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Transcript- Episode 94: What The Next Generation Of Workers Need To Thrive With Abby Snay, Deputy Secretary, Future of Work at California Labor & Workforce Development Agency Episode 94

May 23, 2023

00:00:00            Abby

Many, if not most of the jobs that are going to exist in the next 10 years don't even exist yet. And so, point-by-point training is just not going to be possible.

00:00:10            Abby

And so instead, I'd recommend that students focus on their core skills in critical thinking and problem-solving and communication that they could take in multiple directions and not focus solely on a specific narrow occupation.

00:00:29            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.

00:00:42            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?

00:00:54            Salvatrice

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

00:01:02            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.

00:01:20            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.

00:01:40            Christina

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

00:01:47            Salvatrice

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

00:01:53            Salvatrice

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Future of Work Podcast, I am your host, Salvatrice Cummo. In today's episode, we'll be learning more about the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and some of the work they are doing. We will also talk about the state of labor in California in areas such as agriculture, healthcare, and education, and how employers and educators can work together to better the future of work.

00:02:20            Salvatrice

With that being said, we are excited to welcome Abby Snay, Deputy Secretary for the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency. She leads workforce strategy for the labor agency, driving program partnerships and initiatives for higher impact, job quality and equity.

00:02:37            Salvatrice

She has worked to increase economic mobility for immigrants and refugees to create a new healthcare workforce initiative in partnership with the California Health and Human Service Agency to expand apprenticeships in California, and to develop training and workforce opportunity through the state's climate strategies.

00:02:58            Salvatrice

Before joining the Labor Agency, Abby served as CEO of the Jewish Vocational Service in San Francisco for over 35 years. Abby, thank you so much for joining us today, you've got so much on your plate and I am honored to have you as a guest on my podcast to talk about all things labor and workforce development, welcome.

00:03:23            Abby

Well, thank you so much for having me Salvatrice, I'm excited to be here and to talk to you.

00:03:28            Salvatrice

Excellent. Well, let's just dive right in. All of your experiences have led you as the deputy secretary for your current role there at the Future of Work for California Labor and Workforce Development.

00:03:40            Salvatrice

And you correct me if I'm wrong, I almost feel like it's prepared you so much so based on what we've experienced with California just most recently. And we all experienced this crazy weather and major, major weather conditions that have affected the entire state with a strong impact specifically on agriculture.

00:04:02            Salvatrice

And so, based on your experiences, what's kept you interested in this work and solving or being very proactive in solving this issue with the impacts to agriculture - what is being done right now based on what you can share to help these workers who have, A, been out of work due to the weather conditions, and B, have lost their employment due to the flooding and loss of crops?

00:04:32            Abby

Yeah, you're right, Salvatrice. As the winter storms were creating flooding and havoc, especially in rural counties, the impact of those storms on farm workers has been profound. They've lost their jobs and have also lacked access frequently to disaster response services and income support.

00:04:54            Abby

I felt proud of the administration and proud to be part of it right away when we saw what was happening, the Office of Emergency Services put together a priority populations task force that met every single morning with groups from public health, social services, Department of Aging, just to make sure that elderly people, home bound people, disabled people and other people at risk were getting checked out at home, were getting essential services and were getting food and shelter.

00:05:23            Abby

But the impact on farm workers has really been significant and continues to be significant. With the federal disaster declarations, the Labor Agency has been able to secure additional assistance for unemployment insurance to provide a cushion between jobs, but that only helps workers with documentation.

00:05:45            Abby

And so, we are working closely with our networks of community-based organizations in the most affected rural communities to make sure that farm workers get the services and benefits that can help them get back on their feet and working with partners inside the administration with private philanthropic sources to figure out sources of income support to cover them in periods of unemployment.

00:06:10            Abby

Looking ahead if I might, we've been really thinking a lot about farm workers in the last year and want to increase the investments in training that we're making, both to help them advance within the agriculture sector to better paying jobs in supervision and management roles as well as specialty areas such as irrigation control.

00:06:34            Abby

And also look at jobs that can leverage the skills they've built as farm workers and take them into adjacent sectors such as forestry, such as wilderness management and to make sure that that training always has components of building basic English and literacy skills as well. And knowing that we're talking within a community college context, I'm hoping that many community college partners are listening in.

00:07:01            Abby

The community colleges and rural communities have really stepped up and are offering certificate programs in many of these skills and occupations but we need more. We need more to serve more firm workers and especially, programs that integrate contextualized English and other literacy skills into occupational programs to really enable firm workers who are also English language learners to accelerate their training and build their English skills while they're learning specific work skills

00:07:32            Salvatrice

In the conversation around community colleges, If I could ask a follow-up question to that would be what community college, I think, in your humble opinion is doing it really well that we can model off of because that's what we do.

00:07:45            Salvatrice

We model each other's best practices but also, just wanted to add this layer is Pasadena City College specifically my division, oversees the consortium of Los Angeles Regional Consortium of the 19 community colleges, and we oversee that operations through the strong workforce funding.

00:08:04            Salvatrice

So, hearing this makes me think, "Gosh, if we could really study the model that's working in other community colleges, the body of '19, although we're not super, super close to agriculture here we could still make an impact.

00:08:19            Abby

That's absolutely right and the programs that we've learned about that stand out tend to be in the Monterey Peninsula area; Ridley College, some of the other community colleges that are working closely with growers to help identify ways in which the growers are using new technologies and working together with the community colleges to build skills to enable workers to advance to new jobs and to be more productive using new technologies, and then to help the industry as a whole.

00:08:50            Abby

And I think that's where community colleges really do their best work in partnership with employers, training specifically to their needs.

00:08:58            Salvatrice

Yeah, it also makes me think about my work and what I could be doing to inform instruction on the emerging occupations within our agriculture based on what we've experienced. So, I really appreciate you sharing that because that was an aha moment for me to say, well, you can contribute too and that is by sharing the knowledge and demonstrating the emerging occupations.

00:09:20            Salvatrice

And another area that we've seen really take a decline in workforce is the healthcare space. What is the Department of Labor doing to address the lack of employees in the healthcare field that we've seen?

00:09:34            Abby

In the fall of 2021, Dr. Mark Ghaly, who is the Health Secretary for the state, reached out to the labor agency saying a day does not go by that he wasn't hearing from healthcare providers about the crisis in staffing and having enough workers to meet the essential needs of California. Of course, just coming out of the shock of COVID and the pandemic.

00:09:57            Abby

And so, our agencies joined forces and secured over a billion dollars in funding in last year's state budget to address these dire workforce needs, and also, to increase diversity and linguistic and cultural competency in the healthcare sector and to offer pathways to stable careers in healthcare for people in low-income communities of color.

00:10:20            Abby

And so, we are really excited about the silo busting and the very deep partnership that's emerging between our two agencies and among a dozen different departments. And we are building out training programs that will expand nursing education, closing the gap between training and education and the actual clinical workplace, and to support advancement into nursing specialties where shortages are especially dire; surgery, OB, psych, those shortages again, are really critical.

00:10:53            Abby

We're also, and this is through the CHHS side, expanding the numbers and use of community health workers as part of primary care teams in community clinics in other public health and provider settings, and working really closely with people in the community around health education, health coaching, and other services.

00:11:17            Abby

And some of the changes California made in the last couple of years through CalAIM is expanding payment directly for those services, really increasing the demand for community health workers in ways that are going to make health services much more accessible to people in underserved communities, and also, create new pathways into healthcare as community health workers.

00:11:39            Abby

We are also building high road training partnerships with employers and unions in allied health careers such as medical assistants and certified nursing assistants to advance existing workers into better jobs, and then creating new opportunities for new workers to move into new jobs.

00:12:00            Abby

We are also very excited about a program we learned about a couple of years ago that is an emergency medical technician, an EMT program in Alameda County, which recruits at-risk youth and trains them for EMT roles. And these are often stepping stones into other roles in emergency services as well as other roles into healthcare. And we hope through this state investment to be able to replicate that program in 7 to 10 counties around the state.

00:12:32            Abby

We're also really excited about a program component that is working in very close partnership with the community colleges through the chancellor's office, and the adult schools to create accelerated training and education programs for English language learners in healthcare through training models that incorporate English language instruction into vocational skills training.

00:12:57            Abby

So, that somebody who is learning English doesn't have to spend a year or two getting to a certain English level to be able to then start a medical assisting program, to be able to really contextualize and integrate both of those sets of learning at once.

00:13:11            Abby

We hope over the next three to five years to really make a big difference in the healthcare workforce with goals of training up to 50,000 new healthcare workers.

00:13:22            Salvatrice

Excellent, excellent. And I'm so happy to hear the momentum around that already, and the anticipation for more. This is really good information because again, what you're sharing now is so crucial to our work and it keeps us informed on not only what is happening but what you anticipate to happen so that we could best prepare to be better partners to the state. And so, I really appreciate that.

00:13:45            Abby

All of what you shared of course, involves funding. And so, I wanted to touch on that just a little bit specifically around the expectation or the expected funding for the state from the Federal Infrastructure Act, the 45 billion that's expected to arrive. Can you share what you can, what will these funds be used for and will funds be allocated to provide any training opportunities for the public?

00:14:16            Abby

Yes, yes and yes. The Federal Infrastructure Act offers truly a once in a generation opportunity for California and other states to strengthen roads and bridges and broadband, and make broadband accessible to every community in the state, and to create a climate resilient infrastructure. And we can see from the storms and floods and wildfires how critical building a climate-resilient infrastructure is in our state.

00:14:43            Abby

The Infrastructure Act also creates opportunities to train thousands of people, especially young people and other workers who have been left behind for the jobs that will be needed for this work. Both the construction jobs needed to build roads and bridges, and the technician and operator jobs needed to keep them running and keep them repaired.

00:15:04            Abby

We, at the Labor Agency with our partner the California Workforce Development Board, working in close coordination with the governor's office, and the governor's office is infrastructure taskforce, have really been working and a lot of work also with the California Transportation Agency and Caltrans on a two-pronged approach so that we can really leverage this funding as an opportunity for equity and access.

00:15:33            Abby

Really, the first being to make sure that the jobs that are created with the billions of dollars that will be going out in contracts include provisions for apprenticeship requirements for including apprenticeships, for community workforce agreements so that people in our communities have access to skill building and access to these jobs. And our partners at the Workforce Development Board are really working with agencies and departments to educate them on ways that their contracting standards can build job quality and equity.

00:16:06            Abby

What we're also working on is leveraging funding through the federal infrastructure funds themselves and other federal and state dollars to expand apprenticeship and apprenticeship in construction and some of the other skills that will be needed for the infrastructure job.

00:16:24            Abby

We're also working closely with the chancellor's office to align funding and deepen connections between the state's network of high road construction careers, which really sit on the labor side, and all the training and education that is going on at the community colleges.

00:16:42            Abby

The Illumina Foundation has supported a few pilots that have really deepened those partnerships. For example, there are so many people going through construction pre-apprenticeship programs who are really great with their hands, but in order to pass an apprenticeship exam, they have to know algebra and they have to know test-taking techniques so that they can pass those very rigorous apprenticeship exams.

00:17:09            Abby

And so, partnerships with community colleges have really bolstered some of the math skills and study skills and test-taking skills so that we're really leveraging that expertise for the benefit of pre-apprentices in those programs. And the chancellor's office will be issuing a solicitation and I guess, here's a heads up for you on funding to increase those partnerships in construction with the state's 13 high road construction careers.

00:17:38            Salvatrice

Fantastic, that's a nice heads up. I really appreciate that and I'll keep an eye out for it and share with my colleagues too. We've spent some time really talking about the programmings and the training and all the wonderful work that is happening in your area, but I want to just maybe pause for a little bit and really talk about the state of labor itself in California.

00:18:00            Salvatrice

And I'm curious to hear your perspective about not only what it looks like now, but your perspective on what it might look like 5 to 10 years from now based on the information that you know and the research, and the momentum that you're building as we just heard. And the second part of that question would be what could we do as educational institutions to really shape that projection in a positive way?

00:18:27            Abby

So, despite the layoffs in the tech sector that have really been so visible on the news lately, the state of unemployment in California is not bad. As of February, it was 4.3%, slightly higher than the U.S. unemployment rate. California has steadily been adding jobs since the spike of layoffs in the early days of the pandemic in 2020, and has added over 3 million jobs, really nearly all of the jobs that were lost then.

00:18:57            Abby

However, these positive trends really mask income inequality which is among our greatest concerns and a major concern for all of us in California. California is among the states in the country that has the largest gap between high and low income families with families, at the top of the income distribution. And this is according to the Public Policy Institute of California, earning 11 times more than families at the bottom. And wealth is more unevenly distributed than income.

00:19:34            Abby

And so, at the heart of this challenge, really, is inequity, economic mobility and low wage work. About a third of the workers in California (and this is from 2019) earned less than $15 an hour. The majority of those people were full-time workers and we know that workers of color are over three times more likely than white workers to live in poverty. And women make up the majority of workers in California who earn less than $15 an hour, and they're overrepresented in low wage jobs such as jobs in long-term care and childcare.

00:20:10            Abby

One of the first things that our governor did early in his tenure was create a Future of Work Commission. And that was one of the reasons I was brought on to the state. And the Future of Work Commission issued recommendations in early 2021, and those really focused very globally and very aspirationally around eliminating working poverty, raising the standard and share of quality jobs, ensuring that there are enough jobs for everyone who wants to work, and future-proofing California with jobs and skills that prepare for changes in technology and climate, and other shocks such as the shocks we experienced in the COVID pandemic.

00:20:57            Abby

And so, it's really these recommendations that drive our work at the agency, the core of which is increasing equity in our training programs and expanding access to good jobs. And in doing this, and we've talked about this already, is relying on partnerships we have with community colleges and other educational institutions around the state to make that happen.

00:21:20            Salvatrice

Thank you. And on that note, speaking of the student, what advice do you have for students on how they should prepare for their future careers knowing that this is the outlook within the next 5 to 10 years?

00:21:35            Abby

I would give three major recommendations. First, to recognize that many if not most of the jobs that are going to exist in the next 10 years don't even exist yet. And so, point-by-point, training is just not going to be possible for every job.

00:21:51            Abby

And so, instead, I'd recommend that students focus on their core skills in critical thinking and problem-solving and communication that they could take in multiple directions, and not focus solely on a specific narrow occupation.

00:22:07            Abby

I'd also recommend building technology and presentation skills that cut across all sectors as well as fluency with online and self-directed learning.

00:22:18            Abby

The successful employee of the 21st century will be an employee who takes charge of his or her own learning and development and will be resilient and able to be resilient in the face of continuous change, and who can adapt to that change and continue to build skills and seize opportunities as those emerge.

00:22:41            Abby

And then the third recommendation really simply is work, work, work. Work as much as possible in jobs or internships related to coursework or in other settings. Every job is a learning opportunity, every job is a chance to build experience, references, and connections. And every job can really help students build a network of supervisors and coworkers, and stay in touch with them for advice, for support.

00:23:07            Abby

I wouldn't underestimate how much people really want to help and following up with a supervisor for a suggestion on job leads, "I'm really interested in this field, who else do you know who I could talk to?" People really want to be able to help and I think as students, whether they're young people or working age adults really are often shy to ask for help, but people want to help.

00:23:30            Salvatrice

They sure do. Speaking of help, this is the Future of Work Podcast and I ask this question all the time to conclude our conversation and to wrap things up is; if you had one thing that you would like our listener to understand and our listeners are students and faculty and employers and industry and government, I mean we have a beautiful group of listeners - about the topic that we've been discussing today, about the future of work, what might that be?

00:24:00            Abby

Sure, and I think I can pull together some of the threads we've already talked about in our conversation. The future of work is not preordained and all the projections around the robot apocalypse and AI taking our jobs, we can shape the future of work through policies, and for us at the state and funding and programs that do tackle inequality and create good jobs and then pathways into them.

00:24:26            Abby

And we can seize the moment as we've been talking about in addressing climate change, strengthening our infrastructure, building a healthcare workforce to make sure that we're creating good jobs and then creating pathways into those jobs in advancing into better jobs for the people who've been historically left behind.

00:24:45            Salvatrice

And that's certainly going to take a diverse group of organizations and agencies and people to do that. And I think I can speak on behalf of our team here, really appreciate the work that you're doing there at the state and we want to stay connected, we want to stay informed. So, please, if there's anything that's important to us to understand, know and learn, please forward that over, happy to share it on this podcast of course, and our channels of communications and networks.

00:25:13            Salvatrice

Thank you so very much, and speaking of staying connected, if our listener wanted to connect with you, what's the best way to do that?

00:25:20            Abby

Sure, it's simply, and thank you so much for having me. Thank you for this conversation Salvatrice, and thank you for really sharing insights and perspectives about the future of work in your whole podcast series. This is really important and I'm just so grateful for the chance to be part of the conversation.

00:25:43            Salvatrice

Well, I suspect that the dialogue will continue, that we'll be having more conversations to come in the future and I again, thank you as well. And with that we'll be sure to insert your contact information in the show notes and again, thank you very much. We'll see you soon.

00:25:59            Abby

Thank you.

00:26:02            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.

00:26:10            Salvatrice

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, all of us here at the Future of Work and Pasadena City College wish you safety and wellness.