Agencies Want More Black Labor to Access Jobs, Training
By Aldon Thomas Stiles
This past Friday, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency joined forces with both Riverside and San Bernardino County at the first annual Inland Empire Workforce Development Summit.
“I can assure you… that the Inland Empire is a very serious priority for Secretary Palugyai and Gov. Gavin Newsom,” said Dr. Angelo Farooq, Chairman of the California Workforce Development Board.
According to Jamil Dada, Vice Chair of the Riverside County Workforce Development Board, Riverside County has the 3rd fastest growing gross domestic product (GDP) in the state.
To help continue this trend, Secretary Natalie Palugyai of the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency asserted that regional self-determination is the state’s main strategy for supporting workforce development efforts in both Inland Empire counties.
“My vision for your region is irrelevant. This is your vision,” Palugyai said of the Inland Empire. “This region is going to lead the way for California.”
Inland Empire-centered regional programs, such as apprenticeships through local initiatives, were among some of the solutions the summit’s panel discussed.
“It’s about the job quality, it’s about the worker’s voice, having labor here at the table, and it’s a matter of environmental sustainability and equity,” said Farooq.
Representatives of the state’s workforce development agencies emphasized the state support available to the Inland Empire.
“This is also being reflected in the investments being made,” said Farooq.
One such investment is the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF), as it puts forth $600 million in statewide funds for California’s regional communities to determine how to distribute.
Representatives of the state asserted that these organizations were integral to the Inland Empire’s progress in the labor and workforce development space.
The summit’s panel included representatives from Inland Empire workforce development and labor, community leaders, educational representatives and more.
These participants spoke about some of the challenges facing the IE’s employment push including equity, community outreach, “predatory” businesses, and adequate aid.
Jackie Melendez, executive director of Inland Economic Growth and Opportunity (IEGO), argued that the local representatives and sponsors present have had difficulty accessing resources because “nothing is given to the Inland Empire.”
Education representatives from the two counties came together to discuss education’s role in workforce development.
Dr. Wolde-Ab Isaac and Jose Torres, representatives of both counties’ community college districts, claimed that because of the IE’s aging population, education is an important tool for building the future of employment.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, counties saw more collaboration on these issues than they had seen before.
Tim Rainey, executive director of the California Workforce Development Board, called both the San Bernardino and Riverside County workforce development agencies the “gold standard” of county collaboration.
“One of the things that I think that we, at least in Riverside County and I’m pretty sure we see in San Bernardino County as well, is that during the last two and a half years… a lot of silos were broken down,” said Patrick Ellis, Chairman of the Riverside County Workforce Development Board. “A lot of people who normally didn’t talk to each other had to talk to each other because we were all in this together.”
Ellis said that now that things are returning to the pre-pandemic status quo, collaboration between counties can and should continue as they have been in this unprecedented crisis.
Phillip Cothran, Chairman of the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board, agreed with this sentiment.
“We meet on a quarterly basis together and that has been tremendously helpful in these last couple of years,” said Cothran.
Cothran spoke about “knocking down the walls” between the two counties, in the labor space, in order to highlight apprenticeship programs and other services in both counties.