How to Revolutionize Worker Pathways – Panel One Speakers

Pam Sornson, JD

On October 26th, the Economic and Workforce Development division (EWD) of Pasadena City College (PCC) is hosting its 5th annual Future of Work Conference, “Revolutionizing Worker Pathways“. The Conference is free to attend (register here), and refreshments will keep participants and attendees alert and engaged throughout the event.

In addition to the regular sharing of ‘workforce development’-related insights and information, as a new feature, PCC’s EWD will present the inaugural “Los Angeles Changemaker Award” to the individual whose activities and efforts are deemed both notable and significant to LA County’s economic and workforce development initiatives.


Two Panels – Two Questions

This year’s theme, ‘Revolutionizing Worker Pathways,’ embraces the many perspectives that overlay development planning for today’s and tomorrow’s labor force. Industries are in constant flux, so demand for new and emerging skills and abilities is always an issue. At the same time, unemployed workers need training on said skills and abilities, and, in many cases, those programs are not yet in place. At the heart of the conversation is the need to build and sustain an economy that provides a comfortable living for all workers while offering services and supports for the entire community. So much to talk about!

To tackle the subject matter, the Conference is convening two panels, each of which will address one of two fundamental elements of the discussion. The questions asked will address foundational concerns that permeate the EWD sector:

Panel One: Training, Trades & Transformation of Pathways

What do learners need to know to find work in their chosen occupation?

What skills are required, and where are those taught?

How do schools and work-based learning opportunities facilitate a transition from student to employee?

Panel Two: Innovation in Driving Student-Focused Systems Change

What’s already working in California’s education systems to train and place tomorrow’s skilled employees?

What assets need development to enhance the education system’s capacity to support all learners?

How does the EWD community overhaul systems that are obsolete or irrelevant?

The topics are designed to elicit opinions and responses from all EWD sector participants, including educators, business owners, industry leaders, government agencies, and community leaders. Accordingly, each panel is populated by a team of professionals, each of whom plays a critical role within their EWD’ sphere of influence.’

In this article, you’ll meet the experts on Panel One, who will be discussing how to revise existing (or build new) pathways to ensure better employment success for current and future students. In this Pulse edition’s companion essay, we’ll look at who will be sitting on Panel Two.


Panel One Speakers:

Training, Trades & Transformation of Pathways

Who better to talk about schools, politics, and trades than educators, government officials, and trade leaders?


Dr. Jose Gomez – Dr. Gomez has just recently accepted the job as Interim Superintendent-President of Pasadena City College, bringing with him his deep EWD experience in leadership and advisory roles at California State University at LA, the California State Senate, the Office of the California Attorney General, and the Office of the California State Treasurer. As a young learner, Dr. Gomez attended both Mt. San Antonio and Citrus community colleges before graduating from California State Polytechnic University (BA) and the University of Southern California (MA, MPA, Ph.D.). Consequently, Dr. Gomez has personally navigated many of the systems over which he now presides at PCC. His Harvard graduate degree in Leadership in Education underscores his dedication to helping learners – and schools – achieve their highest ideals. His input to the conversation will be invaluable.


Victor Gordo – The Mayor of Pasadena grew up in the city and is a proud Pasadena Unified School District graduate. He was the first of his family to attend college (he’s an alum of PCC), and he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in business and finance from Azusa Pacific University and a law degree from La Verne College of Law. He parlayed that educational foundation into a career in politics, working as a field representative for District 5 for then-mayor Bill Crowfoot. District 5 is a notably diverse community; in 2001, Mayor Gordo was elected to represent it on Pasadena’s City Council. pHe followed that opportunity by representing the City of Pasadena on the Rose Bowl Operating Committee, serving on the Council’s Finance Committee, and serving as Chair of the Council’s Economic Development and Technology Committee. He was elected Mayor in November 2020 and steered the city through the pandemic, significant social unrest, and an exhaustive search for a new City Manager. He also serves as the General Counsel and Secretary-Treasurer for the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 777.


Ernesto Medrano – The recently elected Executive Secretary of the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building and Construction Trades Council is excited to lead his contingent of union workers into the new economic era. Planning to build on the momentum driven by the White House and emerging demands by workers for better working conditions, Medrano intends for his agency to add and ensure union involvement in developing that promising economic landscape. The scope of Medrano’s agency position encompasses 48 separate local unions and district councils, with more than 150,000 members representing 14 trades. After 40 years in the union organization sector, Mr. Medrano brings an educated and sophisticated voice to this conversation.


Kelly Lobianco – As director of the LA County Department of Economic Opportunity, Ms. Lobianco brings 15+ years of non-profit and public servant strategizing to this newly inaugurated role. Combining the efforts of four county units into one, this new branch oversees many of the region’s economic and workforce development endeavors that, together, provide support, direction, and resources for the County’s millions of workers. In her role as leader, Ms. Lobianco will be coordinating services that directly impact the region’s job creation strategies, industry partnerships, and business supports, among many other initiatives.


Panel One begins at 9:45 a.m. on the 26th, following the keynote address by California Labor & Workforce Development Agency Secretary Stewart Knox. It promises to be an informative and instructional morning. You won’t want to miss it.


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