow WDB member Omar Passons, VP, Community Development & Policy at Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, discussed how SDWP is rethinking youth outreach and branding, developing a learning community and using a single on-line platform for all youth-serving organizations to use as part of the CONNECT2Careers (C2C) system. Through these efforts C2C hopes to become “air traffic controller” for the region’s opportunity youth.