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September 9, 2014

Earlier this month, the California Workforce Association (CWA) annual Meeting of the Minds conference brought together workforce professionals from the Department of Labor’s Region 6 (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Arizona and Nevada) along with professionals from other states across the nation. The theme of the conference was “From Here to There,” celebrating the passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the opportunities it presents to the workforce development system. San Diego Workforce Partnership staff represented San Diego.

This year’s conference featured workshop sessions in four major areas: 

  1. New Federal Workforce Legislation—information sessions on how elected officials, Workforce Investment Board members and staff can be prepared for implementing changes from WIOA.
  2. Implementing State Level Policies and Initiatives—discussion sessions highlighting regional collaborations that effectively respond to state-level legislative and policy initiatives.
  3. Prototypes, Innovations, Human Centered Designs & Other Best Practices—training sessions featuring successful innovations and solid, evidence-based programs happening in Region 6.
  4. Strategic Insights, Performance and Accountability—sessions focusing on what drives high performance and how to build even greater accountability into workforce systems.

Held in Monterey, the conference was opened by keynote speaker Joe Brown, a project leader and business designer at IDEO, a global design firm in Palo Alto. Brown is playing a lead role in assisting the state of Oregon on the design of its Work Source Centers (known as America’s Job Centers in California). Brown encouraged attendees to use “Design Thinking” as they move forward in the implementation of WIOA. Specifically, Brown encourages wild ideas, deferring judgment and having a “yes and” mentality when brainstorming ideas versus a “yes but” or a “yes or” mentality. He explained that with a “yes and” mentality, tons of ideas can be considered and later narrowed down, which creates energy and leads to creative solutions.

Because WIOA puts the nation’s business community at the center of its service delivery system, a large focus of the conference was on job-driven training and services. There were multiple breakout sessions highlighting industry-sector initiatives and employer perspectives. A few of the best examples:

  • Code Oregon set an audacious goal to train 10,000 individuals for software coding jobs in Portland and its surrounding areas.
  • Team Chico consists of multiple organizations that work together to resolve the needs of their business community, which includes the attraction of new businesses to Chico, Calif.
  • Sector Strategies in Arizona features local areas developing two to seven sector partnerships focused on the industries and needs of their regions.
  • Phil Blair, CEO of Manpower San Diego, was among a panel of C-Level business executives who spoke frankly about their views of our workforce system and what employers need from us.

Ron Painter, executive director of the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB), along with Reg Javier and Tom Kavanagh from Public Consulting Group (PCG) introduced an informative publication on WIOA sub-titled “Driving Innovation, Collaboration, and Performance.” The presenters encouraged local areas to begin convening regional partners to prepare for the creation of the Local Unified Strategic Plan.

Additionally, attendees heard from Patrick Henning Jr., director of the Employment Development Department; Portia Wu, assistant secretary of the Department of Labor; and Scott Cheney, senior advisor for the Senate Budget Committee on their perspective of WIOA. Their message was that WIOA was built to provide more room for creative solutions—it’s OK not to know all the answers right now and it’s OK to try something new. They encouraged the regions to collaborate per the spirit of the legislation moving forward. 

For more information about CWA Meeting of the Minds, visit

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