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Transcript- Episode 83: What You Missed From The 2022 Future Of Work Conference Presented By PCC Episode 83

Nov 15, 2022

00:00:00 Sandra

When we shift the burden away from the student, then we make our institutions more accessible to them; where we don't burden them with proving that they are in fact poor to access resources, when we don't burden them with having to buy textbooks for specific classes, when we look at initiatives that are intended to support them unconditionally as they're in their educational journey - those are the types of things that will help us keep our students.

00:00:27 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.

00:00:40 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?

00:00:52 Salvatrice

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

00:01:01 Christina

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

00:01:05 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.

00:01:18 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.

00:01:38 Christina

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

00:01:46 Salvatrice

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

00:01:52 Christina

If you missed last week's Future of Work conference presented by Pasadena City College, then this episode is a great snapshot of some of the thought leaders who took the stage.

00:02:02 Christina

We are sharing with you the panel discussion that took place featuring some familiar speakers you might recognize from the podcast like Will Walls and Kelly LoBianco. We hope you enjoy our recap of the panel segment of the Future of Work Conference presented by PCC.

00:02:22 Leslie

My name is Leslie Thompson and I'm the Director of Operations for Economic and Workforce Development here at Pasadena City College. We're excited to have with us here today, a strong lineup of panelists to help us further dig deep into our discussion areas, and we're really thankful to be joined by Jessica Ku Kim, who will be serving as our panel discussion moderator.

00:02:38 Leslie

Jessica Ku Kim is the Chief Deputy of the newly formed Los Angeles County Department of Economic Opportunity. Jessica's worked in economic and workforce development within LA County since 2005, and brings local community knowledge and trust, field expertise, subject matter expertise, organizational, and sector leadership, and demonstrated outcomes for economic and workforce development programs and services, public-private partnerships, and collaborative systems change.

00:03:02 Leslie

As Chief Deputy of LA County's Department of Economic Opportunity, Jessica oversees the operations of DEO to ensure enhanced economic and workforce development policy, programs and services, commissions, administration, public affairs, and communications, and information technology, and data management and analytics that serve to create quality jobs, help small businesses and high road employers start and grow, and build vibrant local communities and spaces.

00:03:27 Leslie

Previously, Jessica had served at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation, as Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development, where she had oversight of worker and small business-focused programs and services, strategic engagement with the public, private, social, and philanthropic sectors, and increasing regional resources, opportunities, and alignment. Let's bring in to the podium now to begin our panel discussion. Please help me in welcoming Jessica Ku Kim.

00:03:55 Jessica

Thank you, Leslie. Whenever your bio's read, it always makes me tingle a little. But hopefully, you all are having wonderful morning, I'm really glad to be back to this Future of Work forum. I was here for the inaugural one and it's such a great opportunity for us to come together and discuss it.

00:04:10 Jessica

And my colleague Dr. Su Jin Jez, hopefully, you enjoyed her presentation this morning as well. Let's begin with our panelists. So, if you could please share your name, title, organization, and your reason for participating today, and I'll start here to my left.

00:04:23 Will

Hello everyone. My name is Will Walls. I help small business owners and entrepreneurs get more through the language of sales. I am also an alumni. I started at 2020 non-traditional student at PCC in February of 2020, right before the pandemic happened, I had no idea - decided to go back to school, and then there was a pandemic. So, it was quite an interesting thing. I started February, 18th, graduated this past year, now at UCR, and on the panel, I'm the student representative to share my perspective.

00:04:55 Jessica

Thank you.

00:04:55 Micah

Good morning everyone. I'm Dr. Micah Young. I serve as the Dean of Health Sciences here at Pasadena City College. My reason for being on the panel is to represent both the academic community, but also, representing the interests of students as they're looking toward those pathways, and those true career pathways and alignment from education to industry and beyond.

00:05:11 Kelly

Hi everyone. My name is Kelly LoBianco. I'm the director of the LA County Department of Economic Opportunity. I work closely with Jessica. We are one of the newest departments in the county, bridging Economic and Workforce Development. So, I'm really excited to be here with you all today to talk about how we can bring together our public workforce and education systems for shared impact. Thank you.

00:05:32 Sandra

Good morning everyone, Sandra Sanchez. I'm the Interim Vice Chancellor for the Workforce and Economic Development Division of the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. It's a really long title.

00:05:44 Sandra

So, I'm excited to be here this morning. You know, part of the responsibility of the system office is to make sure that our colleges have the resources to meet our students where they're at, and to support them along their career journeys. So, I'm really excited to be here today to kind of share with you a little bit about what our system office is focused on and how we're moving this work forward. Thank you.

00:06:02 Martin

My name is Martin Hernandez, I'm the Senior Program Associate with the LA County Department of Arts and Culture. So excited for all the county representation on the panel today. Big thank you to PCC for having me. I actually administrate the LA County Arts Internship Program on behalf of the department. It's alongside the Getty's Foundation. It's the largest paid arts internship program in the country.

00:06:20 Martin

PCC is a very strong partner of ours and has worked closely with us to ensure that their students have access to the program. Over the past couple of years, we as a department have been embarking on a multi-year effort to build deeper relationships with the community colleges to facilitate more students from the community colleges participating in the program. And so, I'm here to share a little bit about that today.

00:06:38 Jessica

Thank you. So, Will, let's begin with you, and congratulations for graduating and moving on to UCR, another great university nearby. So, as a PCC graduate and as someone who worked in the Freeman Career Center here on campus, what factors do you think hinder a student's ability to achieve their career objectives?

00:07:01 Will

Well, I want to start with, I love the video that we started out with when they were asking the kids about what are they here for? That type of thing. That was good. I think if you were to ask the next question like "Do you have an ed plan? Have you met with a counselor? Have you met with an advisor? Have you been to the Transfer Center?" I just have a feeling that they might not have done any of that.

00:07:26 Will

So, as a student that worked in the Transfer Center, I was actually surprised at how many students didn't have an ed plan or had never met with a counselor or an advisor, or never been to the Transfer Center. The Transfer Center, oh my God, I cannot stress from day one, the Transfer Center, you need to know the game plan. When I went in there to the Transfer Center my first week, I had no clue.

00:07:54 Will

I'm a non-traditional student, I don't know what ... I went in there and I said, "Look, I don't know what I don't know." They grabbed my transcripts, I did have my transcripts, and they start reading them like ones and zeros from the Matrix and they start telling me what to do.

00:08:06 Will

So, it's going to land on goal-setting. And when I say goal-setting, what I mean is having a dream. When you show up here to PCC, I think that you need to know what your dream is because if you can have a dream, you can have a goal. And if you have a goal, an advisor can help you, a counselor can help you.

00:08:26 Will

So, I kind of think that the customer, which is the student, I think PCC should be in the business of selling dreams, because if they never make that connection, going to school and when you have an issue, like if they accidentally sign you up as out of state, that's a problem that you're going to have to advocate for yourself to get them to fix it. Because sometimes, people don't fix it right away and you've got issues. So, advocating for yourself, having a dream, having a goal.

00:08:57 Jessica

I love the point you made about you don't know what you don't know, right?

00:09:01 Will

Yes. That's so important. I said that so many times. Whenever I met with anybody, "Look, I don't know what I don't know, but here I am." And whenever I would say that, they would come up with all this, "Oh well did you know you can do this? Oh, did you know you can do that?"

00:09:17 Will

No, I don't know what I don't know. I tell people, I have a friend of mine whose daughter's 19-years-old, she just started at PCC, and I told her to go into the Transfer Center, say, "Will Walls told me to come here. And he said, 'I can say I don't know what I don't know.'" It works. People are going to help you.

00:09:34 Jessica

I like that. And I think the institutions, as we think through it, how do we empower our students to know it all? How are we delivering that capability for that student to know it, right?

00:09:44 Will

Yeah. They're not going to know, they're not experts. And one of the things being in the Career Center, some of the students that come in and you can tell, I mean, they're trying to get up the nerve to talk to adults and say, "Hey, this isn't right." I watched this happen, and so they don't know what they don't know. They're not experts and it's up to us to help them.

00:10:06 Jessica

Thank you. Thank you. So, Dr. Young, you know we're talking about transfers and one of the important things is that we have curriculum that is aligned to what industry needs, that it's aligned to the skills demand of employers. What do you think are effective strategies for education to do that.

00:10:24 Micah

So, when we're talking about alignment between industry and academics, I would say you have to look at the competencies that are required in both in terms of having effective educators. And I think the California community colleges does a great job of procuring highly effective educators, but then it's a competency-based curriculum that leads to employment opportunities.

00:10:39 Micah

And making sure that our faculty and our staff are all committed to that same goal of understanding how do the building blocks in the classroom lead to employment opportunities on the backend. Sometimes that means retooling on both ends, retooling both the student as well as the faculty to understand that the industry has changed and industry will continuously change as the economies of scale change.

00:10:58 Micah

And as we move from regional economies to global economies, and understanding that we're in Southern California, which is a large global market - we have to be positioned to not only prepare workforce for the local California economy, but for that global economy, which the Southern California region also provides as well.

00:11:13 Micah

So, that alignment has to be not just at the K through 12 cycle, but also, at the community college cycle. And then beyond making sure that there's a value for education. I know we all say we value education, but getting that true value for education across the penumbra of institutions that exist.

00:11:26 Micah

We have a lot of students who have to work during the time that they're in college in terms of work-based education and work-based knowledge basing with things that we're supporting. But how do we build on that capacity for students so that they can migrate into a starting career and additional career?

00:11:38 Micah

Understanding modern work says that the average person will probably change careers five to seven times within the course of their lifetime. How do we create capacity within an individual and the autonomy and the advocacy, and an intentionality behind the student to be able to say, "Hey, I need help, I don't know what I don't know, but I want to come here to get my start and have this position me long-term for success within industry."

00:11:56 Jessica

I appreciate that. You know, building on that, Sandra, we know that the future of work, like Dr. Young mentioned, many of us, people are going to change careers multiple times, but we know that first career is essential to catapulting your career when we talk about earnings and wages. What transformation needs to take place today to address that reality, and how do we center that transformation around a student-centered design?

00:12:21 Sandra

Thank you for that question. Well, I'm sure everyone here is familiar with the vision for success. And I think at the Chancellor's office, we are doubling down our efforts on the vision for success, but the governor's roadmap very much aligns with our vision for success. He very much believes that the work that we have started needs to continue.

00:12:38 Sandra

And so, part of this transformation is really putting an emphasis on how our colleges are creating empowered learners and creating unconditional belonging on our campuses. And I think one of the key things is how do we facilitate career mobility for our students? How are colleges implementing these transformations to ensure that our students do have access to every possible opportunity or work-based learning experience that's going to help them land that first job, that will then catapult them to greater opportunities.

00:13:08 Sandra

So, in terms of the work that we've been doing, is really helping the colleges to transform their institutions to think about how they serve students and walk alongside them as they are coming to access resources and services. And if we know that an individual is going to have about 17 jobs throughout their lifetime in five different industries, then the old paradigm of creating an expert and sending them off to work, and that they'll retire in that old economy model, no longer stands true.

00:13:39 Sandra

And so, we need to change the way we meet students, we help them and we walk alongside them on their journey. One of the things that we recently did at the Chancellor's office is we commissioned a landscape analysis to look at nationally, what is happening with experiential learning and work-based learning across the country.

00:13:56 Sandra

And what we learned from that landscape analysis and the report we published in the spring, is that the first job has an impact on their lifetime of learnings for an individual. So, that really makes it super important for our colleges to make sure that work-based learning, experiential learning, jobs and internships are a key component of every pathway that a student enters and participates in if we're going to help catapult them, as you stated to that next opportunity for success.

00:14:25 Sandra

And so, it's really important that we double down on our vision for success. Part of that is of course, owning our data and looking at how our students are actually doing. Are they thriving? Is it disproportionately impacting certain populations of students? How we address that matters.

00:14:40 Sandra

And so, if we center our students in that design, if we focus on meeting them where they're at, pairing high expectations with high support, we can hope to have better outcomes for our students. But I think integrating that conversation with our faculty and making sure that they understand that students will not have one job in their lifetime, how do we prepare them with those competencies as was stated earlier, and the skills that they need to manage and thrive in multiple industries.

00:15:09 Jessica

Thank you. I appreciate that. I often joke with my husband, he was a teacher, then he worked at an IT company, and then he went into occupational therapy, and then now, he's in sales. And so, it definitely moves around, right? You don't stay in one career path and one occupation, but we did pay for all that education. So, that's the joke.

00:15:31 Jessica

So, Martin, let me move this to you. So, you are working with all the community colleges to foster work-based learning, especially in the arts. Can you describe your experience fostering work-based learning in partnership with our community colleges?

00:15:44 Martin

Yeah, I really appreciate Dr. Jez opening up our conversation, talking about values, and encouraging us all to think about our values and the approach to the work.

00:15:53 Martin

I exist in this kind of interesting space in that our internship program, we do not do the placements. So, all of the arts nonprofits that are part of our program that receive a grant from us actually go and do their own hiring. So, I kind of just go out and cheerlead for the program at large in front of students and say, "Hey, in the springtime every year, we have about 230 of these 400-hour paid internships in the arts, please apply."

00:16:16 Martin

And so, when I joined the department in 2018, specifically to increase our outreach in the community colleges, one of the things that I actually had been in alignment with my previous work, but in this new role, is I think every college has its own set of values and sometimes, those things are very apparent and sometimes, they're not.

00:16:32 Martin

And I think what happens, unfortunately, when I'm coming into a college that has a lot going on, whether it's a community college or otherwise, when those values are kind of put off to the side, it makes it more difficult for me to understand who are the key players, who are the people that I should be talking to, who is best poised to do the warm handoff to their students or other faculty so that we can increase enrollment or excuse me, participation in our community college students into the program.

00:16:58 Martin

And so, here at PCC, it was actually a music faculty that we had a connection with that introduced me to folks at the Freeman Center. And actually, this music faculty had been advocating for our program for many years before our department had the infrastructure to support with that. And that was a really vital connection.

00:17:12 Martin

And I then was able to be put in contact with, I think, it was just Leslie who was on the team at that time a couple of years ago. But from there, we grew up really strong formal partnership where now, I'm able to come onto the campus every year and speak about the program and share this opportunity with the students.

00:17:26 Martin

And I don't have to restart the process of meeting folks all over again to figure out who's going to help me book the classroom to be able to come and speak and be in front of the students. And I will just say for our department, I know both because of my previous work, I worked in workforce development programs both at the city YouthSource Centers, WEO programs before I came to the county.

00:17:44 Martin

So, I kind of know how the ball moves, and I know that sometimes for the career folks, the goal is get the students the jobs. I know that sometimes for the teaching faculty and the professors, it's get the students into the classroom and passing the class.

00:17:56 Martin

And if you're not careful and if the values are not in alignment, then those things can actually be opposed to each other. And one of the things that we're seeing a lot in our program in the era of COVID, is that if you make a student choose between their internship or their schooling, they're going to choose their schooling over their internship 9 times out of 10.

00:18:11 Martin

And so, I work really hard to make sure that students are aware that this program is very flexible. We actually do not require students to major in the arts to participate in this program. We know there's a lot of arts-specific misconceptions and anxieties or students that may want to participate in this program feel like they can't or what have you.

00:18:29 Martin

And so, it's really, really helpful when again, those values are present enough that we can have that conversation at the outset. We have again, 228 of these opportunities every single year as far north as Palmdale, Lancaster South to Long Beach, West to Santa Monica and east to Pomona. And so, we just want your students to be able to participate.

00:18:47 Martin

So, when the staff are all on the same page, both in the Career Center as well as in the classroom, that can be a wonderful starting place for us. And when we're not there, it obviously takes a lot more work and navigation.

00:18:59 Jessica

I really appreciate your point about the values alignment and having those conversations. I think that's a key to get people to row in the same direction.

00:19:06 Jessica

Kelly, so our newly formed department has a mission to help unlock LA County's economic potential by connecting workers to quality jobs, streamlining resources to businesses, and building vibrant, diverse communities. What does that look like in practicality and how do you tie into the work of the region's community colleges?

00:19:27 Kelly

Thank you, Jessica. Yeah, and before I even dig into a little bit of our department, I want to piggyback on my colleague from the arts department's commentary about like this sort of shared vision of success. Because I really appreciate that too. You know, there's amazing partnerships through the arts department for these great creative career pathways.

00:19:43 Kelly

And I think we all can do at the county a better job of connecting to our community college systems about the sort of world of work-based learning opportunities that we have available to us. Like through our department - and I'll get into in a second a few of the other ways that we can better align.

00:19:58 Kelly

You know, we oversee the Youth at Work Program, which supports 14 to 24-year-olds in getting paid work-based learning experiences. And we work with about 10,000 young adults per year. And sometimes, the goal is supporting educational attainment. Sometimes the goal is really connecting to that first job that's unsubsidized and not paid by the county.

00:20:17 Kelly

And through the American Rescue Plan, we've been able to enhance our programming for a little under a thousand folks in the next couple of years for a much longer internship experience. So, there's a lot of opportunities to connect to the arts, to connect to a variety of sectors, and even connect to county jobs.

00:20:33 Kelly

You know, we are a huge workforce ourselves, 110,000 employees in counting I think, in almost every occupation you can think of. And so, a lot of what we're trying to do with our work-based learning experiences through our public workforce system is also create a pathway to county jobs, which are really great with good benefits and offer lifelong pathways for folks.

00:20:50 Kelly

But to take a step back, our department is brand new. I talked to some of you, I see some friendly faces in the room, about what we're trying to do here. We launched July 1, and are so lucky to have Jessica have joined our team recently as well.

00:21:02 Kelly

We're bridging economic and workforce development for the first time for the county under one roof. We are at the beginning of this, in Jessica's bio, you heard our mission. We're really here to build a more equitable economy with thriving local communities, inclusive and sustainable growth, and opportunity and mobility for all. And how do we do that?

00:21:20 Kelly

We do that through creating jobs, through supporting small businesses and high-road employers, and building vibrant communities in local spaces. And then what does that work-work really mean?

00:21:30 Kelly

So, we oversee one of the LA County workforce development boards. That means that we oversee 58 of the 88 cities in the unincorporated areas and we work really closely with our other six workforce development boards, making sure that we're supporting workers and businesses in all 4,000 square miles of LA County.

00:21:47 Kelly

We run 19 of the American Job Centers of California, again, in partnership with over 40 with our collective workforce development boards. In that work, it's outreach to communities. We're offering job readiness training, industry-informed occupational skills training and credentials, oftentimes in partnership with community colleges.

00:22:04 Kelly

We're working with businesses, making sure there's incentives for them for hiring and training and bringing on new talent. And we're supporting that job connection and offering follow-up services for retention and advancement for workers throughout LA County.

00:22:16 Kelly

And then on the flip side, sort of as we're thinking about that connection to economic development, we offer a lot of support for businesses directly outside of hiring and training, but also that, so we run the office of small business, and this is really a concierge for small businesses and entrepreneurs to get education, technical assistance, capital access, networking opportunities.

00:22:36 Kelly

We support the connection to our preference programs and certifications so that small businesses and community-based organizations can access the $6 billion of county purchasing power every single year. And we're also, doing things like bringing together industry clusters, making sure that we're thinking about our high-growth industries here in LA County.

00:22:56 Kelly

We're supporting business attraction, business improvement and literally, looking at county space as opportunities for economic development in areas that we can build more affordable housing and commercial opportunity. So, we're doing a lot, but really at the end of the day, we're focused on workers and businesses, and all of that through an equity lens to bring it back to our mission and vision.

00:23:16 Kelly

You know, we have a lot of resources but they're still limited. And so, we want to make sure all of the investments that we make are for those historically disinvested communities who are working with workers who need our resources the most. And we're working in sectors that have the highest opportunity to get folks family-sustaining wages and pathways for that mobility that we just talked about.

00:23:35 Kelly

You know, we're really excited to be this new department and work more closely with the community colleges. And so, the teams that sort of compile this department were about 200 strong, have been working closely with the community colleges for a long time. We co-locate centers, we have a lot of training programs that we offer together, whether it's for the green economy or for county positions or beyond.

00:23:56 Kelly

And we do that because we know that the folks that are in community college classrooms, or walking into our public workforce system, or entrepreneurs sitting in our office of small businesses, are all the same folks and with same families and same needs. And so, there's a real mutual advantage for us to align our efforts together. And we know that's difficult sometimes because we're like two large bureaucracies trying to move together in sync.

00:24:19 Kelly

And so, some of the things on my mind as we're a new department and refreshing our relationship with community colleges and how we can work better together is really this thinking about - Will, you used the word customers.

00:24:30 Kelly

Like if our students are our customers or our participants in any of our workforce programs, what is their experience in accessing the public workforce system or economic development systems or public education systems?

00:24:40 Kelly

And how can we come together to map that experience for them so that they get ... I like to use the term sort of overwhelmed with the support that they actually need to be present in classrooms, achieve their educational credentials and degrees, and get that job that really helps sustain their families.

00:24:54 Kelly

I think a lot about industry engagement. You know, we talked about like how do you make sure you're aligning the work in the classroom to the evolving needs of our external environment. We're all out there talking to businesses, whether it's major industries, small businesses, nonprofits, hiring managers.

00:25:11 Kelly

And so, what can we do as two large systems (our county and our community colleges) to think about industry engagement and make sure all of the work that we're doing is industry-informed? And to the presentation before mine by the California Competes folks - not competing against each other but actually thinking about how are we serving the individuals the best way that we can, but also thinking with a systems change lens.

00:25:31 Kelly

I think there's opportunities for us all to think about how to connect students to other services of the county. You know, we're one access point focused on economic and workforce development, but we know that there's an opportunity cost to upskilling and gaining an education. So, how do we make sure that where are the resources for wraparound support, cash assistance - there's a lot that the county can offer that we're braiding that together.

00:25:56 Kelly

And DEO, our new department of economic opportunity really hoping to be a point of access for community colleges to make the county make a little bit more sense. And then lastly, I think that there's opportunities for us, like I said at the very top of this, around shared impact.

00:26:09 Kelly

So, we have an opportunity to set strategic goals together to look at the region and think about the macro-level change that we really want to see and set those goals. And so, that when we're doing the hard work of moving a community college system or moving the county, that we have shared goals in mind, and that we're working in concert on those. And so, I'll go ahead and stop there.

00:26:30 Jessica

Thank you. A lot to think about, especially from this morning's presentation too. Kelly mentioned centering those in disadvantaged communities. This morning's presentation shared some unfortunate data regarding significant decline in enrollment across California community colleges.

00:26:47 Jessica

And the additional painful reality is that students of color, that is African American and Latino students are disproportionately impacted. And so, I pose this to all of the panelists and I'm hoping Will, I could start with you to start with the student perspective; what action should we be taking to improve enrollment?

00:27:07 Will

I think of a story of a gentleman that I met - well,, I met his mom at my other office and she was telling me about her son who wanted to go to UCLA but he wasn't in school right now. I guess he ran into some issues or whatever, so now he's just working a job but he's not in school but he wanted to go to UCLA.

00:27:26 Will

So, when I think about this one kid, when he ran into the issue of the school saying, "Oh you're out of state," you know that whole thing, it was going to cost him $900. $900 he didn't have. So, he was just not in school and just going to go on with life. That's not okay. That's absolutely not okay.

00:27:45 Will

I told his mom, "Meet me at the Career Center, bring him with you." And I followed up, I walked him over to the Transfer Center and we solved his problem, and that kid was in school, he was back enrolled. So, this is a customer who had went away because he ran into some issue. This is an African American customer who had went away, but we got it resolved.

00:28:05 Will

And I think one of the things that I think would be really good here at PCC is if someone is enrolled in school and all of a sudden, they're not, who cares? Does anybody care?

00:28:19 Will

I mean, so what I'm saying is that what if there was a department that all they did was customer service was like, "Hey, we noticed that you're not in school. How's it going? What's up?" You know, if somebody was to call, just simply call to find out what the issue is; "Why are you not enrolled? Where did you go?" In sales, we call that low-hanging fruit. That's a customer that will become a customer again just because somebody called.

00:28:48 Will

So, I don't know if PCC has a customer service department. I don't know, I have no idea. But if they did, I think it would make an impact if there was someone that followed up. And really, what's interesting is that you don't have to be in customer service to follow up.

00:29:05 Will

If someone came to your department and asked for help for something or whatever, what would be the problem with somebody just following up to find out did that student get what they needed? Did you get help? Was it resolved? I don't think that happens anywhere in any department. I don't think it does.

00:29:21 Will

But I'm saying it would have an impact towards bringing those, I'm going to call them customers (I'm calling students customers) - bringing those customers back. Just simple follow-up. I don't think it would even ... what would be the cost to that? Simple, "Hey, where are you? What happened? What's going on? How can we help?" So, I don't know.

00:29:42 Jessica

I like it. I think that's a great idea. And there's a report that was commissioned by our region's community colleges here called Community Colleges at A crossroads. And in that, one of the best practices that was pointed out was to take a look at these data points like when a student doesn't purchase a book, can someone follow up with them because by a certain week that means they're going to drop it or something's not going right.

00:30:04 Jessica

Could we use that data to then follow up with the student, and colleges that have implemented that have seen better student retention. And so, there are opportunities like that. And so, I appreciate what you're saying and thank you for sharing that. Panelists, anyone else?

00:30:18 Sandra

So, I think one of the things or a few of the things that our colleges need to focus on in terms of how we serve our students better is really around the idea of retaining the existing students that we have. We have really high attrition rates across our system for students who start with us one semester and then never come back.

00:30:37 Sandra

So, I think in business you say it's easier to keep a customer than to get a new customer. So, part of that, I believe, is how do we become institutions that create environments where students feel like they belong unconditionally?

00:30:53 Sandra

And so, what are the institutional barriers that we have created for our students to protect our institutions that are not welcoming to our students? And so, I think that, to your point of customer service, when we shift the burden away from the student, then we make our institutions more accessible to them.

00:31:12 Sandra

Where we don't burden them with proving that they are in fact poor to access resources, when we don't burden them with having to buy textbooks for specific classes, when we look at initiatives that are intended to support them unconditionally as they're in their educational journey - those are the types of things that will help us keep our students.

00:31:30 Sandra

We know that there is an overall demographic decline in babies. Nobody had babies 20 years ago and it doesn't look like for the next 10 or 20 years, there will be babies that are coming of age to enroll into our institution. So, it becomes even more important that we really think about how we are welcoming to students of all walks of life.

00:31:52 Sandra

And so, adult learners, for example, how do we facilitate them accessing resources? What are the barriers that we've created to keep them from accessing resources? And so, those are some of the things that ... I know at the system office we're focused on, I know I hear a lot about like we have to do paper applications for adult learners and then CCC applies terrible and all the things.

00:32:14 Sandra

And so, those are some of the initiatives that we are working on at the system office to make sure that that is not the reason why our students can't access our institutions, but also, access the resources. And I think that rather than having a customer service department, we should be focused on everyone being a customer. So, we lose students, the new graduates will come and fill them.

00:32:35 Sandra

That's not going to happen anymore. There is a complete demographic decline on the number of students that are going into the K12 system. So, we can't expect to replace them from that. So, we need to make sure that our systems welcome students wherever they come to us, especially adult learners and especially focus on the retention of the students we already have. Because that's what's going to make us one, sustain our enrollments, but also, help us achieve greater success for the communities that we serve.

00:33:01 Micah

I'd like to add, we also have to make a value proposition to our students. What is the value added to going to a California community college? I think oftentimes, that's overlooked in terms of the value proposition on the front end as well as on the back end. Because if you save a student indebtedness, they're able to take a job at a lower reimbursement level.

00:33:19 Micah

You don't have as much turnover in employment with folks job-hopping to find the highest salary because now, they can take a job and stay in that job and grow with that job because they're financially stable.

00:33:28 Micah

Also, when we're talking about disproportionately impacted communities, we have to look at what are our approaches to making sure that when we talk about disproportionately impacted communities, we also have to look at what are the barriers that they face outside of the educational arena.

00:33:43 Micah

So, most of our educational institutions are built for middle-income, upper middle-income individuals, nine to five scheduled traditional college schedules. Most of those students may be working. We have to look holistically at our student populations.

00:33:53 Micah

Are our classes available when they need classes? Are we intentionally making the value proposition of higher education to the students? What are we doing to make sure that the classes are accessible, and have pathways that lead to not only life-sustaining wages, then family-sustaining wages. Because if we want to retain that population, and want them to reinvest in our system in terms of sending future generations of students into our system whether it's California community colleges or any other public institutions, I think that's important.

00:34:19 Micah

The last thing I'll say is that we have to make the value proposition because we have competition for those very populations that we historically have always been there, that we somewhat and sometimes historically, have ignored, now, they have options. And if those options are making the value proposition to those students but not showing them the price tag but the value proposition is being there, those students will make the best decision that's in front of them.

00:34:41 Micah

So, we have to look at holistically at our students in terms of retaining, yes, reaching out, following up, the cold calls, et cetera - but we also, have to make that general value proposition to why the California community college is the best bang for your buck regardless of your background.

00:34:55 Micah

And then we have to understand who our students are. And I ask people who is the California community college student? And I tell people, it's everybody. It's those students that are at the UCs who need an extra class. It's the students at the Cal States who are taking classes because their system is just as impacted as ours, but ours is more accessible than theirs.

00:35:10 Micah

I would always say that we should do a study on the number of degrees we actually save from the Cal State system. We really should because they're taking classes with us because they can't get them at their home institutions. So, we're adding to the baccalaureate level education for preparation of students along the continuum, which also leads them to transfer to graduate schools and go beyond.

00:35:28 Micah

So, we really need to look at our customers and make that value proposition to all the communities that we serve, that the California community colleges are uniquely equipped to serve all students without barriers.

00:35:40 Kelly

I'll just add quickly too, because that's a great point Dr. Young, that I think that there's an opportunity as well for us to better connect the county systems. Like we have clients and customers that come to the county for a variety of goods and services and programs and whatnot , and making sure that we're both sharing the value proposition that you're speaking of as well.

00:36:01 Kelly

Not just sort of having the system butt up against each other, but also, mutually reinforcing that sort of continued follow-up, that sort of like retention support, and that sort of advancement support as well. You know, like how do we bridge that so it's not just sort of the full staff of the colleges, which I think is a really good point.

00:36:18 Kelly

But also, the folks that are following up with individuals who graduate in that first job, telling them about how that additional degree or additional credential can help them on that mobility pathway. So, I just think it's really important for that sort of mutually shared goal be set among us.

00:36:32 Martin

Just briefly, for me, in my position, I think the community colleges are in this really unique space of being able to keep a really wide definition of success. Degree attainment is certainly one type of success, but I don't think that it's necessarily the type of success for all students. And specifically, with the internship program, as I mentioned earlier, like we don't require students to be majoring in the arts to participate.

00:36:56 Martin

That was actually a change implemented many years ago out of many students at the colleges saying, "I would love to participate in this program, I literally can't major in the arts because my parents won't allow me to or they won't financially support me in majoring in the arts. So, it's a passion of mine. I'm taking classes where I can in the arts, but I'm majoring in computer science because that's what I need to do to pay the bills or that's what my family or generationally, I'm being told is what I need to do in order to make the next jump in my career."

00:37:23 Martin

So, what is it to say to a student like come take art classes just for the sake of taking art classes if you're able to? Like what is it to say that you're going to school for the sake of learning what it is that you want to do? I think I'm guilty of this as well in that we have this very - it's an expansive definition of the arts, but it's an arts program. That's really what we're here to kind of connect folks into.

00:37:45 Martin

But even within that, there's a huge variety of experiences. I think about how arts faculty on community college campuses are huge undertapped resources in like how did you get to become a professor of theater or a professor of music? Like what is your career look like? What are you doing outside of this institution to feed that creative part of your spirit?

00:38:04 Martin

What would it mean for a student to be able to major in computer science but also, have a career in the arts as a musician or a performer or a dancer, so on and so forth? So, like how are we keeping our definitions of success expansive enough to be able to kind of cast a wider net?

00:38:19 Martin

And even within the field of arts and culture in LA county, it's estimated that 400,000 people work in the creative sector in LA County alone, but an additional 150,000 of them are more independent contractors, entrepreneurs, artists, performers that don't necessarily have a nine to five in the arts. But they're contributing to the economy, number one. And number two, they have livelihoods that just look a little different than working for the county or working for a major financial institution.

00:38:47 Martin

So, again, I think for me, the magic of community colleges can really be that once they know what they know or once they get to know what they know, isn't it an opportunity for them to kind of build something that looks a little bit different than just I'm going for my AA or my bachelor's or my master's, and how can the community college institution support them in that, I think is really exciting in a unique position.

00:39:09 Jessica

Let's continue with that direction Martin. So, we were talking about barriers to enrollment and now, let's talk about the system changes that we need to strengthen our system alignment to the future of work. What are some of the system changes that we need that you all would recommend?

00:39:26 Martin

So, my program looks completely different than it did before the pandemic. My job description, everything that I'm doing on the day-to-day has completely changed. I cannot overstate that enough. I think the county gets a rep of like being a little bit slow to move sometimes, and certainly, there are bureaucratic levers sometimes that need to get pushed and pulled in order to make things happen.

00:39:46 Martin

But what I can say as a county employee in the heat of the pandemic for specifically our department, we were running around like chickens with their heads cut off to meet this moment and to be able to actually move forward some things that we had wanted to do for a really long time that were not possible in the pre-COVID world. I'm going to give a really specific example for remote work within our internship program.

00:40:08 Martin

So, before the pandemic, our internship program was summer-only. Interns would start in June, end in August, they would work 40 hours a week full-time. We did let them drop down to 30 occasionally, and there was no allowance for remote work whatsoever. So, the expectation was that the intern would be onsite either at the nonprofit organization or in the home office. And we had no exceptions to that.

00:40:28 Martin

The program that I administrate now is a nine-month program with internships starting in June that can go all the way to March of the following calendar year. And we allow for all different kinds of remote experiences. So, some interns are working fully remote, some interns are not working remote at all, some are doing the hybrid.

00:40:45 Martin

So, I think as maybe low-hanging obvious as it is, like I don't know that we should be doing anything the same that we were before the pandemic. And when it comes to work, I have interns asking me, "Well, Martin, is this a hybrid position? Are these remote positions? Are these in-person positions?"

00:41:01 Martin

Language, I was like not even thinking about three years ago as many of us are. I imagine with instruction, it's similar. So, I think leaning into those questions, even if we don't necessarily have the answers, we pull both our supervisors and our interns every single year about, especially since the pandemic, about how the structure of the program is working for them.

00:41:21 Martin

And we ask both our supervisors and our interns in the post-pandemic world; "Is the remote work working for you? Are you enjoying it? Do you feel like it's compromising the quality of your internship?" And we're being told "No, actually the flexibility, I appreciate. I appreciate being able to talk to my supervisor and say, hey, my kid is sick at home, can I just jump on my laptop and work here?"

00:41:40 Martin

So, this is a moment for us to kind of stop, pause, reevaluate what has been working for us. It was, we've had these ideas on the back burner, like making the program more year-round that were not necessarily feasible before the pandemic.

00:41:53 Martin

And we saw that as an opportunity to say, "Hey, we know that a 40-hour a week internship in the summer from June through August only serves one type of student. A student who is not working another job during the summer, a student who has the summer off, which like is not always the thing of course." And so, how can we build a better program that's more expansive to a wider range of students?

00:42:11 Martin

So, again, I think it's daunting and we're trying a lot of things and I'm looking at the data rolling in and hoping that everything comes up roses and so far, it has, but we have to be constantly willing to rethink these things.

00:42:22 Martin

You know, this is a legacy program of our department, it's been around for 22 years, and I'm the first person to have said, "Hey, can we make this a year-round program now because of the pandemic?" And we were able to do that and it's been really successful. So, again, how are we taking this moment to kind of challenge and change some of those things that before didn't feel broke, so didn't get fixed.

00:42:41 Jessica

Sandra, you gotta have some thoughts on this.

00:42:46 Sandra

I do. I think that during the pandemic, our system demonstrated that it can change. In a matter of weeks, the entire 116 colleges went fully online. So, in terms of what are the changes that we can make? I think that we have proven to ourselves that we are able to make changes.

00:43:03 Sandra

I think to support the idea of shifting our own workforce, we are making a lot of investments in professional development for our staff and our faculty to make sure that we can fully adapt to the new world of work. But also, things like trying to figure out the funding formula for competency-based education.

00:43:23 Sandra

We changed regulations. Part of that is understanding how could we do it differently. If we focused on competencies, then we're no longer worried about how much time a student spends in a classroom. We're focused on the competencies that they are learning as they progress across their journey, but also, then meeting them where they're at if they have to work full-time.

00:43:41 Sandra

How they access our instructional programs from a competency perspective really gives them much more flexibility to ensure that they can complete a program on their timeframe based on whatever their life circumstance is.

00:43:53 Sandra

The other thing that we've recently done - well, I will say that in the last three years, we've updated or changed 22 new regulations for the system. And a lot of it is around what we learned through the pandemic, where we had old regulations that were really outdated and didn't support colleges, and their ability to adapt.

00:44:12 Sandra

So, recently though, we also passed the work experience regulations and it used to be called Cooperative Work Experience. It was heavily focused on burdening the student with finding a job, and then having to figure out how to manage that system.

00:44:26 Sandra

So, part of the update, one, is that regulation was 50-years-old. Didn't even get updated when economic and workforce development became the third primary mission of the colleges. It's continued to stay in its old form.

00:44:37 Sandra

So, we updated the regulation to really shift the burden from the students to the institutions and to be more collaborative with employers, and ensuring that our institutions are better able to partner, but also, created the flexibility that allows our faculty to think about how they would embed experiential learning and work-based learning opportunities in their curriculum in a more intentional way.

00:44:58 Sandra

Also, one of the updates is making sure that when you create those opportunities, we are intentional in designing those to fit the pathway that a student has chosen. And how do we support that?

00:45:10 Sandra

What it's going to require is that our colleges and our system as a whole rethink how we support students in that endeavor. How we support, to your point earlier, about, is it like you have to know the faculty member in the music department? Or is there a career and job placement center that any employer can go to? Or does it look different on your campus?

00:45:29 Sandra

Whatever it is, the intent of updating those regulations is to make sure that our colleges have a flexibility to do whatever it's going to take at a local level to ensure that they are able to meet students where they're at. But also, to shift - shift that burden from the student to the institution and to the partners that they're working with. Because as we stated also earlier, students don't know what they don't know. And so, since we know better, we should do better,

00:45:52 Jessica

I appreciate that. Bishop Desmond Tutu wisely advised that we eat an elephant one bite at a time. What is the big bite that the Los Angeles region should be taking together?

00:46:04 Kelly

I really appreciate the point you just made around shifting the burden from the student or our customer to the institutions. We can take on some of that burden and make it a little bit easier for folks to get what they need out of our collective institutions.

00:46:19 Kelly

And so, I would say, I think the big bite we need to make is really setting some ambitious goals together about the kind of impact that we want to have on the region. Whether it's like we want to dramatically increase our graduation rates in that we take the opportunity cost away from students in joining and completing programs, or rapidly reducing the poverty rate.

00:46:42 Kelly

Like I think that there's an opportunity for us as large systems to come together and speak our future into existence and we have a lot of the sort of like power and resources and minds with us to be able to do that.

00:46:54 Will

I'm going to jump in here and I'm going to say that I think that the success story needs to be elaborated on. I'm here because my mentor in February of 2020, I was on the phone and I remember this person was unemployed, not in school, not doing stuff in the past; but this person - I remember this person saying, "PCC changed my life bro" and I watched it happen. I literally watched this person's life become way better.

00:47:24 Will

And today, today, this person is a professor here at PCC. I watched that happen, and that had a whole lot to do with what made me want to enroll because PCC changed somebody's life and I was like, "I want PCC to change my life."

00:47:39 Will

So, there has to be more success stories told as to what it did for this person, what it did for that person. We have a lot of the data and it's good, it's important. We should have the data to find out where we are. But what about those success stories in terms of how it helped this person. From a customer's perspective, you got to tell the success stories. So, I think there should be more success stories told.

00:48:07 Martin

I would just add, I mean it's been mentioned several times, but for me, breaking down silos, I have a picture of like two people on the opposite sides of a wall, like knocking it down. And I actually think that breaking down silos is like swapping sides or like stepping into each other's shoes to really understand this person that you're trying to build a partnership with, like what is their day-to-day look like, and how can I use that information to inform the ways that I am stepping into this partnership.

00:48:32 Martin

I think that I would like to say that because of my experience working directly with students and on the community college campuses before my current role - when I approach a community college in my current role, I'm like, "I will bring my own flyers, I will make the QR code, I will pick the date and time, you just get me the room." Because I understand that for faculty on a community college campus, finding the room, making the reservation, who's printing the flyers, who has the printer ink - all of those things are additional barriers.

00:49:01 Martin

So, if I can alleviate any of those pieces, it is helpful to the partnership that I know that ahead of time. I seek to mitigate as many of those things as possible.

00:49:11 Martin

So, for me, whenever I'm building those, trying to break the silos, it's not really just about being more intentional. It really is, I think, gaining a sort of empathy and awareness around what it looks like on the other side of that wall, and coming together in partnership to try to alleviate those areas of tension.

00:49:27 Martin

I can't tell you how many professors have been like, "Oh my gosh, you'll make the flyer for us? You know how to do that. Thank you." Like that's just one less thing to have to worry about. But for me, that's how you go about breaking down the silos. And I think the more we can do that, the more transformation we can expect to see.

00:49:41 Jessica

Thank you. So, if you could join me in giving a round to our panelists today.

00:49:53 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.

00:50:01 Salvatrice

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