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July 21, 2017

When does workforce development begin? In your first job? When you pick your major in college?

The answer, if you look at most of the federal funding for workforce development, is that workforce development begins when you are a young adult who is struggling to find employment. Yet we know both intuitively and from social science research that human development relevant to employment begins well before then. Lifetime earnings can be predicted by early childhood and early elementary experiences, and especially by attendance in high quality child care and preschools and elementary schools.

Several local school districts and their early learning partners recognize this value of investing early in the development of human potential. The San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) is working closely with one such district, Vista Unified, to help school staff and district leaders raise the quality of early grades and build up early childhood options for families in the community. Vista Unified calls this work the P-3 Continuum, which is one of three strategic priorities for the district over the next year, along with personal learning and connecting students to the world of work—another area of collaboration between SDWP and the district.

The work with Vista Unified is one of the initial projects of the Center for Local Income Mobility (CLIMB), SDWP’s new early workforce development initiative, led by Laura Kohn. Kohn is applying her background in early childhood and K–12 education to move SDWP “upstream” from its traditional focus on youth and adults. “We know we need to start early and start strong to give everyone the best possible chance to thrive in school and in the workforce,” says Kohn. “This work has been happening in small, important steps in this direction in the past, but we’re looking to take it to the next level.”

All hands are on deck to put more Vista children on track to thrive in school and in the workforce, including several additional partners who are key to Vista Unified’s P-3 strategy, including United Way’s Vista Partnership for Children, UCSD’s Department of Education StudiesEducational Enrichment Systems, Children’s Paradise, Vista Community Clinic and the San Diego County Office of Education.

To get involved with CLIMB, contact CLIMB Director Laura Kohn at


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