Future of Work Conference Speakers Bring Added Value

Pam Sornson, JD

The panel participants at Pasadena City College’s November 12th Future of Work Conference, “Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Workforce Development,” offered unique insights about the challenges that they perceive are now facing today’s work world. From their varying perspectives as leaders in their particular workforce and economic development industries, they collectively paint a picture that is both daunting and optimistic. The digital resources they shared add nuance to their discussion.


From (Sponsor) Verizon’s Representatives Jesus Roman & Erica Jacquez: Verizon Innovative Learning

Verizon’s overarching Digital Inclusion initiative seeks to connect all communities to digital resources and provide the training they need to flourish with those tools. Within that strategy, the telecom giant focuses on giving students, in particular, the assets they need to thrive in their both education and subsequent careers. The Innovative Learning program facilitates free internet access, devices, and ‘technology-infused’ lessons to learners in communities with scant or non-existent digital connections.

The company also leverages resources from other non- and for-profit organizations to build out STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities in communities that might not otherwise have those capacities. Using its 5G technology to power on-campus labs, learners access augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, and immersive collaborations to expand curricula and lesson plans. In 2020, the program expanded into 264 new Title 1 schools across the country, and, through its online resources and learning tools, Verizon plans to connect with 10,000,000 teachers and students by 2030.

Since 2012, the Verizon Innovative Learning initiative has invested over $535 in STEM education market value to help all its community bridge the digital divide.


From Co-Moderator Ramona Shindelheim, Editor in Chief, WorkingNation

Toyota has taken the lead in addressing the huge demand for skilled manufacturing workers, according to WorkingNation, an employment and economic workforce development thinktank. With nine U.S.-based plants in operation, the automotive leader is constantly in need of employees with the advanced technological skills demanded by both today’s drivers and industry regulators. However, the country’s available manufacturing workforce numbers have been dwindling for years; a 2018 Deloitte study revealed that approximately 600,000 then-available jobs were unfilled and that that number would grow (based on industry growth) to about 2,000,000 by 2025.

Not here, says Toyota Motor North America, which began its first training program in 1987, as an adjunct to its problem-solving and continuous learning policies. In 2013, rather than wait for community-based schools to provide the necessary training, the company took the affirmative step to engage students directly with its Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program. This two-year training course provides learners with the exact skills they’ll need to achieve a well-paying career in the automotive industry. An additional bonus is that one of the training entities – Toyota – is also a potential employer the day after graduation.

As a model for career technical education, the AMT program demonstrates lasting value to its students and their communities, providing much-needed labor and well-paying jobs at the same time. Many national education leaders believe it to be one of the best career pathway programs in the country.


From Tamar Jacoby, President  OpportunityAmerica

Since its inception, Toyota’s AMT initiative has grown to include over 300 companies across nine states that partner with 22 local community and technical schools to develop the labor force needed by their specific operation. Dubbed the “Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education,” or FAME, the collaborative efforts develop ‘global-best manufacturing talent’ by teaching technologies, instilling industry-specific cultural skills, and building professional habits across all its member practices.

OpportunityAmerica and the Brookings Institute tracked FAME efforts in Kentucky from 2010 through 2017 and compared its graduates with students from similar backgrounds who did not enroll in the program. Statistics reveal compelling evidence of FAME’s success:

80% of FAME enrollees graduated, compared with only 29% of non-FAME students.

For non-whites, 64% graduated, as compared to only 24% of the non-FAME learners.

Five years post-graduation, the FAME enrollees were earning almost $100,000 annually, versus $52,000 for non-FAME workers.

When asked, the FAME participants sang high praises for the program that effectively changed their lives:

97% stated the program was absolutely the right program for them.

94% indicated that the on-the-job learning aspects were the most valuable assets in their career.

They also touted the high value of the classroom/on-the-job training strategy as instrumental in their success.

While not perfect – the Kentucky study also revealed several areas for growth in FAME’s structures – the FAME venture responds to many of today’s major industrial and workforce ills. It provides well-trained workers for existing and new jobs and well-paying jobs for those who elect to engage in its educational processes.


From Clayton Pryor, Director of Workforce Development, Advocate Aurora Health

Optimizing the depth and breadth of tomorrow’s workforce also requires a finely tuned attitude toward the inclusion of people of color, ethnicity, and differing abilities. This belief is both the attitude and the policy of Advocate Aurora Health (AAH), one of the country’s largest not-for-profit healthcare organizations. The company strives to provide superior healthcare services for its patients by emphasizing safety and best medical practices and including cultural and socially informed considerations in its actions. Its fundamental goal is to transform communities by addressing healthcare inequities through strategic partnerships and inclusive economic development programs.

Its 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Impact Report lists out the various initiatives AAH pursues in furtherance of these ideals:

Its ‘patient preference system’ actively seeks feedback to direct the nature of patient/caregiver interactions. The information gathered compelled staff behavioral modifications, which triggered a 45% increase in customer care satisfaction among its African American patients.

AAH also developed a Diversity & Inclusion Clinical Care Steering Committee to ensure that all communities were appropriately represented in ‘standard of care’ decision-making.

AAH also expanded its network of faith-health partnerships to include spiritual care in its patient’s overall health journey and won national recognition as a leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality.

AAH’s commitment to a robust, healthy, and thriving community can be seen across its diverse populations of patients, care providers, staff, and supplier networks.


From Reg Javier, Executive Director, CA Employment Training Panel

Diversity and inclusion are strong workforce and economic development principles for the California Employment Training Panel (ETP). The ETP administers state funding for job training, creation, and retention, primarily for pre-employment training activities. Its goal is to facilitate job and career education for incumbent and unemployed workers to gain the skills they need to find or keep a steady job.

Those funding resources are highly valuable in the community, too:

60% of businesses accessing ETP support employ less than 100 workers. These small companies rarely have the resources available for training purposes.

The ETP also prioritizes its spending in industries that are key to California’s economic health, including biotechnology, manufacturing, and healthcare. ‘Clean energy’ enterprises also benefit from its attention.

Not insignificantly, the ETP also looks to support underserved populations, including veterans, people with disabilities, and at-risk youth, and intentionally seeks out businesses in communities with high unemployment rates.

Since its launch in 1982, the TEp has directed more than $1.5 B to employers, provided over 80,000 companies with trained workers, and funded training for more than one million employees.


The visionaries who do this work – and shared it so graciously with the attendees at PCC’s Future of Work Conference – are paving the way to a brighter, safer, and more equitable future for California, its citizens, and its economies.



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