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Why is workforce development important?

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The Inland Empire Workforce Development (IEWD) Boards have created a 3-year plan to develop equitable, regional, sector-based career pathways in target sectors, to ensure access and inclusion for all the region’s residents, businesses and organizations.  1 The planning process resulted in 5 key goals:

1 Regional Sector-Based Career Pathways,

2 High Road Workforce System

3 Access and Inclusion for All

4 Future of Work and

4 Future of Work and

5 Regional coordination and alignment. Regional COVID-19 workforce response was also prioritized.

At El Sol, we are deeply committed to helping Inland Empire employees boost their potential and skills through workforce development and have natural alignment with 4 of the 5 IEWD goals. Through our workforce development strategies, we educate community about demand-driven skills attainment; ensure equity and economic justice, and through our County and other contracts support the coordination of efforts across the region. 

We serve on multiple coalitions that create statewide and regional strategies to develop equitable, sector-based career pathways in healthcare, nonprofit, and educational sectors, ensuring access and inclusion for all of the region’s residents, businesses and organizations. In particular, we focus on Latinx residents, which comprise more than 50% of San Bernardino and almost half of Riverside counties. 

El Sol’s Coalitions:

This blog focuses on El Sol’s specific connections with statewide workforce development and the Inland Empire 2021-2024 WIOA Regional Workforce Development Plan Strategies: 2

  • Community Based Alliance
  • National Association of Community Health Workers
  • National Vaccine Equity Collaborative
  • RISE 
  • California CHWs Communities of Practice
  • CHWs/Ps Network 
  • Non-Profit Alliance
  • Inland Intercultural Health Equity Coalition
  • Inland Empire Community Collaborative
  • Coachella Valley Equity Collaborative
  • Inland Empire Children’s Cabinet
  • Inland Economic growth and Opportunity
  • Health for All
  • Inland Empire Coverage and Health Initiative
  • Youth in Action Partnership; and 
  • Youth Drugs and Gangs

To learn what worked and identify what still needs to be done in response to COVID-19

In the Inland Empire, Health Care and Social Assistance is the largest industry sector, employing over a quarter of a million workers, followed by Retail Trade, Professional and Business Services, Educational Services, and Manufacturing.3

Community Health Workers-CHWs are key components in the regional Health Care and Social Assistance workforce. El Sol received national and state recognition in 2021 for our Community Healthworker workforce to help protect the region’s vulnerable populations from the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, lauded El Sol for its leadership in expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines among underserved communities in the Inland Empire. The State of California recognized El Sol as the leader in equity-centered approaches to raise awareness and address vaccine hesitancy for COVID-19 in 2021. And in 2020, the CDC selected us as one of 10 national organizations excelling in effectively deploying CHWs to address COVID-19 in the Inland Empire – especially those who live in vulnerable neighborhoods.

We engaged 286,295 people most impacted by the pandemic and these residents and our partners worked with us to identify best practices and gaps in COVID response strategies, community resources, and healthcare workforce. Successful transformation of the Health Care and Social Assistance workforce and effective COVID-19 responses depend on ensuring adequate capacity, training, and cultural engagement of a wide range of healthcare professions. Training, recruiting and employing Community Health Workers (CHWs) and other frontline workers within the various pipelines has been identified as a critical strategy.

To build a high-road employment system, leveraging the support of high-road employers to build robust career pathways that lead to family-sustaining wages:

Workforce development is an approach by organizations and the government to focus on equipping workers with skills to help them be more productive at their workplaces. The UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education defines a “high road workforce” as one where businesses “compete on the basis of the quality of their products and services by investing in their workforce.” The Center also notes that investing in a workforce includes strategies that support the kinds of jobs created and the organizations and systems that offer them, and training strategies, which prepare the workforce for those jobs. 4

The following principles are critical to developing an Inland Empire high-road employment system. El Sol embodies these principles in its organizational and community practices and also embeds them in our workforce training curriculum, strategic initiatives, advancing these elements in our region and state:

Job Quality: family-supporting wages, benefits, safe working conditions, fair scheduling practices; and transparent career advancement opportunities

Workers’ Voice: incorporate workers perspectives and experience to inform gaps, technology, regulations, and to address market competition

Equity: Take systems approaches to generating greater community opportunity and power for residents who have been excluded from the economy, are  “low-status,” 5 or face barriers to employment 6

Environmental Sustainability: address climate change due to the impact it will have on low-status residents and the California economy.

El Sol, residents and other community-based organizations can facilitate community involvement to identify long-standing as well as emerging issues of racial and ethnic inequities that impact effective workforce development and effective sub-regional COVID-19 responses. 

To increase efficiencies, reduce duplication and improve overall quality of services through synergistic regional cooperation and mutually reinforcing strategies

The three guiding principles of the Inland Empire Workforce Development (IEWD) Board’s 3-year plan rely on having a cohesive regional workforce development system with improved efficiencies. Since both counties have committed to ensuring that the IEWD is successful in delivering accessible career pathways to the middle class and intend to build upon its regional partnership and address outstanding issues as they are identified, it will be critical to ensure that CBO’s, residents, equity coalitions, and nonprofits are active partners in this process. Without these community voices, experiences and perspectives, an assessment of the region’s strengths and weaknesses in terms of coordinated service delivery may be difficult. Additionally, since the IEWD identified CHWs as an important workforce to grow under the Health Care and Social Assistance sector, El Sol can provide effective, efficient and quality multilingual workforce development trainings to hospitals, social service organizations, government and universities.  El Sol is an effective and proven industry consultant for these sectors.

Conclusion

As the Inland Empire looks forward to implementing regional workforce development plans with partners over the next three years, there are important equity considerations for the regional workforce development system. It will be imperative to balance employment demand with the future of work, access and inclusion, building a high road employment system and ensuring regional system coordination – all while continuing to manage the economic recovery from COVID-19.

[1] https://wp.sbcounty.gov/workforce/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/08/IE-Regional-Plan-FINAL.pdf
[2]  https://wp.sbcounty.gov/workforce/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/08/IE-Regional-Plan-FINAL.pdf page 5
[3] https://wp.sbcounty.gov/workforce/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2021/08/IE-Regional-Plan-FINAL.pdf p. 10
[4] https://gridworks.org/2021/04/what-is-a-high-road-labor-standard/
[5] Carter, M. (2022). Recuperando su comunidad: no tiene que mudarse de su vecindario para vivir en uno mejor. (1ª ed.). Berrett-Koehley.
[6] https://gridworks.org/2021/04/what-is-a-high-road-labor-standard/

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