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July 6, 2023

Workcon Hero

WORKCON, the workforce practitioner’s conference organized by the California Workforce Association (CWA), is an annual gathering of California’s Workforce Development Boards, community-based organizations, educational entities, Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) partners, and individuals and organizations invested in the success of their local communities. This year’s conference theme was “Clarity Through Action,” emphasizing the need for proactive strategies amid economic uncertainties. Here are five key takeaways from WORKCON 2023. 

We Can Increase the Number of Women in the Construction Industry 

According to a recent report, only 4% of the nearly 7.7 million people in the construction industry are women. However, women in the construction and building trades earn at least a $50,000 annual salary, which is high when compared to other jobs that don’t require a degree. Women reported, among other things, needing training programs to increase support with paid training, childcare and transportation before they would consider entering the trade. We must take wraparound services into consideration when designing training programs to support women in entering fields where they are historically underrepresented. 

Diversity and Inclusion are Key to Developing Innovative Strategies  

Recognizing the diversity and dynamism of workplaces is a vital part of understanding how identity, power and privilege intersect to impact the communities served by workforce development professionals. Workforce leaders must continue to have interactive discussions and activities with their staff to supply them with the knowledge and tools needed to lead meaningful change for their participants, stakeholders and communities.  

We Must Resolve Common Challenges Facing Workforce Development Boards   

Workforce development boards commonly face two significant challenges. First, obtaining employer buy-in for new workforce development initiatives is a big hurdle. Second, there are concerns about recruiting participants, which saw a decline during the pandemic and have not yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels. To address these challenges, we need to improve program accessibility, simplify the enrollment process and employ intentional strategies to reach historically underserved communities that benefit the most from workforce development services. Proposed solutions include offering incentives like subsidized wages and insurance during probationary apprenticeship periods to attract employers and streamline the registration process with support from experienced intermediary partners, such as local workforce development boards.  

Apprenticeships Are a Leading Pathway to Sustainable Careers 

Including apprenticeships is a crucial element in building a workforce system that supports sustainable employment. Intermediaries play an essential role in supporting apprenticeship programs and we must rethink the development of apprenticeship frameworks tailored for the public sector. These frameworks address workforce challenges and foster collaboration between municipalities.  

With support from California Governor Gavin Newsom, who set a goal of reaching 500,000 active apprentices by 2029, apprenticeship programs are seeing careful consideration from both public and private sectors employers. This growing support and the fact that 93% of apprentices who complete an apprenticeship retain employment with an average annual salary of $77,000, is making apprenticeships more attractive to job seekers.  

There are New Solutions to Create Sustainable Employment  

To create sustainable employment opportunities, we must invest in new service models. By enhancing support, resources and employment opportunities for job seekers, organizations can better assist individuals in accessing and benefiting from workforce development programs. Reflecting on existing processes is crucial to identify and address any obstacles that inadvertently hinder job seekers’ progress. 

By taking these concepts into account, we can pave the way for sustainable employment and make a positive impact in our community. 

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