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Transcript- Episode 68: How We Can Take Steps Towards A Zero Emissions Reality Through Workforce Development With Dr. Noel Hacegaba Executive Director Of The Port Of Long Beach

Apr 26, 2022

As we pursue our quest to a zero-emissions reality, we just announced a groundbreaking program that's going to generate the funding necessary to transition our truck fleet to zero-emissions trucks. We're going to need the workforce to be able to support the transition to those technologies.


00:00:21 Christina

The workforce landscape is rapidly changing and educators and their institutions need to keep up. Preparing students before they enter the workforce to make our communities and businesses stronger is at the core of getting an education.


00:00:34 Christina

But we need to understand how to change and adjust so that we can begin to project where things are headed before we even get there. So, how do we begin to predict the future?


00:00:46 Salvatrice

Hi, I'm Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College, and host of this podcast.


00:00:55 Christina

And I'm Christina Barsi, producer and co-host of this podcast.


00:00:58 Salvatrice

And we are starting the conversation about the future of work. We'll explore topics like how education can partner with industry, how to be more equitable, and how to attain one of our highest goals; more internships and PCC students in the workforce.


00:01:12 Salvatrice

We at Pasadena City College, want to lead the charge in closing the gap between what our students are learning and what the demands of the workforce will be once they enter. This is a conversation that impacts all of us. You, the employers, the policymakers, the educational institutions, and the community as a whole.


00:01:32 Christina

We believe change happens when we work together and it all starts with having a conversation. I'm Christina Barsi.


00:01:40 Salvatrice

And I'm Salvatrice Cummo, and this is the Future of Work.


00:01:44 Christina

In today's episode, we explore the vast import-export behemoth that is the Long Beach Port, how they're approaching creating green initiatives for imported goods, and how the community college sector can get involved to further these initiatives.


00:01:58 Christina

Here's our host, Salvatrice Cummo, as she talks with the Deputy Executive Director of Administration and Operations for the Port of Long Beach, California, Dr. Noel Hacegaba.


00:02:12 Salvatrice

Welcome back to another episode of the Future of Work. I am your host Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at Pasadena City College. And with me today, I have the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Noel Hacegaba, the Deputy Executive Director of the Port of Long Beach. Hi Dr. Hacegaba, how are you?


00:02:33 Dr. Noel

I'm very well Salvatrice, thank you so much for your invitation. Happy to be with you.


00:02:37 Salvatrice

Thank you very, very much. I had the pleasure of hearing you and meeting you at the LAEDC forecast. You were part of that panel, and you shared so much knowledge with us as it relates to the economic mobility that we're currently in, what we need to look for, how is the Port of Long Beach propelling forward through these difficult times, and opportunities that are forecasted in our near future. And so, I'm super excited that you agreed to chat with us here today.


00:03:08 Dr. Noel

It really is my pleasure. And if I remember correctly, you asked some great questions of the panel. So, I remember you very well.


00:03:15 Salvatrice

Ah, well, thank you very much. Thank you very, very much. Tell us a little bit about your role at the Port of Long Beach and the path that came to become where you are now.


00:03:27 Dr. Noel

I currently serve as Deputy Executive Director here at the Port of Long Beach. And my area of responsibility is I oversee and manage the day-to-day operations and administration. The Port of Long Beach is considered a landlord port. We're a department of our city here at the City of Long Beach.


00:03:43 Dr. Noel

So, using the description, we work at the intersection of commerce and government. And so, my day-to-day experience shifts constantly throughout the day between policy, politics, business, operations, HR, finance, security. So, it's a very challenging, yet very rewarding role that I get to serve in.


00:04:07 Dr. Noel

And I've been with the port now, 12 years ... it'll be 12 years this summer. Previously, I served as the Chief Commercial Officer where I was responsible for all commercial operations and represented the port in front of our customers.


00:04:20 Dr. Noel

And before that, I worked directly for our Board of Harbor Commissioners as the Executive Officer to the board where my function was to provide support, administrative, policy, and communication support to our board. So, it's been just a fun ride here at the port.


00:04:35 Dr. Noel

And before that, I worked for the city proper, City of Long Beach for an elected official. And then prior to that, I worked in the private sector for a Fortune 500 company where I oversaw a portfolio of approximately 200 million in contract. So, you could say I've had some public and private sector experience.


00:04:56 Salvatrice

Excellent, excellent. Well, you make it sound like the operations is so simple, but it's not. I would imagine that operations for our Port of Long Beach is not as simple as it sounds. And there's lots of complexities, I'm sure. Are there any key operations that you can share about day-to-day kind of key operations, and maybe from there, kind of leading into why the Port of Long Beach is so important to our regional and local economy?


00:05:23 Dr. Noel

Absolutely. So, over the last couple of years, we've been responding to the supply chain crisis. Many of your viewers may have experienced delays in receiving goods that they ordered online, or they would go to a store, place an order, and they'd have to wait months to get their appliances or their furniture. Or maybe they saw it in the form of empty shelves.


00:05:44 Dr. Noel

And so, this crisis that we're still navigating through was created by the pandemic. It's the combination of heightened demand as the health orders confine us to our homes, we spent more time at home. So, we spent a lot of our time making ourselves comfortable. So, home goods, furniture, appliances, everything you need to work comfortably from home, all that spiked in terms of demand.


00:06:10 Dr. Noel

And also, we shifted away from disposable income on things like services, entertainment. We weren't going to ball games, we weren't going to the movies or to the gym. So, we started buying a lot of stuff. And then on the other side, we had time capacity. So, at the same time that we were seeing record numbers of imports come through our port, the entire supply chain was constrained from a capacity standpoint; shortages of workers up and down the supply chain and constrained capacity.


00:06:40 Dr. Noel

So, those two forces converged and created the backlogs, the congestion. So, to answer your question in the last couple of years, most of my time has been devoted to navigating through that. And as a port authority, we sort of serve as a conductor. If you think of the supply chain actors and partners as an orchestra, we're the conductor, trying to make sure that everybody is playing off the same sheet of music on the same note, in the same tone.


00:07:10 Dr. Noel

And it's not always easy because we represent a system of systems. We've got everything from shipping lines, terminal operators, railroads, trucks, chassis leasing companies, warehouses. So, every segment of the supply chain has to be in sync in order to ensure that seamless flow of containers.


00:07:28 Dr. Noel

So, it's kept us a lot busier, but it's kept us on our toes. And we understand the significance of what we do on a day-to-day basis to the national economy. Every year, we process 200 billion worth of goods. The complex here in California, the port complex here in Southern California accounts for 40% of the nation's goods. So, we generate jobs across the United States to the tune of two and a half million.


00:07:55 Dr. Noel

And every single container that crosses our docks touches all 435 congressional districts. So, this really is an asset of national significance, and I just feel honored to play a small role in facilitating international trade that generates jobs, generate and spurs economic activities and opportunities, and supports our economy as well as our community.


00:08:20 Salvatrice

Thank you. We overwhelmingly, hear about the workforce shortages during this time. We've also heard about the great resignation. That's very alive and real for us. Has there been movement towards closing that shortage, the workforce shortage that you mentioned earlier? Do you feel that there's momentum into closing that gap as well as are there talents that you saw that we could be paying attention to? And what does that shortage look like for you now?


00:08:54 Dr. Noel

It's a very timely question. We have not been immune to the great resignation. I can tell you that here in the port authority, which is where I work, we have had some retirements and some departures. Across the supply chain. I've seen a lot of movement and shifting, folks either retiring or pursuing other opportunities. So, we have not been immune to the great resignation.


00:09:19 Dr. Noel

In the last couple of years, because of the supply chain crisis, some of these worker shortages have become more acute. For example, prior to the pandemic, we were already experiencing a truck driver shortage. And the record volumes have exacerbated that shortage. On top of that, we also sustained shortages on the workforce front in our warehouses and distribution centers where this very important sector was not being able to retain enough workers and have the workforce at adequate levels to be able to support port operations here at the port.


00:09:56 Dr. Noel

So, those are the two areas that have been hit the hardest. Thankfully, here on the waterfront in the port proper, are longshore workers from the ILWU, they never missed a beat. They masked up, they showed up to work. And as a result, Salvatrice, we've never had to close down the port a single day, which is a testament to their commitment and dedication.


00:10:18 Dr. Noel

So, I would say that going forward, an emphasis on the truck industry, the truck sector, ensuring that we have an adequate supply of truck drivers, ensuring that our warehouses and distribution centers have an adequate pipeline to workers is going to be critically important for us to be able to grow and for us to be able to handle the volumes of cargo that are coming our way.


00:10:43 Salvatrice

Do you see any emerging occupations that we just haven't paid attention to just quite yet? Might there be in respects to the future of work, and we think about preparing our talent for the future occupations - are there any emerging that you feel we need to keep an eye on and a pulse on and train towards?


00:11:04 Dr. Noel

Yes, there are several here in our industry. I can tell you that just as the workforce is changing, the jobs are also shifting. Our commitment to zero emissions, for example, our sustainability goals, that's a major area. So, as we pursue our quest to a zero-emissions reality, we just announced a groundbreaking program that's going to generate the funding necessary to transition our truck fleet to zero-emissions trucks.


00:11:31 Dr. Noel

And so, in the future Salvatrice, we're going to need the workforce to be able to support the transition to those technologies. Everything from operating these zero-emissions trucks to designing, developing, and installing the infrastructure that will be needed to charge those trucks, the maintenance of this infrastructure.


00:11:51 Dr. Noel

So, everything in the zero-emissions sustainability track is going to be critically important for us to be able to have the workforce that's sufficiently skilled and trained to be able to support the infrastructure, the maintenance, and all the equipment that comes with it.


00:12:08 Dr. Noel

So, just to give you one example; here in the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles, by 2030, we have a goal of transitioning all of our cargo handling equipment. This is all the equipment that is used at the terminals to move containers from ship to truck or ship to train - all that's going to be zero emissions.


00:12:27 Dr. Noel

By the year 2035, our vision and our goal is to see the entire truck fleet transition to zero emissions. So, in order to get us there, it's not just the technology, it's not just the equipment - we also need the workforce that's going to be skilled and prepared and trained to support it.


00:12:45 Salvatrice

Fantastic. Now, as a community college or as a system of community colleges, our priority is to respond. Our priority is to ensure that we're ahead of the curve and be better partners to major entities here in the county. How could we be better at, or be a partner through this goal of 2035 with zero emissions?


00:13:10 Dr. Noel

I'm a big believer in community colleges. I think community colleges play a vital role in preparing the workforce of the future. The work that you do at your center, you specifically, is what will bring attention and awareness to ensuring that the paths that community colleges like yours offer the industry and your industry partners, align with where we see the jobs of the future going.


00:13:36 Dr. Noel

So, just having the conversation, making sure there's alignment between the needs of industry with the paths and the training that you offer is critically important. Beyond that, there are a lot of functions and there are a lot of job opportunities that will emerge over time that are so specialized that no one really has that core competency to offer the training, to the extent that community colleges can offer that training, partner with industry, the supply chain partners - that will ensure that we have that resource and that training, that upskilling, if you will, that we need to ensure we have the workforce for the future.


00:14:19 Dr. Noel

So, I'm a big believer in community colleges. I believe they play a pivotal role. And again, that's why I so appreciate what you do because that's the kind of thinking, that strategic thinking, and the partnerships that we need to ensure we have the workforce of the future.


00:14:36 Salvatrice

Fantastic. Thank you. Has there been any models that you've seen just in your experiences, kind of leading you up to the Port of Long Beach, where you feel as a community college, we should be really paying attention to, or a model that you came across that you would like to replicate at the Port of Long Beach that we could be a partner to you?


00:14:55 Dr. Noel

Well, here at the Port of Long Beach, I'm proud to say we've been very, very keen on looking ahead and developing those strategic partnerships with all of our academic partners. Here in Long Beach, we have partnerships with our local unified school district. We now offer paths to introduce students as young as high school age, to jobs on the waterfront and really, jobs across the supply chain which is very varied: engineering, construction, waterfront jobs, trucks, rail, I mean, everything.


00:15:28 Dr. Noel

So, that's something we're very proud of because we are partnering with our academic institutions to ensure that there's a pathway for our students, to make sure that they can take advantage of these opportunities for these wonderful jobs. At the community college level, we have a great working relationship with Long Beach City College, where we're leveraging their status as a maritime center of excellence.


00:15:54 Dr. Noel

And what we've done in recent years, is we've partnered with them to be able to offer certain training programs like training programs for truck drivers, to be able to train and license young men and women to become truck drivers. And over time, we want to continue to grow that relationship and evolve it so that we can capture more of those jobs that we believe will be in high demand in the years ahead.


00:16:20 Dr. Noel

So, there's definitely a model here in Long Beach, but I can tell you that there are other models across the nation, and this is why I say that community colleges play a pivotal role, and they will continue to play a key role in making sure that we have the workforce that we will need in the future.


00:16:39 Salvatrice

Thank you. And in the spirit of the green economy career pathways, it was brought to my attention that a few years ago, the Port of Long Beach adopted a Green Port Policy. Let's shift gears and talk about that just a little bit, and what have been some of the accomplishments from adopting that, and how will that policy guide us through the next decade.


00:17:02 Salvatrice

That's important for us to hear, because it helps us be a little more nimble and flexible to the outlook of the Port of Long Beach. And not only just the Port of Long Beach, but logistics in general, the industry in general. Can you share a little bit about that?


00:17:19 Dr. Noel

You know, we're very proud here at the Port of Long Beach to be the very first green port. Our groundbreaking Green Port Policy has evolved, has blossomed, and the results have been just staggering. So, from the time that we adopted the first Green Port Policy to today, at the same time, that our cargo volumes have grown over 21%. Every single category of emissions, whether it's SOx, NOx - every single category has seen significant reductions to the tune of 80 to 90%.


00:17:53 Dr. Noel

It's been an amazing demonstration of what we can accomplish when we work in partnership with our industry partners. How do we do it?


00:18:02 Dr. Noel

Well, we work with the ocean carriers who manage the fleet of ships to invest in newer cleaner ships to slow steam, to reduce emissions. We work with our trucking partners to invest in fleets of trucks that were cleaner, that were newer.


00:18:20 Dr. Noel

I mentioned a moment ago, how we're already pushing the envelope and we're already on our way to zero-emissions trucks. So, those partnerships have really been transformative and the greatest demonstration of what we've been able to do Salvatrice, is the fact that today, there are over a hundred green ports around the world. So, there are other ports who are emulating our progress and our achievements.


00:18:45 Dr. Noel

And it's been just a wonderful, wonderful example of what we can do together to grow our business while greening our operations. So, we're extremely proud of that. And we look forward to continuing to build on all those achievements.


00:19:01 Salvatrice

Fantastic. Please include us as your partners moving forward with that momentum. I know that our-


00:19:06 Dr. Noel



00:19:06 Salvatrice

Not just the Long Beach City College, who is a great partner to us, and they're one of our sister community colleges, wonderful to have them on board. And I know that the rest of the community colleges within our consortium would be absolutely delighted to serve in any capacity with the Port of Long Beach. So, keep us in mind as that progresses forward.


00:19:27 Dr. Noel

We will.


00:19:30 Salvatrice

Now, what could we expect from the Port of Long Beach? Any initiatives that we need to be aware of? I know we talked about the Green Policy, but is there anything that you foresee in the future that you think we need to have a pulse on, not only with the Port of Long Beach, but also perhaps within the industry in general? Anything you think that, Salvatrice, you really got to pay attention to this?


00:19:54 Dr. Noel

There are a couple areas that come to mind. One is one of the lessons learned from the supply chain crisis is the need for the U.S. supply chain to take a serious look at what it will take to transition to a true 24/7 end-to-end supply chain.


00:20:10 Dr. Noel

So, believe it or not Salvatrice, today, all the ports in Asia, which account for 90% of our business here in Long Beach, they're already 24/7. Their factories never close, their ports are open 24/7. Their entire supply chain is 24/7.


00:20:26 Dr. Noel

Here in the United States, the only segment in our supply chain that's 24/7 are the railroad. Our warehouses are not open 24/7, our terminals are not open 24/7. So, if we want to maximize the cargo volumes making their way here and move containers with seamless efficiency, then we're going to have to find a way to expand our hours of operation.


00:20:52 Dr. Noel

Now, we've taken the first step here in Long Beach. As a result of the crisis, one of our container terminals, TTI, took the first step and they are open today 24 hours a day, four days a week. Since that time, every terminal here in Southern California has expanded their hours of operation. So, our terminals are opening earlier, they're closing later, they're opening on weekends.


00:21:14 Dr. Noel

And so, we feel that as a port, we've taken the first step, but that's just one switch in a multi-switch effort. We need the warehouses to open at night, we need the distribution centers to open at night, we need trucking companies to be open. We need truck drivers to be willing to come at night, pull containers out.


00:21:33 Dr. Noel

And by the way, the benefits of that are not just operational or commercial. It will help reduce congestion during the daytime. It will spread traffic across day and night so that we see a lot of advantage to that. So, that's one big area. It's that transition in 24/7.


00:21:51 Dr. Noel

The second area is what I call the digital transformation. And as we've seen technologies emerge, technological solutions emerge, it's important for us to be able to harness the power of these technologies as it relates to information sharing and integrating the different operating systems of these different stakeholders across the supply chain.


00:22:13 Dr. Noel

Believe it or not, one of the reasons why we experience backlogs is because information is not always shared efficiently from ships to terminals, to trains, to trucks. So, one of the things we're working on right now, one of our newest initiatives, we call it the supply chain information highway.


00:22:30 Dr. Noel

And what we're doing Salvatrice, is we're literally building the digital infrastructure that's going to enable all of our partners in the supply chain to be able to share their information, share the data that we all need to be able to move cargo more seamlessly across the supply chain.


00:22:48 Dr. Noel

If you think of certain cargo visibility tools like cars that carry data, think of what we're building as a freeway. We're building the freeway that's going to allow all these tools that carry data to be able to travel on it. It's a common corridor.


00:23:01 Dr. Noel

So, we're very excited about it. We think that that's what's going to move the needle when it comes to information sharing, when it comes to visibility, and put our customers in the best position to have access to the data they need to make real-time operational decisions that will help them be successful. So, those are two areas that come to mind.


00:23:23 Salvatrice

That's fantastic. Are there barriers to that that we need to pay attention to? Those are the ... certainly the direction of the initiative that we need to move towards, but are there barriers that we can be proactive about in addressing with those two?


00:23:42 Dr. Noel

Well, when it comes to 24/7 operations, there are definitely barriers. One of the many reasons we're not there yet is because we need to convince every segment of supply chain that it's in our collective interest to be able to expand our hours of operation.


00:23:57 Dr. Noel

One of the barriers obviously, is going to be cost. Folks will want to know that if they open up at night and they hire workers at night, that there's going to be containers moving through their business platforms. So, there's sort of a chicken and egg situation there. But that's the reason why we decided to take the first step here at the Port of Long Beach. We wanted to demonstrate to folks across the supply chain how serious we were in exploring this. And our terminal took the first step, TTI, they were willing to incur the cost. So, we took that first step, we hope everyone else will follow suit in time.


00:24:32 Dr. Noel

In the area of digital transformation, the longstanding barrier has always been proprietary of information. How to ensure that someone's data that is proprietary is going to be protected and secured.


00:24:45 Dr. Noel

The way that we have designed the supply chain information highway, it lowers the friction, it increases the safeguards. We're going about it in a way that protects the proprietary nature of data and information. And we're encouraging everyone to participate so that they will have access to data. But of course, if they want the data, they're going to have to share their own data. So, we think we've designed it in a way that will be inclusive, will be flexible, and it will be very secure.


00:25:16 Salvatrice

Thank you. I really appreciate you sharing the barriers because it's not so much to point out as a negative standpoint, but it allows for innovation. It allows for us within the space of academia, within the space of entrepreneurship, it does allow us to think about conducting business in a very unique way, and it allows us to be creative and innovative towards solutions. So, I really appreciate you sharing those barriers.


00:25:43 Salvatrice

And with that, as we kind of take the podcast episode to a close, anything you want our listeners to know at this time?


00:25:53 Dr. Noel

There is: I began by telling you a little bit about my leadership journey, how I got here to the port, but let me share a story that - I want to share with you and your audience that illustrates how important it is to ensure that the community is aware of our industry and the jobs that it creates.


00:26:13 Dr. Noel

So, how I ended up at the Port of Long Beach was completely accidental. It was not planned. I was working for a company in the private sector. The City of Long Beach was one of my areas and so, I was attending as many events as I could to bring visibility to the company. And one of the events that I attended was the State of the Port Luncheon. And when I arrived, I went to the table where I was assigned, but every seat was taken.


00:26:42 Dr. Noel

So, not wanting to make a big deal of it, I just went to the next table that had an extra chair, turned out to be the table furthest away from the podium next to the exit doors. I said, this is perfect. So, I sit down, low and behold, the person sitting right next to me happened to be the Director of Human Resources for the Port of Long Beach. And that is how I ended up coming to the port.


00:27:05 Dr. Noel

It was a very small conversation, very brief conversation that resulted in two weeks later, getting a job description in my mailbox at my office at work. And that eventually, became my first job.


00:27:16 Dr. Noel

I share the story because I believe that we should work more strategically with partners like you, all of our academic partners, to expose our youth to these career opportunities. It shouldn't be accidental. It shouldn't be haphazard. Our youth should be exposed to our wonderful industry that generates good-paying jobs, good careers, so that our communities that benefit from our cargo also benefit from these careers and jobs.


00:27:50 Dr. Noel

So, this is why I appreciate the opportunity to join you today and I appreciate all the good work you do. And the Port of Long Beach looks forward to continuing working with you and all community colleges to prepare the workforce of the future.


00:28:02 Salvatrice

Thank you very much. This has been such a pleasure. If there are audience members that would like to reach out, what's the best way they can reach you?


00:28:11 Dr. Noel

My email address is very easy. It's


00:28:22 Salvatrice

Thank you so very much. We'll be sure to enter that into the show notes. Again, have a wonderful day. Thank you for spending your time with us.


00:28:29 Dr. Noel

My pleasure. Thank you, Salvatrice. We'll talk soon.


00:28:33 Salvatrice

Thank you for listening to the Future of Work Podcast. Make sure you're subscribed on your favorite listening platform so you can easily get new episodes every Tuesday. You can reach out to us by clicking on the website link below in the show notes to collaborate, partner, or just chat about all things future of work. We'd love to connect with you.


00:28:41 Salvatrice

All of us here at the Future of Work and Pasadena College wish you safety and wellness.