It is often said results speak for themselves. But, what if they don’t? What if the most important accomplishment is mastering new ways to think and work together—culture change?
The San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance is built on the work of the Regional Jobs Initiative (RJI). The RJI was designed as a 5-year sprint in 2003 to create 30,000 jobs in the Central Valley, create new civic infrastructure, strengthen the workforce and build a dozen industry clusters. The theory—if we create jobs and a strong workforce—there will be resources for the city of Fresno to invest in amenities, parks and infrastructure instead of spending the bulk of its money on law enforcement. Everyone would benefit: job seekers, employers and the community. Much was accomplished. Many lessons were learned.
Businessman Mike Betts, informed by the work of the RJI, made a commitment to lead the Alliance from a civic perspective. Rather than create an industry cluster, he and many partners from government, education and nonprofits are standing together as citizens first to align resources and to get results. Rather than think from their self-interest, they are committed to doing what is best for the whole community. Single interests fragment and negotiate. Citizens align and leverage. You know which approach delivers better results!
New programs have started, dual enrollment is increasing, millions of dollars in equipment and programs have been added to career and technical education, instructors have become certified. The results are students are becoming credentialed and qualified for jobs, and students are finding career pathways they never knew existed.
Employers are discovering that if they want a strong workforce they must become a strong partner in curriculum design. They must offer externships so instructors are up to date on workforce culture and skill needs. They must offer internships to students at various levels as first jobs of generations past are no longer available. Most of all, they must be mentors and role models. Too many of our youth and young adults did not receive the kind of mentoring those in healthy families receive by osmosis. We must be intentional.
We are not alone in this work. The California Community Colleges initiated the Strong Workforce Program and the impacts have rippled throughout the state. New funding, new policies and more alignments are the fruit of these efforts. California Forward and the California Stewardship Network are working together, not just to accelerate outcomes from this program, but to address critical community issues that prevent too many of our residents from being job ready and thriving.
2019 is a big year for us. The eighth California Economic Summit is coming to Fresno in the fall. We encourage you to check out the Summit website and read the 2019 Roadmap to Shared Prosperity. Every region is on board, Governor Newsom has been involved since the beginning and the commitment to advance economic, social and environmental issues together is shared by all. Civic stewardship—leaders working together on behalf of the whole—is the path to achieving Golden State reality.
Deborah Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council.
An earlier expanded version of this blog ran in the Fresno Business Daily.