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April 29, 2015

Over 100 community leaders and residents gathered at Barrio Station on April 28 for an in-depth conversation about how to connect San Diegans to our innovation economy and bring economic opportunity to all of our neighborhoods.

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

  • Kevin Faulconer, Mayor, City of San Diego
  • Peter Callstrom, President and CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership
  • Mary Walshok, Associate Vice Chancellor, Public Programs, UC San Diego
  • Paola Avila, Vice President, International Business Affairs, SD Regional Chamber of Commerce

As the mayor gave his opening remarks, volunteers hurriedly set out extra chairs to accommodate the large crowd who gathered in Barrio Logan to talk about job opportunities for San Diegans. Mayor Kevin Faulconer spoke to the overarching theme to be discussed that night—San Diego employers need people, so how do we get people the training to fill these jobs?

Internships, deemed one of the most important and most often neglected pieces of connecting people to a career, were the most talked about solution to creating a job-ready workforce. Walshok commented on the need to align educators with employers so that education and experience meet the needs of both parties and prepare students to go into a career. She then explained that to achieve this we need willingness from employers as much as we need support from educators. Avila suggested internships be a requirement for any education or training program and the panel agreed—earn-and-learn programs like internships and apprenticeship are the best at closing the skills gap and remedying the need-experience-to-hire yet no-experience-without-hiring conundrum many job seekers struggle with.

Callstrom noted one great example of the private sector investing in the region’s workforce. “Diego and Son Printing, which happens to call Barrio Logan home, has been providing students with jobs for years,” he said. “We need more examples like that. Small business is a big part of the answer.” And the other panelists agreed—with small businesses accounting for 80% of all businesses in the region and the majority of its jobs, there is an opportunity to make a great impact by partnering with these organizations. 

As many audience members asked about opportunities for those without a four-year degree, the discussion seemed to reach a consensus—a key to creating opportunity for all is creating training programs in and educating job seekers about the growing industries in San Diego priority sectors such as advanced manufacturing and biotech where many good paying jobs are available without a bachelor’s degree.

It’s an exciting time for the region; one when job seekers are finding more and more opportunities to take hold of their careers and find meaningful employment with employers who are ready to hire. The individual, alongside government, education, industry and workforce development, play a vital role in bridging the skills gap to create a qualified workforce ready to meet these needs.

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