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Inland Empire Education and Workforce Summit Connects the Dots Between the Classroom and Careers

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The Inland Empire Connection: Merging Academic Paths and Career Journeys

Exclusive Report by Ken Alan, IEBJ freelance writer

A generation ago, parents and school counselors tended to defer talking to students about going to college until the last two years of high school. Today, kindergartners are likely to see their classroom dressed up with college pendants and banners that proclaim “we will go to college.” The line that once separated the classroom from careers has faded as schools now actively seek mentorships, internships and apprenticeships for their students and high schoolers are getting a head-start on earning college credits through concurrent enrollment at a junior college. These were just a few of the insights that highlighted the Third Annual Inland Empire Education and Workforce Summit in Riverside.

“Connecting business with education,” was the overarching goal of sponsoring the summit, said Cathy Paredes, Senior Vice President, Inland Empire Marketing Executive for Bank of America, which employs about 2,000 in the region. Since 2018, the company has sponsored a student leaders program, offering paid internships and work experience for various non-profits. About 100 applications were received last year for four internship opportunities. Next year’s program will start accepting applications in October. (More information can be found at bit.ly/3LtRN5p).

While promoting a college education remains their main focus, schools are adapting to the new reality of some students opting for careers that don’t require a degree. Riverside high schools offer 58 career pathways, referred to as CTE (Career Technical Education), where about 85% lead to immediate employment in good-paying jobs, according to Dr. Edward Gomez, Riverside County Superintendent of Schools, County Office of Education. CTE careers include graphic design, residential and commercial construction, financial services, medical assisting, pharmacy clerk, culinary management, cyber security, welding, emergency medical technician and many more. (Download the entire catalog at bit.ly/3JKZa7e).

Students choosing to enroll in college declined from a peak of 70 percent in 2016 to 63 percent by 2020. A study produced by the Hechinger Report attributed the trend to a dip in the population of college-age students, growing skepticism about the value of a college degree, and the cost of higher education now exceeding what many families can afford to pay. Meanwhile, traditionally low-wage fields have been offering starting pay well above the minimum wage.

“We need to focus on more than just college,” said former State Senator Connie Leyva in her keynote address. “There are lots of jobs that pay good wages that don’t need a college degree.” Leyva served on California’s Senate Education Committee for 8 years, 4 of those as chair. Last October she took the helm of San Bernardino public broadcasting stations KVCR TV and KVCR FM. 

During the press briefing that preceded the summit, Leyva outlined several initiatives to produce original educational programming: “KVCR is working with the (San Bernardino) County schools on a program called ‘Learn with Me.’ It will be 36 episodes. We write it, we direct it, we produce it, so it’s a very big endeavor. What’s unique about it is the fist portion is in English and the second portion is in Spanish.” The program will debut in June. KVCR also offers student internships in broadcast administration, production and fundraising.

Limited school counseling resources was cited as a key reason the discussion of career and college used to be deferred until late in high school. Now, schools have partnered with non-profits like Think Together, which offer after school programs, tutoring — and counseling.

“Schools have their hands full. So, we’re kind of ‘middleware’ that sits between the school and the workplace,” said Randy Barth, CEO.

Diego Martinez, now a mechanical engineering student at Mt. San Jacinto College, participated in Think Together program while attending West Valley High School in Hemet. “I joined the Vex Robotics group in my freshman year in high school. We designed and programmed robots that would complete certain tasks to complete with other Think Together sites in our region. Throughout my journey with Think Together there’s been a lot of interaction with the staff … I was able to get letters of recommendations for scholarships … Think Together has really supported me, all the way through high school and now in community college. I definitely wouldn’t be as far along as I am today without them,” he said. Martinez hopes to complete a bachelor’s degree at one of the University of California campuses.

Think Together also offers instruction in essential soft skills like public speaking, resume workshops and interview techniques.

“In the Inland Empire we have more apprentices per capita in our region than the rest of the State. We have more IT and cybersecurity apprentices than the Silicon Valley,” said Charles Henkels, Executive Director of Launch Apprenticeship Network. “It is an important economic development tool for our Inland Empire business community. It’s an earn-and-learn model, so it’s a win-win for both the student and employer.”

“If a student doesn’t have a plan to go college then we want to connect them to the industries that are hiring,” said Ted Alejandre, County Superintendent at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. “The carpenter’s (union) has an apprenticeship program where, at age 17-1/2, students can start off at $19/hour but then move very quickly to $25/hour.”

“The pandemic really stifled opportunities for internships and jobs, so we really want to encourage businesses to go out of their way to give our young people these opportunities,” said Dr. Angelo Farooq, Chair at California Workplace Development Board.

“Today’s summit is really more than just discussing the challenges facing our workforce. It’s about exploring innovative and effective strategies to build stronger, more inclusive and more prosperous communities in the Inland Empire and beyond,” said Riverside City Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson who secured $4.4 million in Youth Jobs Corps funding last year. The program, called “CaliforniansForAll,” offers employment for youth ages 16-30 to develop career pathways and interest towards a career in public service in the key areas of education, climate, and food insecurity. The City places Fellows in part-time positions for up to two years in municipal departments such as Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, Public Works Street Trees Division, The Office of Homeless Solutions, and the Fire Department Office of Emergency Services. 

The summit was hosted by the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce together with partner Think Together and sponsor Bank of America.

Ken Alan has over 20 years of experience in public relations, business journalism, and corporate communications. Throughout his career, he has won numerous awards in various multimedia fields. For many years, he served as president of the San Francisco Chapter of the ITVA, where he won the prestigious Bill Cooper Award three times. The Palm Springs Unified School District Foundation elected him as its inaugural president. In recent years, he has handled public relations and marketing for the three major hospitals in the Palm Springs Coachella Valley. Having been involved in many public safety communications activities as an Extra Class Amateur Radio Operator, WU6I, he is an ARRL-certified PIO who has served as a volunteer examiner for more than 200 amateur radio licensing exams. Additionally, he holds a First Class FCC license for commercial radio broadcasting. An online business news podcast featuring local and national guests, The Public Record Podcast, is hosted by him bimonthly. Over the years, his many voices have been heard in hundreds of commercials, documentaries, and eLearning programs, most recently for Guide Dogs of the Desert and the Palm Springs Air Museum.

Career & Workplace

The City of Rancho Cucamonga Recognized as U.S. Best-in-Class Employer by Gallagher 

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Gallagher’s Best-in-Class Benchmarking Analysis Identifies U.S. Organizations That Excel in Optimizing Employee and Organizational Wellbeing 

The City of Rancho Cucamonga participated in Gallagher’s 2023 U.S. Benefits Strategy & Benchmarking Survey and was identified as an organization that excelled in implementing successful strategies for managing people and programs. The City of Rancho Cucamonga was recognized for its comprehensive framework for strategically investing in benefits, compensation and employee communication to support the health, financial security and career growth of its employees at a sustainable cost structure. 

Designations like Gallagher’s Best-in-Class Employer help current and potential employees understand and appreciate an organization’s workplace culture and people strategy; important differentiators as employers compete for talent in today’s labor market. 

“This award is a testament to the collective dedication and unwavering commitment of our team, reflecting the high standards we uphold in fostering a workplace that thrives on innovation, belonging, and employee well-being.” Robert Neiuber, Senior Human Resources Director, City of Rancho Cucamonga. 

A U.S. Best-in-Class Employer, the City of Rancho Cucamonga was assigned points based on its relative performance in: 

  • Plan horizons for benefits and compensation strategies 
  • Extent of the wellbeing strategy 
  • Turnover rate for full-time equivalents (FTEs) 
  • Completion of a workforce engagement survey 
  • Use of an HR technology strategy and its level of sophistication 
  • Difference in healthcare costs over the prior year 
  • Use of a communication strategy 

The City of Rancho Cucamonga understands that high employee expectations haven’t budged in the changing labor market and have regularly examined their formula to attract and retain talent,” said William F. Ziebell, CEO of Gallagher’s Benefits & HR Consulting Division. “In doing so, the City of Rancho Cucamonga utilizes data, workforce feedback tools and clearly defined policies to provide competitive benefits and experiences that their employees value.” 

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Career & Workplace

California Labor Market Closes out 2023 with Modest Growth, but Expect Adjustments when Annual Revision Hits in March

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State’s Workforce Contracts Again; Unemployment Rate Ticks Up

California’s labor market grew modestly in the latest numbers, according to an analysis released today by Beacon Economics. Total nonfarm employment in the state expanded by just 23,400 positions in December, however, the sum of California’s metropolitan areas showed a more robust increase of 55,100 positions. November’s gains were revised down to 8,100 in the latest numbers, a 1,200 decrease from the preliminary estimate of 9,300.

“Although job and labor force growth has been muted, we caution against reading too much into these figures because this is the last release before the annual benchmark revisions in March,” said Justin Niakamal, Research Manager at Beacon Economics.

As of December 2023, California had recovered all of the jobs that were lost in March and April 2020, and there are now 508,100 more people employed in California compared to pre-pandemic February 2020. Total nonfarm employment in the state has grown 2.9% since that time compared to a 3.2% increase nationally. California increased payrolls by 1.7% from December 2022 to December 2023, matching the 1.7% increase nationally over the same period.

California’s unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in December 2023, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. The state’s unemployment rate remains elevated relative to the 3.7% rate in the United States overall. California is continuing to struggle with its labor supply, which fell by 3,600 in December. Since February 2020, the state’s labor force has fallen by 243,800 workers, a 1.2% decline. 

Industry Profile  

  • At the industry level, gains were mixed. Healthcare led payroll gains in December, with payrolls expanding by 9,100, an increase of 0.3% on a month-over-month basis. With these gains Healthcare payrolls are now 10.8% above their pre-pandemic peak.
  • Government was the next best performing sector, adding 8,100 jobs, a month-over-month increase of 0.3%. However, with these gains Government payrolls are still 0.3%, or 28,400 jobs, below their pre-pandemic peak.
  • Other sectors posting strong gains during the month were Leisure and Hospitality (7,100 or 0.3%), Education (4,100 or 1.0%), Manufacturing (2,600 or 0.2%), Other Services (1,300 or 0.2%), Wholesale Trade (1,200 or 0.2%), Retail Trade (1,100 or 0.1%), and Real Estate (1,100 or 0.4%).
  • Payrolls decreased in a handful of sectors in December. Transportation, Warehousing, and Utilities experienced the largest payroll declines, with payrolls falling by 4,400, a decline of 0.5% on a month-over-month basis. Other sectors posting declines during the month were Administrative Support (-4,100 or -0.4%), Finance and Insurance (-2,200 or -0.4%), Information (-1,900 or -0.3%), Management (-400 or -0.2%), and Mining and Logging (-200 or -1.0%).

Regional Profile

  • Regionally, job gains were led by Southern California. The Los Angeles County (MD) saw the largest increase, where payrolls grew by 17,800 (04%) during the month. Orange County (6,800 or 0.4%), the Inland Empire (6,400 or 0.4%), San Diego (5,500 or 0.3%), Ventura (500 or 0.2%), and El Centro (200 or 0.3%) also saw their payrolls jump. Over the past year, Ventura (2.6%) experienced the fastest job growth in the region, followed by Orange County (2.1%), Los Angeles (MD) (2.1%), the Inland Empire (1.9%), El Centro (1.9%), and San Diego (1.5%).
  • In the Bay Area, San Francisco (MD) (6,500 or 0.5%) had the largest increase during the month. San Jose (3,000 or 0.3%), Napa (400 or 0.5%, Santa Rosa (400 or 0.2%), and San Rafael (MD) (200 or 0.2%) also saw payrolls expand. Over the past 12 months, Santa Rosa (2.9%) has enjoyed the fastest job growth in the region, followed by San Rafael (MD) (2.4%), the East Bay (1.9%), San Francisco (MD) (1.3%), Vallejo (1.3%), San Jose (1.1%), and Napa (0.8%).
  • In the Central Valley, Sacramento experienced the largest monthly increase as payrolls expanded by 2,400 (0.2%) positions in December. Payrolls in Fresno (1,500 or 0.4%), Merced (600 or 0.9%), Modesto (600 or 0.3%), Madera (300 or 0.7%), Redding (200 or 0.3%), and Yuba (200 or 0.4%) also saw their payrolls jump during the month. Over the past year, Sacramento (2.8%) enjoyed the fastest growth, followed by Yuba (2.7%), Modesto (2.7%), Hanford (2.4%), Fresno (2.2%), Visalia (1.9%), Bakersfield (1.1%), Stockton (0.6%), Madera (0.5%), Chico (0.3%), Merced (-0.3%), and Redding (-1.6%).
  • On California’s Central Coast, Santa Barbara (900 or 0.4%) added the largest number of jobs. Santa Cruz (500 or 0.5%) and San Luis Obispo (400 or 0.3%) also saw payrolls increase during the month. From December 2022 to December 2023, Salinas (4.61%) added jobs at the fastest rate, followed by Santa Barbara (3.4%), San Luis Obispo (2.7%), and Santa Cruz (2.4%).
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Business

The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce Announces the 2024 Human Resources Conference, led by Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo (AALRR)

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Uniting Leaders, Shaping Futures: Charting the Next Course in Human Resources

The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Insight HR Consulting and presented by Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo (AALRR), announces the much-anticipated 2024 Human Resources Conference. Scheduled for February 15th, 2024, at the Jessie Turner Center, this event is set to be a landmark gathering for HR and business leaders.

Event Details:

  • Date: February 15th, 2024
  • Venue: Jessie Turner Center, [Full Address]
  • Title: 2024 2nd Annual Inland Empire HR Summit: Shaping the Future of Human Resources

The conference is hosted by The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Insight HR Consulting. AALRR, a leading full-service law firm, is the presenting sponsor, bringing their extensive legal expertise in employment and labor to the forefront of the event.

“We are thrilled to sponsor and present at the upcoming 2024 Human Resources Conference,” said Amber Solano, AALRR’s Private Labor and Employment Law Practice Group Chair. “With all of the recent changes in the law, we feel this is going to be a valuable event for human resource and business leaders throughout the region.”

The conference offers an invaluable platform for professionals to engage with evolving trends and innovations in HR, preparing them to lead in the changing world of work.

Special Highlights:

  • Renowned HR thought leaders as keynote speakers.
  • Networking opportunities with industry experts and peers.
  • A special focus session by AALRR on the evolving legal landscape in human resources.

“The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce is proud to collaborate with Insight HR consulting and leading speakers AALRR.  This partnership strengthens our commitment to delivering a conference that truly impacts the HR and Business community.” said Edward Ornelas, Jr., CEO.

For the event schedule, registration, and sponsorship details, please visit hr.iechamber.org

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