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March 24, 2016

Department of Labor Deputy Secretary Chris Lu visits the East Mesa Reentry Facility

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Deputy Secretary Chris Lu visited San Diego vocational programs and learned about local workforce initiatives March 22–23. He participated in roundtables on veteran and youth employment, and visited the newly opened job center located at East Mesa Reentry Facility.

Peter Callstrom, Chris Lu, Kevin Faulconer

On Tuesday, March 22, Deputy Secretary Lu and City of San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer heard from local organizations and employers who work with or hire veterans at a roundtable at the South Metro Career Center, a location in the America’s Job Center of California (AJCC) network, including Workshops for Warriors, 211 San Diego, Cox Communications, Zero8Hundred and Motivated Military Movers.

To transition successfully to civilian life, veterans often must rely on multiple resources. When individuals leave service, they and their spouses are often overwhelmed by help and not sure how to navigate or connect everything to meet their needs.

Suggestions around the table on improving veteran employment rates included apprenticeships, writing job descriptions that entice veterans, training programs available before leaving service, setting realistic expectations about the job market and providing means for small business to participate in large job fairs.

Chris Lu meets inmates

After the veteran employment roundtable, Deputy Secretary Lu visited the new AJCC location at East Mesa Reentry Facility (EMRF), operated by service provider Second Chance. This location, called Reentry Works San Diego, is funded through DOL’s Linking to Employment Activities Pre-Release (LEAP) grant and is the result of a partnership between SDWP and the San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments.

Joining Deputy Secretary Lu were San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore, representatives from San Diego County Sheriff’s and Probation departments including the staff working with the career center; representatives from Second Chance, including program manager Deb Furlong; SDWP CEO Peter Callstrom and staff; Marlene Taylor, president of Taylor Trim & Supply, and Phil Blair, president of Manpower San Diego, two SDWP board members who are employers who have hired ex-offenders.

The group toured the facilities and heard about the vocational programs at EMRF, including a culinary program and coffee cart that train inmates on employable skills, met with five participants in the vocational programs and the career center, and participated in a roundtable discussion on issues related to reintegrating justice-involved individuals into the workforce.

Reentry Works San Diego will serve 600 inmates and offenders; 500 will be referred to one of the AJCC sites for support, while 100 will receive intensive case management at EMRF prior to release and post-release in the community partnership with the Probation Department. They will be eligible for federally-funded training programs beginning the first day after release from EMRF.

On Wednesday, March 23, Deputy Secretary Lu visited Qualcomm’s Thinkabit Lab and participated in a roundtable on youth employment. Thinkabit Lab hosts groups of students on a daily basis from schools throughout the county, and guides the students on figuring out their “SIVs” — Skills, Interests, Values — and encourages them to explore a wide array of career pathways and the world of work in a fun, project-based learning environment.

Chris Lu visits Qualcomm's Thinkabit Lab

Each participant at the roundtable — including students from High Tech High, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten, and representatives from IRC, Vista Unified School District, Qualcomm, SeaWorld and NASSCO — shared how their first job have shaped their careers, and their thoughts on how to improve career pathways and employment opportunities for young adults.

One youth population of particular concern to DOL is disconnected youth. Nearly 6 million young adults ages 16–24 are not working and not in school in the U.S. An estimated 47,000 of these disconnected young adults live in San Diego County. SDWP’s CONNECT2Careers is one such program that aims to connect young adults to work.

Education of the parent became a focal point of the conversation, particularly in communities where educational achievement (leaving home for school) might be a new concept for the family.

“It was an honor to host Deputy Secretary Lu,” said Callstrom. “All three programs had inspiring conversations where the participants around the table shared their important perspectives and commitment to invest in career programs that will make a difference in the lives of San Diegans that need it most.”

Click here to read Deputy Secretary Lu’s perspective on his visit.

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