Dozens of educators, executives and community leaders from around Southern California came to Cal Poly Pomona on Wednesday to discuss how to better prepare workers for the demands of the 21st century.
The “Navigating the 21st Century Workforce: Access, Innovation & Collaboration” conference was organized by former U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, an alumna who is serving as a scholar-in-residence in the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences before she takes office as a Los Angeles County supervisor this fall.
Solis said she could not imagine a better place to discuss how to create jobs and economic stability, which she called the “challenge of our time.”
“There are so many people who are preoccupied right now with finding their lives, defining what that means and part of that is getting a good education, getting the skill sets, getting the training, and making sure they have opportunities for them and their families,” she said at the start of the conference in the Bronco Student Center.
Jane Oates, vice president for external affairs for the Apollo Education Group Inc. and a former U.S. assistant secretary of employment training administration, urged attendees to communicate and collaborate better with each other.
Together, employers, educators and community organizations need to create a workforce that can compete for jobs with places like Singapore, Seoul, Laos and Vietnam, she said.
Oates praised Starbucks and Arizona State University for creating an innovative new program that helps eligible Starbucks employees obtain a degree from the university online by providing tuition reimbursement.
“Clearly, (it’s) an indication that employers are rising to the occasion. They have before … but I want you to look at this because other employers might be willing to do the same thing,” she said.
Part of collaboration means that employers must communicate more clearly with educators about their hiring practices and desirable skill sets, Oates said.
The conference included panel discussions on manufacturing, training, workforce diversity, and strategies and practices.
The panel members included representatives from Kaiser Permanente, Universal Studios Hollywood, Homeboy Industries, Pomona Unified School District, California Community Colleges, Los Angeles University Preschool, the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps, and the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council.