Special Episode: WorkforceRx Live Book Launch
Van Ton-Quinlivan, CEO of Futuro Health and host of this podcast series, is also author of the new best-selling book, WorkforceRx: Agile and Inclusive Strategies for Employers, Educators and Workers in Unsettled Times. This episode takes you to one of several live panel sessions held to celebrate the launch of the book. Van welcomes some of the nation’s leading workforce development experts to discuss what strategies and insights from Chapters One and Two resonated most with them, and what they would do differently after reading the book. Check out this insightful discussion about matching people with the right skills at the right time, regionalization of higher education, aggregating the demand for labor, and much more from this powerful new playbook for the future of work.
Joining Van are: Ophelia Basgal, Chair of the Board of Trustees, San Francisco Foundation; Ann Randazzo, retired Executive Director, Center For Energy Workforce Development; Brenda Curiel, Managing Director, Center For Corporate Innovation; Beth Cobert, Chief Operating Officer, Markle Foundation; Tom Cohenno, Principal, Applied Learning Science; David Gatewood, Dean, Shasta College and Debra Nankivell, Chief Executive Officer, Fresno Business Council.
Van Ton-Quinlivan: Hello, everybody! I am delighted to have your company today at this book launch. It is a celebratory moment, and we are joined with a number of very special guests to me. I’m looking forward to introducing them in a few minutes.
I have a new found appreciation for what it takes to write a book now that I’ve gone through it once, and I hope others of you will try out that journey. I want to take a moment to call out the Futuro Health team who have been sponsoring these events. The proceeds from the books will support Futuro Health’s nonprofit mission, which is to increase the health and wealth of communities by growing the largest network of allied health workers in the nation, starting in California. As you all know, it’s so important to have these frontline healthcare workers in place as we all need them.
Now, let me go ahead and transition into the book itself. Some folks ask me why have I written this book, and why this book now? The answer is the numbers: 8.4 million unemployed and 10 million job openings. The pandemic has really wreaked havoc on our labor market, which already was in turmoil beforehand. Workers can’t find jobs. Employers can’t find workers. Really, we need our nation to have all our engines revving to connect people with the right skills for the right jobs, and there’s no more perfect time to get these workforce development strategies and these proven playbooks out, since we do not need to start from scratch. We can be working together in collaborative ways to build upon each other’s good works.
This is a moment in time when I’ll borrow a phrase from former colleagues – you don’t want to “post and pray” that there’s a talent pool on the other end. There are many strategies that are proven, that can be employed, in order to ensure that you have the talent pool when you make that job posting.
We have a star-studded group of panelists here. They’re all friends and colleagues for many years. I’ve asked them to come together and answer two questions. The first one is a fun question which is, “What keywords would you use to find this book on Amazon, Google, or Barnes and Noble?” Then they’ll immediately go into the substantive question which is, “What insight, story, or strategy resonated most with you and let us know why?”
Ophelia Basgal was heading up the PG&E Foundation back when I first met her. She was always very committed to the community, and actually co-sponsored my work that became the PG&E PowerPathway Program.
Ann Randazzo knows the PowerPathway Program because she led the energy industry’s effort to thwart the 20% to 50% retirement that was impending, and actually brought the utilities to work together to be much more intentional about workforce development. I was a part of her membership in that body of work, so I’m so excited to have her back.
Brenda Curiel, is with the Center for Corporate Innovation, and is working with leaders right now who are on the frontlines of dealing with these issues. It’s delightful to have Brenda here with us.
Beth Cobert…if you think about “ecosystems of the willing,” she is running one of those with the Markle Rework Alliance, in which Futuro Health participates, and is doing that national work to bring people into good jobs.
Tom Cohenno and I met back when I was in the energy sector where he was a counterpart in a different utility company. We did work together as part of a partnership collaboration and he’s gone on to open up a company in applied learning where he’s a subject matter expert in Applied Learning Science.
David Gatewood…you saw his name in the book because he encouraged me while he was a dean within our community college system to have courageous conversations that laid the groundwork for a much bigger education reform.
Last but not least is Deb Nankivell who’s patching in from Minnesota, although she’s a part of the Fresno Business Council here in California. She is, first and foremost, a civic steward in the work that she does and teaches me so much about civic stewardship.
With that, let me throw it over to Ophelia to begin.
Ophelia Basgal: Thank you, Van. Thank you for inviting me to join this great panel. My keywords are “leveraging public higher education.” I think that’s where you could find this book. The story that resonated with me was actually the journey that Van described at PG&E when she set up our pathway. We were on that journey together, as she noted. I have to say, I got to observe firsthand the skepticism — not only with the potential partners — but within PG&E itself.
One story that just resonated with me — because it was kind of so obvious and it took Van to figure this out — is asking people to climb a ladder before they became a utility worker. Now, that may have seemed like an obvious thing — if you have to climb a 30-foot pole, that you might not want to have people who are afraid of heights — but PG&E actually had people going partway through training and then finding out they couldn’t climb a utility pole because they were afraid of heights.
It particularly resonated for me because I worked with a nonprofit, GRID Alternatives, who also was a partner at PG&E, at a community build that they were doing in Washington, DC, with the EPA Administrator and the Secretary of HUD when I was with the Obama Administration. They were doing a community build solar installation and had individuals that they had recruited. We were all getting ready to get on the roof, and the young man right in front of me went four rungs up the ladder and he turned around and he looked at me and said, “I can’t do this,” and I said, “Come back down. We’ll work on this later.” But I thought, if only they had known…they should have tested people ahead of time to make sure that they could climb a ladder if they were going to become a solar installer. Hopefully, this young man worked with his community group to be able to address the fact that he had a fear of heights which maybe he’d be able to overcome at some point.
Van’s ability to zero-in on the kinds of issues that she recounts in this book, to demonstrate what it takes to provide opportunities to employment for individuals — and particularly if you’re working with the underserved communities — was just really brilliant. The success of the PowerPathway Program really demonstrated that.
Van, it was such a pleasure to work with you then and to be able to come back and say what a great job you did and what vision you’ve had around this issue. Thank you.
Van: Thank you, Ophelia, for your sponsorship back then and your continued friendship.
Next, let me turn it over to Ann.
Ann Randazzo: Thanks, Van. I would say “talent pipeline” for the keyword of how to look this up. When I picked up the book, the thing that struck me was that garden hose and fire hose image. We’ve spent a lot of time talking about balancing supply and demand, and that really was a good visual for me in terms of what we deal with. Sometimes, the supply is greater than the demand and sometimes the demand is greater. What we learned early on, and some of this is from that PowerPathway work, is that if the supply is greater than companies can hire at a particular time or if the demand is greater than what educators are prepared to produce in terms of qualified pipeline, then what happens is programs shut down, the companies look elsewhere, or students are disappointed and frustrated with the whole system.
How do you fix it? I think you laid that out that very well. You talked a lot about collaboration, and that really is the key, but it has to start before the demand is immediate, before it’s a current demand. I think that’s one of the lessons learned: you can’t wait until you need it today because this all takes time. It has to start before that time. It’s just too late, at some point, to get going. The way you balance that supply and demand is you start early to do what we call “buddy up”, meaning that companies need to partner with others that they might consider to be competitors.
Demand isn’t always steady, and it doesn’t always happen at the same time as graduation. Companies need to get together to be able to aggregate that demand and to decide as a group, “Here’s how many we need in total. Here’s about when we’re going to need them.” That way, I might need to hire some this time, you need to hire some of the next. Overall, what we’re able to do is to balance that supply from education with demand.
The other part of that is that if you have a demand, it doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody needs to create a program. That’s tough, too, because educators are also competitors and a lot of this, as you laid out so clearly, is figuring out “Where is that demand?” and “What are the community colleges or others that are located in the best spot to be able to meet that demand?” That all happens when you form a consortium or collaborations, meaning you get the people in the room that can make this happen — industry, educators, nonprofits, community organizations, whoever — all the people that can build that knowledge and trust so that over time, you make this happen.
What we found is that you can focus and build in a particular point in time, but if you have these consortia — like Van talked about with the hiring consortia, and with the State, we call them State Energy Workforce Consortia — then what you have is the ability to change as the needs change over time. You’ve got that partnership. You’ve got the trust and the knowledge to be able to do it. That’s when you get the right skills at the right time. We used to say, “Collaborate in the classroom, compete on the grid,” that’s the way you build a sustainable talent pipeline.
Van: I’m sure the audience can tell how much you’ve been in the trenches. Thank you, Ann, for sharing those insights.
Next, let me invite Brenda.
Brenda Curiel: Terrific. Thanks, Van, and the others who have spoken before me. My keywords are, this is a “pragmatic playbook for building the workforce that we need.” The insights for me, to build on what Ann was saying about the stakeholders and consortia, is that multiple stakeholders are required to work together to build the workforce that we want. Those include community colleges, the employers, the consortium of employers, government policymakers and incentive grantors, trusted advocates deep in communities with future workers — like the churches, the athletic organizations, trade associations, unions — all being key parts of the solution. That was a real insight for me, to be an active part of the solution when the skills or knowledge are burgeoning.
For example, the story that Van told of the CHRO who was trying to figure out how to build cloud engineers. I was in that room when we had that discussion and the Vendor College Workplace Venture created a required skills gap certification for those current engineers. At the time, they thought they would have to let those engineers go and hire cloud engineers, who are very hard to find and very expensive. Van was like, “How would you think about this instead?” and created a whole new program and saved a lot of careers and money.
It was interesting to me, as well, that employers may not have enough jobs individually to create the change that a community college curriculum might need to do, but by creating these regional consortiums they can actually build the skills, jobs, education and talent pool for the future. That motivated hardworking, ambitious students, who could be our workforce, may only know about those often low-paying jobs that exist in maybe social work or criminal justice.
The other side of that equation is that sometimes our job postings — maybe in an attempt to be creative or differentiated — might not make any sense to a potential student or a curriculum developer and that we might need, then, a standard nomenclature or a way of describing the job and its elemental parts that would make these skills more relatable and accessible. This multi-stakeholder approach resonates, and Van makes it accessible by laying this out in a pragmatic playbook to identify and solve these challenges ahead.
Van: Thank you, Brenda, especially for sharing what happened to the CHRO who was in the room that day. Thank you.
Next is Beth. Beth, you know consortiums quite well. Let me turn it over to you.
Beth Cobert: Great. The words I have to give for the keyword choice, are “practical policies for work, that work.” I want to emphasize the practical policies, which from my experience are two words that sometimes don’t quite align, despite best attempts. What I really enjoyed about the book was how focused it was, and by the way, the chapter summaries were great about what someone can do to get things done. Beyond the story of Big Juan in the candy store — which tugs at my heart — the one that tugged at my head was the story about bringing resources together across community colleges to create solutions to the problems at hand, in Chapter 2.
From our experience at the Rework America Alliance, and even here in Colorado, we’ve seen what happens when groups of employers come together with community colleges who are looking to meet the needs of their community with the workforce boards. One of the times that I felt we were trying to follow Van’s guidance in advance was some work that we had done to build a wholly new apprenticeship program for community managers in the real estate industry. That brought together the Arapahoe Community College campus, the Community Association Rocky Mountain Chapter, the local workforce boards, and the whole community college system in Colorado to say, “How can we create something here, because we know this is needed everywhere and none of these institutions could do this all on their own?”
If one person can do it, they can build the core. You might need to adapt it a little bit someplace else, but many of those elements are common. I think finding ways, as you talked about in the book, Van, about getting employers and education institutions to say, “How do we close these gaps that exist? How do we create the real opportunities for students, not just for their first job, but for the second job and the jobs they can follow? How do we do that in a way that it isn’t one time?” If you bring everybody together, create something today, that cloud engineer you described is going to need something different tomorrow.
One of things that was great about this process that involves the principles of the book is that it wasn’t just the one time. It was the ongoing dialogue. I think building those forms of collaboration for the jobs that are in demand, in ways that individuals can get that early job, the next job, and the next job are one of the lessons I really took away from Chapters 1 and 2.
Van: Absolutely. You’re doing so much good work in the Markle Rework Alliance to build that type of relationship and trust between organizations so that this can be done one time, but also repeatedly.
Let me bring up Tom. Tom Cohenno, you’ve seen this from the private sector but also the public sector. What do you think?
Tom Cohenno: Indeed. I would say my keywords are “elevated workforce collaboration in the national interest,” which I think is exactly what we need. That’s how we need to be thinking about things in the U.S. today. The concepts that jumped out at me in the book were the ecosystem of the willing and contributing beyond our own interest.
I was working at Southern California Edison, and the CEO of Edison received a letter from PG&E requesting collaboration, which was unheard of. Undoubtedly, it was a letter written by Van and manipulated or encouraged through CEO to CEO. I was pleased to be tapped at Edison to work with Van and started an incredible, long-term friendship and collaboration for which I’m genuinely grateful.
At that point, the two utilities were like on different sides, not only of the State, but a big divide. We just didn’t do that. It was our own little example following the precepts that Van shared. We started meeting and at first I thought “Well, I’m not sure how we’re going to work on a line worker when we have thousands of applicants for every vacancy or thousands for every few.” It turned out that we had many applicants, but we had no diverse applicants. We also had a lack of geographical preference. In Los Angeles, it’s quite costly, it’s sort of inner city on the western side, and no one wanted to work there. Getting people who live there and work there, organically, just didn’t exist. We weren’t recruiting there. It was a real eye-opener and sort of a humbling realization for us at Edison.
We ended up partnering with something called the East LA Skills Center that was absolutely a part of the effort that Van was leading us on in the Center and Ann through the consortia — thank you, both. It worked out to be a great partnership because East LA Skills Center, just as Van mentioned in the book, was able to do that outreach and the screening. The case manager took that away from the company, which was stuck in its, maybe to some degree, a nepotistic hiring practice, and broke that open.
They also provided education in part. The partnership came because Edison contributed skilled instructors, vehicles, poles — all the highly specialized equipment that’s very costly — and that partnership worked very effectively. In that case, Edison was contributing beyond its own interests because the graduates could go to work for any utility. They could go out of state. Nonetheless, for Edison, that became almost our single source of hiring because it checked so many boxes. It worked out to be a huge advantage.
The result was diversity increased in our applicant pool, as well as the geographical preference. Then, in a way that we had not anticipated, this pre-apprentice program also resulted in increased throughput in the actual apprentice program because all of the climbing that occurred at East LA Skills Center weeded out those folks who not only just didn’t climb the ladder at first — to Ophelia’s point — but it was, “You’re going to climb the pole over and over every day,” and some folks decided, “That’s just not in my future.” So the attrition rate dropped dramatically, and Edison probably saved the money that we were investing.
In the end, everyone won as far as I can tell. As I was reading this particular chapter in the book, I started smiling thinking about all the meetings and stuff that we did and how it all came together. I remain excited to see the path that Van is on. I think the nation needs this, and I’m excited to be here and share that today. Thank you.
Van: Thank you, Tom. I love how you recounted when we first met. People do watch the flow of the money. I was given a challenge that the community colleges would be willing to create a common curriculum, but all the utilities in the State needed to agree on what was created. That was the catalyst for reaching out to people whom I didn’t know, including Tom. Of course, I called Ann up and I said, “We need a charter for our new consortium. Can I just borrow one from another State?” That’s the value of being connected into this type of work with others.
All right, David Gatewood.
David Gatewood: Thanks, Van. I think I’m going to be echoing a lot of the sentiments and smiles that have been on the screen so far, but I, too, was looking at the second chapter about forming an ecosystem of the willing. Tom’s story, Ophelia’s story, and other stories remind me that that model of forming an ecosystem of the willing fits, no matter who you are. If you are a group of faculty who have an automotive program that are looking at electric vehicles and you get them together, you were really good about bringing those sectors together and forming an ecosystem of the willing. In this case, the willing instructors. It might also be the PG&Es, and the SoCal Edisons, and the other willing business partners, and the willing not-for-profits and government agencies that we were working with.
What I love about this notion of forming an ecosystem of the willing…it meant so many things for you, and you actually braided those willing bodies together to create what I would call a macro ecosystem. In terms of keywords, I’m going to take one that most of my community college friends appreciate and understand, and that is, “doing what matters for jobs and the economy.” If I were searching, I’d probably look up “doing what matters for jobs and the economy” and hope that I find this wonderful book.
The other piece, I think, is it’s really about change. Critical conversations for workforce development, which is particularly what this second chapter is about, has to do with bringing and forming those coalitions and those ecosystems. I have so many stories, Van, of how you went about that, but I think some of the most interesting pieces from you are around where you showed up. Having been in the state for a number of years, I wasn’t used to seeing State officers in a highly federated, disaggregated — 113 colleges at the time, 116 now — show up at these various locations.
I can remember going to my first “red team” meeting that you describe, and seeing people in the room that were not always the same people that I used to see, but many of my friends were there. These were innovators, but the model for bringing the willing together was clearly a change in how we were normally bringing together the representative. There are 113 colleges. We have so many deans. We bring these individuals together because they represent something — many of them defensively, many of them shyly looking on — but what you did with the red team, and with many of the people who you brought in, were the willing. I think that’s so important and it’s what that made your work so powerful, and this book, so helpful.
The red team…people were there who were willing as you launched the sector work and you said, “Choose which sectors work for your region in the seven regions. Choose. Who’s willing? Who are you willing to work with? What are those willing needs?” That also struck me as being different than the normal way that we do business or have been doing business.
I don’t know if a lot of people realized just how disaggregated we are, and independent, as 116 different colleges, 72, 73 districts. The challenge is that, as you said, you have very little hierarchical authority over that, so the question was, how do you lead change? I think that it’s been mentioned that you did it with head, you did it with heart, and you did it with hands.
You did it with a vision that you took out to everybody, and we worked with you to develop that vision. You listened, you did your critical thinking and your critical listening tour, gathered information to create that solidified vision of what it would take to help meet the needs of the State in terms of economic development. You also brought your heart to the table. “Who are the willing? Who will join me? What are the things that are important? Who’s already doing good work? Who do we tap into?”
The heart, the head, and the hands — the hands being the resources — and that was your braided funding strategies of bringing in all sorts of different ways to look at how we could support these initiatives. Instead of, as you called it, spreading peanut butter thinly at every college level on every single career ed program, you asked where can we bring it together and make a difference?
For years, I was in the Inland Empire down in Chaffey College. When that initiative for the InTech Center started with the Federal TAACCCT Grant, that was an amazing project. Many colleges and universities got involved and are still involved, and that had not happened before. That was one example of just how important the willing, with the change strategy that you used, has made such a huge difference in how we have silo-spanned or broken down some of the barriers between our individual colleges, not that we don’t have long ways to go. I found that the book was very inspiring and we need to keep on doing the good work that you laid the groundwork for. Thank you.
Van: Thank you for taking me down memory lane, David.
Before I tee up Deb Nankivell…we’re doing such a good job on time I’m just going to preview for all of our guests that we’re going to do a sort of lightning, one-minute round where I’m going to ask you, “Would you do anything differently now that you’ve had a chance to look at the content of the book,” and we’ll start with Ophelia again.
Right now, I’d like to invite Deb Nankivell.
Deb Nankivell: Wow, this has been so insightful. I appreciate everybody’s comments. Thank you, Van.
I reread the chapters last night so I would be re-inspired and thinking about the connecting links here. What springs to mind, in terms of the words for me, is “ecosystem approach”, which is something we talk about a lot. This idea of, if you don’t address all of it you could be leaving out a key piece and have a flat tire on your car. The other piece is spirit of stewardship. I think what we’ve learned, what I’ve watched Van do, if you do not have a steward that’s leading, who can call out the very best of who people are and to help people remember that we have a larger purpose in our country. We have North Star goals.
The most inspiring story in the book, for me, was Van’s. The idea — and you may have noticed a page when she talked about being a refugee and on the same page, she talked about being an immigrant — to me, that is the journey of change that happens in our country. You’re a refugee who’s looking at the past, being wounded, leaving something you didn’t want to leave, and then you become an immigrant and you look forward and see the opportunity, and you move forward, and others support you in doing that. Another way to frame that — and this is something we’re working on very seriously in Fresno — is a lot of people have severe unresolved trauma. They were victimized, exploited. How do you shift people, coming from those backgrounds, into confident, life-ready citizens?
What I so appreciate about this book is that Van’s able to combine so many different elements into a path forward. Where we are used to having to lead in Fresno with a compass aimed at North Star goals. She’s now given us the map. That’s what everyone who is talking about this book is saying. And it’s not just a map for people with lives where they were raised with love and support, but also people that didn’t have that.
I think to develop confidence when you didn’t get it at home is another step we all need to take in our country. I think we’ve all realized that there are a lot of people that were left out, and some of them were even successful, but they still feel left out. I think we’re in a phase in America where the business community is transforming itself into a human development, talent development ecosystem in partnership with our educators who know how to do that. Now, we all need to do “both-and”. We need to learn how to get it done, and we need to know how to be inclusive and supportive of others.
So, I celebrate this book. I’m thrilled about the people that I’ve met on this journey, and so grateful to Van who was a catalytic force when we started on this journey. We got to be one of her town hall meetings, and we’ve never stopped moving forward, so onward.
Van: Yes. I remember Deb telling me that when the Chancellor’s office had reached out initially to ask for a town hall by our business partners, Deb had to make some calls, and really, she was asked the question, “Should I spend time on this?” What answer did you get back, Deb?
Deb: “No, this, too, shall pass. Too late, we’re already all in.”
Van: Oh, thank you.
All right. Let’s go through our lightning round. Let’s start with Ophelia.
Ophelia: Van, I think there’s another book that you need to be working on. We’re at such a pivotal moment. I mean, everyone’s referring to this moment in work as the “great reassessment” about where people want to work and when they want to work and all the issues that are being raised up that weren’t really issues before the pandemic, such as a safe working environment, and people looking for work that gives them purpose and advancement opportunities. There are wonderful strategies that are outlined here and now it just needs to be expanded to take into account this strange time that we’re living in and how it’s impacted work, where this goes in terms of the ecosystems that you’ve described, and how do you build-in this new attitude about work into this.
Van: I love it. Ann?
Ann: For me, it’s looking more at what we all have in common. We spent a lot of time in the early days looking at generic blueprints, and then different States would pick and choose, different companies would pick and choose. “We’d like to do this, but we’re different, so we’re going to build our own on that.”
Just looking back, if you spend more time on what everybody has in common, then you can build on that. You don’t waste a lot of time starting from scratch. The example of the line workers was great. How many different line worker curricula do we have out there? It’s all pretty much the same, but how much time have we spent building that, doing the things like the pre-employment testing? It’s just coming up with a common, “Let’s go with it and not spend time on developing, because somebody might be just a little bit different.”
Van: It’s a great insight. Brenda?
Brenda: Yes. I think I still double down on why the playbook is so important and why this point in time is so important. As we look at our roundtables — whether they’re in tech, healthcare, energy, or industry in the middle of the country — this great resignation that Ophelia talked about, our reassessment, is on everybody’s mind. There just isn’t a sense of the answers. There’s confusion around why we have a mismatch and so many people unemployed but so many open jobs. There’s confusion about how to start, how to think about the problem and certainly, what to do about it. I think that this gives a playbook, a pragmatic, practical approach for leaders to start framing the issue for themselves and then thinking about various practical alternatives for starting to look at the problem internally, and then how to go about — in their communities and within their industries — to solve the problem together.
Van: Thank you for those insights. Now, Beth.
Beth: As I reflect on the book and in the many things that I would do differently, to me, one of the pieces that is really important is thinking about any of these actions we’re taking and putting them in context quite consciously. Whether it’s building a new program or getting an employer to think differently about their workforce, how do we think about not just getting it once, but multiple times, and scaling it? Who are the partners you need to do that? What’s the data you need to do that? It’s almost going in with the mindset that says, “With the right people in the room, finding the commonalities, we will have success, but success won’t scale and reach enough people unless we build that in from the beginning.” I think there’s a lesson in there that’s viable for all of us to think about…how do we get that momentum, really catch it and keep it going? Then, it becomes self-sustaining.
Van: That intentionality is important. Thank you. Tom?
Tom: I think I would capitalize on the events that have happened the last several years. I’m really thinking about some sort of corporate education about the potency of collaborating in terms of how the nation benefits. I think within a company, people get caught up all the time with not just profit and loss, but this activity and that activity, and to pull up requires a different approach in order to appreciate the potency of the collaboration. Various steps along that line, I think, are the next hurdle, and maybe it’s incorporated in the next book. It becomes a 3-hour component of an MBA program: “Business for Good.”
Van: I think many corporate people are surprised that you could tackle this issue with help from someone else. You don’t have to go at it alone.
Van: Good point. David?
David: I’m with Tom and others on this. I’m seeing three books. One of those books is going to be geared towards business and the industry partners and how they can continue to develop relationships with educators — whomever they may be — to help provide enough skilled trained workforce, incumbent worker training, pipeline training, transitional training, all those. I see another one, Van, that I jealously or selfishly say, “California needs a book of our own,” one in terms of just how California community colleges continue to deal with some of the challenges of, for example, how we are resourced, how we’re compensated, and how that affects our competition.
I tell the story, and you’ve heard me tell it before, about Disney. When I was in Orange County as a dean, Disney would come once in a while to our meetings with employers and help us with some advisory until finally they said, “We’re not going to do this anymore.” I said, “What do you mean?” “Well, we don’t have time. There’s 116 community colleges, 26 high schools, alone, in Orange County, all the universities, and we have the world to entertain, not just your faculty. Can you create a forum or a place where we could go one time and be in front of all the California community colleges talking about our industry needs?” We haven’t been able to do that yet.
You can drive to every community college in California in a car, but you cannot find who’s on their work boards. An employer would have to set up 116 profiles to be able to find a welder in our State. We’ve got to address some of those continuing issues, which you’re well aware of and you present them, and you even have great strategies for how we began to look at changing some of those things. But I’m not done with you yet, Van. We need to keep moving this agenda forward if we’re going to help people find meaningful engagement with the business industry partners and feel that, as you defined it, we all talk about economic and social mobility. I’ll follow-up, but that’s what I’m needing right now.
Van: Thank you, David. Deb, say how it can be done.
Deb: There you go. There’s a wrap up. What I’m thinking a lot about is scale and customization. How do we hold the tension between these two things? My experience in California is a lot of things that need to be flexible are locked down tight, and things that need to be uniform are chaos. How do we pull those tensions so that we are always thinking for the big picture, but at the same time, we’re honoring the fact that everybody’s unique and people have different starting places? We need to respect that, but we need to work together.
I love David’s point. I’m going to follow up with you, because I think this idea that industry is going to cater to a whole bunch of people that have separate needs…we tried to get even the list of people serving on advisory boards from our colleges, but they won’t give them to us because they’re proprietary. They have to compete for all the different people. It leaves industry with, “Well, what do we do now?” Well, I think Van taught us. Get the money, get the power, tell them to show up at your meeting.
Van: Well, I know this audience is super impressed with this set of panelists and their expertise and their lived experience.
We ask that you help us spread the word. You remember the big numbers, 10 million and 8.4 million. We need to get these proven strategies and proven playbooks out there. We have a good head start with this book already making the Bestseller list and Hot New Release list in a number of places on Amazon. Super delighted that it’s gotten out the door in this way, but would ask your help to be able to get these playbooks into other people’s hands. We need all the engines revving.
There’s no better gift to an author than to have a review from you, and it’s quite easy. Anywhere you buy the book — whether it’s on Barnes & Noble or Amazon — just go to where the stars are and write a review for the product. Add a headline, one or two sentences, and press submit. That’s all it takes to submit a review. My appreciation in advance, if you’re able to put in a review.
With that, I would like to really express my appreciation to all of the panelists who came here to share in this moment of joy and celebration, which is the launch of this book. It’s so wonderful to have all these friends and colleagues come together. And I also want to thank everybody in the audience who has been with us for this special moment for joining us.