Cal Poly Pomona’s most recent Future of Work, Human and Civic Engagement panel discussion, held Tuesday, April 13, featured industry leaders from banking, hospitality, agriculture and aerospace who offered insights to students on valuable skills they can bring to the table when looking for employment.
Guest speakers included Cameron Boswell, Vice President of Administration for J.G. Boswell Company; Rockette Richardson Ewell, Vice President, Community Affairs Manager, Southern California for U.S. Bank; Mike Perez, Vice President of Quality at Lockheed Martin Space; and Victor Simmons, (’89, Hotel, Restaurant and Travel Management) Vice President of Human Resources and Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Ace Hotels. Lucy Yu, a senior in the Collins College of Hospitality Management and also Cal Poly’s student body president, served as panel moderator.
Panelists shared insights on how the pandemic expedited the transition of customers toward using digital services and how remote work is possible for almost any industry.
“With the pandemic, many physical locations were temporarily closed and a lot of employees, including myself, worked from home,” Ewell said. “Suddenly, digital access became the safest, most convenient option and it turned into a preference for some. The pandemic really accelerated the use of digital tools, and it helped the average person become much more comfortable with the idea.”
Cal Poly Pomona’s Future of Work and Human and Civic Engagement seeks to underscore the need for students to have the technical and non-technical skills necessary for them to thrive in dynamic work environments and to be prepared for change and challenges. The initiative also encourages students to integrate civic and community engagement into their profession and to also consider if company values align with their own. The university’s Polytechnic Advantage unites these skills through eight key elements, including learn by doing, collaboration, and the integration of technology.
Simmons emphasized that students still need essential skills — such as emotional intelligence, verbal and written communication skills, the ability to develop relationships and collaborate, and being an inclusive leader — to help them “bridge the gap between virtual and live.”
“I use an inclusive lens in almost everything we do in our organization, and I would encourage students to pick up on that as well,” Simmons said. “All of these different complexities of identities – you have to be able to learn to maneuver through, have empathy and to be able to lead all of those different identities through what is still a lot of work to be done and a lot of things to overcome and achieve.”
President Soraya Coley was appointed to the Future of Work commission by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019. As part of a 21-member team, she has made recommendations about harnessing technology, innovation and lifelong learning to promote better jobs, wages and working conditions, and to ensure that prosperity remains within reach throughout society.
“Understanding and creating the future of work, along with the human and civic ramifications, represents both a core challenge and opportunity for industry and higher education,” Coley said during the panel discussion. “We know that disruption is the new normal and now the pandemic has introduced a double dose of disruption to how and where we work. Our colleges and universities must adapt and innovate immediately if we are to adequately prepare our students for the jobs of the future.”
If you are a Cal Poly Pomona alumni who would like to connect with other Bronco alumni and students, please join the Bronco Mentoring Network to offer your mentorship and experience and to connect through networks and communities.