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California State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Inspires at Inland Empire Education and Workforce Summit

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Resilience and Readiness: Navigating Post-Pandemic Challenges at the Inland Empire Education and Workforce Summit

In an effort to address the lingering impacts of the pandemic on education and workforce readiness, the fourth annual Inland Empire Education and Workforce Summit took place at the Ontario Airport Hotel and Conference Center on April 24. This year’s event, organized by Think Together in collaboration with the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, saw a packed house of educators, business leaders, and elected officials.

The summit kicked off with an insightful presentation by Dr. Alex McDonald from Kaiser Permanente, shedding light on the intersection of healthcare, education, and workforce development. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, the summit underscored the importance of initiatives that enhance overall community well-being while supporting academic success.

Randy Barth, Founder and CEO of Think Together, set an inspiring tone by introducing Jusbith Aguayo, a student speaker from Eisenhower High School, who shared her personal journey and highlighted the significant impact of educational support programs on students’ lives. Aguayo’s testimony emphasized the transformative power of education and community collaboration in overcoming barriers to success, especially in the face of unprecedented challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Following Aguayo’s heartfelt speech, Barth led an expert panel comprising leaders from education, workforce development, and healthcare sectors. Dr. Angelo Farooq, Dr. Carol Tsushima, Dr. Scott Price, Dr. Douglas Mack, and Connie Leyva engaged in discussions centered on preparing students for success in the workforce amidst the ongoing challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.

A highlight of the summit was the keynote address delivered by California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond. Thurmond emphasized the critical importance of equitable access to quality education and stressed the necessity for sustained collaboration among educators, policymakers, and community stakeholders. His address resonated deeply with attendees, underscoring the collective commitment to ensuring the success and prosperity of students across the Inland Empire.

Thurmond capped off the event, commending the efforts to bridge the gap between school-day learning and future success through afterschool programs that expose students to career-ready experiences. He emphasized the importance of investments in apprenticeship programs, paid internships, and workforce readiness initiatives to ensure students are equipped with the skills needed to thrive in the real world.

For more information about Think Together and their impactful programs, visit www.thinktogether.org. Additionally, to learn more about the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce and its efforts to support commerce and economic growth, visit www.iechamber.org.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Education

Unlocking Potential: Fostering Inclusion and Innovation through Entrepreneurial Education at REAL Journey Academies

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The REAL Journey Academies Entrepreneur High School Model / Inclusive Education Programming

Inclusive education is a fundamental right for all students.  REAL Journey Academies was founded on this principal. The unique high school programs of Entrepreneur High Schools in Fontana and San Bernardino integrate entrepreneurship and career & technical education (CTE) to offer a unique opportunity to unlock the potential of students and prepare them for success in the constantly evolving century workforce. By providing tailored support, fostering self-confidence, and nurturing entrepreneurial skills, our unique high school program empowers students with IEPs and hidden talents to thrive academically, professionally, and personally.

This white paper explores the values of  our entrepreneurship focused high school program for students with IEPs and hidden talents, highlighting the program’s potential to promote inclusion, boost self-esteem and cultivate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.  The value proposition of our programming, in relationship to inclusive education, include:

  1. Promoting Inclusion:
    • Our entrepreneurship focused program focuses on full inclusion by providing students with diverse learning needs, including those with IEPs and hidden talents, with opportunities to actively participate in hands-on, experiential learning experiences.
    • By embracing diversity and fostering a sense of belonging, the entrepreneurship focused program of REAL Journey Academies empowers all students to realize their full potential and become active members of their communities.
  2. Boosting Self-Esteem:
    • Entrepreneurship focused programming at its core boost self-esteem and confidence by recognizing and celebrating students’ individual strengths, interests, and talents.
    • Through project-based learning and real-world experiences, students in an Entrepreneur High School have the opportunity to showcase their skills, gain recognition for their achievements, and build a positive sense of self-worth.
    • Our program is designed to give students the support and encouragement they need to overcome challenges, set ambitious goals, and pursue pathways to success that align with their unique abilities and aspirations.
  3. Cultivating a Culture of Innovation:
    • Our entrepreneurship focused program cultivates a culture of innovation by encouraging students to think creatively, problem-solve collaboratively, and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
    • By providing students with the tools, resources, and mentorship they need to explore their passions and develop their talents, the unique Entrepreneur High School Program is designed to inspire a lifelong love of learning and skills associated entrepreneurship.
    • Through extensive work-based learning experiences and real-world projects, Entrepreneur High School students have the opportunity to unleash their creativity, tap into their potential, and make meaningful contributions to society.

The REAL Journey Academies’ entrepreneurship focused high school program has immense value for all students, including those with IEPs and hidden talents. By promoting inclusion, boosting self-esteem, and cultivating a culture of innovation, at its foundation our program is designed to empower students to overcome barriers, fulfill their potential, and pursue their dreams. As we strive to build a more equitable and inclusive society, investing in developing entrepreneurial skills in students with diverse learning needs is not only a moral imperative but also a strategic investment in our collective future

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Business

IE Chamber and AmCham Peru Forge Strategic Partnership for Business and Youth Development

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Building Global Bridges: IERCC and AmCham Peru Unite for Cross-Continental Business Growth and Youth Empowerment

On December 12, 2023, a landmark event unfolded as the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce (IERCC) took a significant step in expanding its international influence by forging a strategic partnership with The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Peru. In a meeting that symbolized the dawn of a new era in cross-continental collaboration, Eddy Sumar, MBA, CCE, CICE, an esteemed member and Chair of Education and Youth Skills Development at IERCC, presented Mr. Aldo R. Defilippi, the Executive Director of AmCham Peru, with the Certificate of Honorary Global Member.

This partnership marks IERCC’s foray into the Latin American continent, signifying a major stride in its mission to build collaborative networks that facilitate market entry and growth for US and Peruvian companies. IERCC President and CEO Edward Ornelas, Jr. commented on this milestone, stating, “This partnership with AmCham Peru is a significant achievement for IERCC. It represents our dedication to fostering international business relations and our commitment to the growth of businesses in both regions. We are excited to embark on this journey, offering our members unprecedented access to new markets and opportunities.”

The collaboration between IERCC and AmCham Peru is set to open new avenues for businesses in both regions. It will enable members of AmCham Peru to tap into the vast resources and connections that IERCC offers, thereby facilitating smoother market entry and business expansion.

A key focus of the partnership is the development of youth and education programs. During the meeting, Mr. Aldo R. Defilippi was introduced to various initiatives led by IERCC aimed at empowering young entrepreneurs and business leaders of tomorrow. Further emphasizing this commitment, Mr. Defilippi received a copy of “The Hidden Dreams,” authored by Eddy Sumar, which explores the importance of identifying and pursuing the aspirations of young individuals.

Mr. Ornelas, Jr. further elaborated on the significance of this aspect, stating, “Our focus on youth and education is a testament to our belief that the future of business lies in the hands of the next generation. By aligning with AmCham Peru, we are not just expanding our business network, but also cultivating a fertile ground for young minds to grow, innovate, and lead.”

IERCC’s partnership with AmCham Peru is a forward-thinking move, indicative of its commitment to nurturing a global business community that supports both immediate business interests and long-term developmental goals. This collaboration is set to be a beacon of innovation, growth, and shared success, benefiting businesses and young leaders in both the United States and Peru.

As the Inland Empire business community looks on, the IERCC and AmCham Peru collaboration promises to usher in a new era of international business cooperation, bridging continents and cultures for mutual prosperity.

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Business

Beacon Economics Sets the Record Straight on the UCR Business Center Controversy

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Beacon Economics Sets the Record Straight on the UCR Business Center Controversy

By Ken Alan, Forensic Business Journalist

A series of articles reported by the Los Angeles Times in February and April stated some University of California faculty members were “Raising the alarm about a research center affiliated with UC Riverside that they say uses corporate funding for reports ‘attacking proposals to improve the lives of working Californians.’”

The articles cite an “Open letter to the UC Regents seeking investigation of UC Riverside — Beacon Economics relationship,” signed by 56 faculty members at UC Riverside, Berkeley and Davis, along with 44 graduate students. Most signatories appear to be humanities studies faculty with credentials in media studies, music, history and political science. The Times failed to question why faculty with more relevant credentials in business, economics and research appear to have only three signatures. 

The story states the letter to UC Regents was circulated by UCR Professor of Media & Cultural Studies Dylan Rodriguez, whose biography can be found here: profiles.ucr.edu/app/home/profile/dylanr.

No questions were raised about how the signatures were gathered at three participating schools and why closer Southern California campuses, such as UCLA or UC Irvine, weren’t included.

None of the articles explain why this petition was sent directly to UC Regents without first going through proper channels at UCR. “If there was some true complaint about the quality of our research, there is a system within UC Riverside to deal with that,” said Dr. Christopher Thornberg, principal at Beacon Economics. “There is an administrative office that handles complaints. And if they really thought that our research was substandard, they could and should have gone through that particular office. They didn’t. They went on this petition campaign. Most of the conversation is about how our answers are morally incorrect. And that’s a really slippery slope.”

The letter to UC Regents and ensuing negative press resulted in the UCR School of Business and Beacon Economics severing their partnership after seven years. “Obviously, the relationship between UC Riverside and Beacon was mutually beneficial. The school got a lot out of it,” said Thornberg. “UC Riverside is a fantastic institution. It is a reflection of what UC was built to be. Technically speaking, the center belongs to the school. It would be hard for me to see them continuing it. One of the biggest problems with these kind of centers is you have to have a motivated leader.”

Most of the controversy seems to stem from an August 2022 Beacon-UCR Research Report entitled “How Increases in Worker Compensation Could Affect Limited-Service Restaurant Prices.” In their letter to UCR Regents, the petitioners stated, “Beacon asserts that legislation allowing fast-food workers a say in setting their pay would mean fast-food price hikes of up to 20 percent or more. Fast-food companies are spending tens of millions of dollars to promote the findings of this report — which they funded. They are trying to convince voters that empowering fast-food workers — most of them women and most of them Latino, Black, or Asian — means a 20 percent ‘food tax.’”

“I’ve always been comfortable working with both sides as long as they’re comfortable with the fact that I’m going to give them the best answer I can on the basis of theory and data, not on the basis of some opinion of what’s morally correct,” said Thornberg. “For a very long time, we have dodged the culture wars. Not this time.”

The report clearly discloses that “This research was supported by the International Franchise Association.” Beacon Economics has prepared studies for both corporations and unions in the past. “We’re never going to sell answers. We’re never going to cozy up to one side or the other. Anybody who engages us in a contract will have to accept the results we come up with. It’s as simple as that. That is a rule we have gone by. I’ve had the opportunity of working, yes, with unions and with business organizations, with chambers and the United Way.”

Most of the conclusions presented in the report can be deduced by common sense, such as this summary statement: “If worker wages in the limited-service restaurant industry are raised, there is little doubt that workers who keep their jobs will be better off. But the change is not costless. Any increase in worker compensation will bring about an increase in prices for consumers, which could hurt lower income households who are already struggling with current inflation in food prices. It will also cause the industry to shrink, with fewer establishments and jobs.” 

The report goes on to conclude, “Compensation increases in the 20% to 60% range will cause prices … to increase between 7% and 22%.” The petitioners argue other studies show “about a half percentage point menu price increase for every 10 percent rise in the minimum wage.” Whatever the real number, minimum wage hikes usually mean higher menu prices and fewer employee hours, according to Harri, a workplace management software company that works with more than 4,000 restaurants. Anyone who has visited a big box department store or fast food restaurant recently knows that self-serve kiosks are already displacing human workers to reduce labor costs.

This entire episode truly saddens us. In a university environment, academic freedom and debate should be a cherished and protected norm, as should well-conducted empirical research, even if the conclusions of that research conflict with certain ideologies,” wrote Thornberg in an email to clients and business associates. “The ending of this partnership and the excellent work CEFD has done over the past decade for the community is not a win for the University, Beacon Economics or the Inland Empire region as a whole.”

The LA Times story also failed to fact check the letter’s claim that “Thornberg’s name doesn’t appear in school faculty or other directories.” Christopher Thornberg’s listing can be readily found in the UCR Profiles directory under “Affiliate – Research Associate” at profiles.ucr.edu/app/home/search;name=thornberg;org=;title=;phone=;affiliation=Affiliate

“When [UCR] first invited me to do the center, they asked me to come on campus and be a full-time faculty member and run the center. I was what they call an ‘unpaid faculty member.’ So I was basically nominated and approved by the business school to get a faculty position as an adjunct professor. But I wasn’t paid,” said Thornberg.

Beacon Economics will continue to operate in the Inland Empire without the affiliation of UC Riverside. “We’ll probably look for another partner at some point,” said Thornberg. “I’ve got nothing but support from our clients. All of our work that was being run through the university has been converted over to Beacon work. The only thing that’s really changing in terms of our efforts in the Inland Empire is the logo on the top of the page.”

Dr. Christopher Thornberg will be presenting on May 19th for the San Bernardino Council of Governments in Lake Arrowhead.

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