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TRANSCRIPT- Episode 65: The Impact Of Los Angeles Regional Consortium On The Future Of Work With Dr. Audrey Childers, CEO Of EducateX

Mar 15, 2022

00:00:00 Audrey

The consortium leverages all the expertise of 19 powerhouse colleges that already do phenomenal work by themselves. You put that together and there's no stopping us.


00:00:12 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.


00:00:25 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?


00:00:37 Salvatrice

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


00:00:45 Christina

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


00:00:49 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.


00:01:03 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.


00:01:23 Christina

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


00:01:31 Salvatrice

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


00:01:36 Christina

Today, our host, Salvatrice Cummo, Vice President of Economic and Workforce Development at PCC talks with Audrey Childers, CEO of EducateX - about her previous role as the Los Angeles Regional Chair for the Los Angeles and Orange County Regional Consortium, which we are proud to announce is now being led by Salvatrice Cummo and her EWD team.


00:01:58 Christina

They discuss how to create a culture of collaboration and synergy across these regions of community colleges that are part of this consortium to build strong and impactful regional projects, with the goal to emerge as the center of best practices for other community college regions and the overall goal of preparing students for the future of work.


00:02:22 Salvatrice

Good morning. Welcome back to another episode of the Future of Work. I am your host, Salvatrice Cummo. And with me today, I have the pleasure of speaking to CEO of EducateX, Dr. Childers. Good morning, how are you?


00:02:38 Audrey

I am doing well. Thank you, Salvatrice for having me.


00:02:41 Salvatrice

Very good, very good. You know, this is a really special episode for me only because as you know, we have taken the lead on the Los Angeles Regional Consortium.


00:02:52 Audrey



00:02:52 Salvatrice

Not only as a fiscal agent, but also building the team and all of your work that you've done in the past with regional work and current work, and being instrumental in the infrastructure design of this current consortium. I'm very excited to speak with you today, and I think the audience is going to be really interested in finding out a little bit more about you and your role, not only as a CEO of EducateX, but also get to know you outside of your role as past Chair.


00:03:24 Salvatrice

So, I'm super excited about that. I think if you don't mind, let's just get right into it.


00:03:30 Audrey



00:03:30 Salvatrice

Alright. I think it might be helpful for all of us to know, because I'm super curious as well, is really kind of what led you to this work? What led you to workforce development in your career path? How did it all come about?


00:03:45 Audrey

Well, thank you for asking and I'm happy to talk about that. But first, I really want to say it's been a pleasure working with Pasadena in this capacity as the new regional Chair. And I know we're going to talk about that, I believe a little further on, so I won't go too far in it. But just it's been a real pleasure.


00:04:04 Audrey

But as far as my background, I finished high school and went to college and believed that my plan was going to roll out as I go to college for four years and get a degree. Then I think I'll go to graduate school and get another degree, and then I'm going to start my career. It did not happen that way for me.


00:04:21 Audrey

I was a stop-out. Midway through undergrad, I started a family, that wasn't according to plant. That's what happened. And so, I thought to myself, I'll take a quarter off of school to sort of get my bearings, and then I'll just go back to college. Well, it took 10 years, and then I did finally go back. I finished, I call it the 16-year bachelor plan. It took me 16 years to get that degree and I still got it.


00:04:49 Salvatrice

What's important is that you got


00:04:50 Audrey

Yeah. And then I went on for a master's immediately because I was on a roll, and eventually, I got another master's and a doctorate, but I kind of want to talk about the 10 years gap because what I did then was really get familiar with workforce development on a personal and a professional level.


00:05:08 Audrey

So, personally, frankly that offered benefits. That was my criteria for my career at the time. And because I was taking care of not just me, but another person. So, the job that had benefits was a job with the county. So, I started as an eligibility worker, so I determined ... it's now CalWORKs, but it used to be AFDC: cash, food stamps, and Medi-Cal eligibility. So, I did that for a while, and then I progressed in the county. So, I was there for a total of 12 years and eventually got into - and this is all without a college degree.


00:05:41 Audrey

So, one thing that I like to say, I tend to resist when job descriptions automatically have a degree requirement, especially if it's a high degree, because I really think an important question is why? Why do you need a degree for this job?


00:05:55 Audrey

So, I got all the way to what's called a staff analyst and I was writing policy when CalWORKs passed. So, I got to write procedures for how to do that and also WIA, the Workforce Investment Act. So, my background comes from there on the county side. And then after that, I ended up finishing my bachelor's and then went into education.


00:06:16 Audrey

I love community college because of the connection to workforce and its openness to students like me because I could definitely relate to the experience of a nontraditional student. And frankly, that is the vast majority of our community college students. I think that's the background that I have that really made me want to continue to work in this space.


00:06:38 Salvatrice

Awesome. And then leading up to regional Chair in the previous consortium under LAOCRC, can you share kind of like the objectives during that time and really what you learned from being a regional Chair and what does a consortium really bring? What is the value of the consortium?


00:06:58 Audrey

Wow, great question. Sure, the consortium leverages all the expertise of in our case, 19 powerhouse colleges that already do phenomenal work by themselves. You put that together and there's no stopping us. You know, LA is huge. We all know that. And we serve the most of any region in California. We serve about a third of the community college students in the state.


00:07:23 Audrey

The state right now serves about 1.8 million community college students. And it used to serve 2.1 million, but our enrollment went down with the pandemic. Hopefully, it's going to go back up. And the state of California serves about a third of the community college students in the nation. So, California's already huge in terms of our system, and LA serves a third of those students, of the state students.


00:07:46 Audrey

And so, as far as the value of working as a region, I think the innovation that one college has gets shared more easily and we've seen that. The ideas and expertise, even if there's healthy debate, we end up better for it. I think one of the things that I learned as a regional chair for Los Angeles was the difference between healthy debate and sessions that were kind of deescalating and weren't going to accomplish anything.


00:08:10 Audrey

I worked hard because that's a hard skill to learn, especially with a large group of leaders, but I worked hard to learn how to redirect or use methods that might avoid us wasting each other's time, frankly, and getting something productive out of our interactions. And I think we do, as a region we do


00:08:30 Salvatrice

Right, doing some of this regional work now, for me, involves hyper-level of coordination and attention to detail. And thinking back, I mean you kind of shared just a little bit moments ago, but let's dive a little bit deeper on like really kind of key takeaways from doing this regional work and what makes it effective.


00:08:54 Salvatrice

What makes regional work effective? Not only for the lead institution, lead Chair, but what makes it effective for the colleges and the consortium? And I would maybe even extend it a little further as what makes it effective as a partner to the consortium? What are your thoughts on that?


00:09:15 Audrey

The first thing you talked about was organization. So, absolutely, having organized meetings and being able to ... what you set out to achieve is important. At the same time, there's flexibility. So, sometimes you do have to kind of ask yourself in the middle of the meeting on the fly, how important is it and move on.


00:09:32 Audrey

And as far as structures or approaches maybe, that might work to achieve that, there are formal and informal approaches. I was regional Chair, I was at every meeting. I talked a lot, people knew me. And so, whenever I wanted to achieve something new or different than their routine meetings that they were used to, I had to bring in a professional facilitator. It couldn't be me. And so, I think Pasadena's wise to that already. I don't think that's a new lesson, but definitely a key takeaway for me in how to coordinate this smoothly.


00:10:09 Audrey

Always an atmosphere of respect. When you ask the region, what do you want from each other? They talk about trust, communication, respect. So, that's of course, what they want from Pasadena as the lead as well. And it's what they want from each other. So, calling on that and asking people to respect that, and be accountable to each other, I think helps.


00:10:29 Audrey

Just coming back to even if our goal is not today's task, we have a common goal of treating each other collegially. And so, let's stick to that. And that helps. With external partners, helping them to stay organized ... here's the thing: the external partners are experts in their field and we need them because we may or may not be experts in their field. We're probably not, we're experts in our field. We are the educators.


00:10:55 Audrey

Our external partners though, may not know our systems, may not know our procedures and processes and we don't know theirs. So, we have to be able to work together and listen more than we talk and really collaborate, not see those differences as a barrier, but as an opportunity to reach synergy. How can we combine that?


00:11:20 Audrey

I'll give you an example. We have regional projects every year for a strong workforce. The last time we were talking about them, there's always conversation about, well, will this project compete with this other project? Will this external partner's work compete with one of our projects? No, just add them to it, keep working together and explore their strengths that they may be able to offer, and combine them with the strengths that you already bring.


00:11:47 Audrey

And let's just do more since we have partners in other projects, it's an atmosphere of synergy that I think we can achieve. And these leaders that we have in our region, we do have an innovative group and lots of experience with projects at all levels, with grants, with institutional projects. And we can tap into that and remind them, this is a win for all of us.


00:12:11 Salvatrice

Right, those are all really great ways of effective workflow, I think for the consortium, especially since we're leading into this new era of consortium work. Los Angeles being its own consortium of community colleges is important and it is vital really kind of to the success of our region and to the success of our students as well.


00:12:40 Salvatrice

I think, to your point, it helps with seamless collaboration with our partners. We have an enormous amount of experts in LA county and agencies that have been instrumental in the past and moving forward in the future with some of our regional programming and putting students into jobs and work-based learning experiences. I mean, the experience thus far has been phenomenal. And now, us as our own entity, I can't even imagine ... the opportunities are going to be endless.


00:13:15 Salvatrice

We all know this. I mean, LA is practically its own country. It can be identified as its own country. So, there's no shortage, I guess, is what I'm saying of talent to partner with. And I believe strongly that there's no shortage of opportunities in building stronger regional projects that have stronger impacts than they've had in the past. Simply because now, we're so concentrated and we're so focused. So, I'm super excited about that.


00:13:49 Salvatrice

Do you have any insight? You're looking at this region through a different lens and that's exciting. That's super exciting because we learn from that. What are you seeing as potential opportunities in this new consortium design and our opportunities with our partners.


00:14:09 Audrey

Great. And well, and I want to pick up on one thing you said to start my reply - you talked about now, we're more focused. We're also more practiced. We're on round six or seven. We started with the 16, 17 round, which really we didn't get the money till after that. But that's what we do. And then K12 came along in 1819, which was really 1920.


00:14:30 Audrey

So, even K12 SWP, it'll be round five next time. So, we are more practiced across the board. We also last time, came together and as a region, came up with a slate of ticks everybody ... there was consensus, let's say consensus. There doesn't have to be unanimous approval since we have so many people, but consensus. And so, when it comes from the group and there's trust behind it - you said so many great things.


00:15:00 Audrey

I think one of the important ways that Pasadena was, I want to say visionary, in its approach to being regional Chair, was you early on, got everybody together, all of the regional colleges, and asked them, "What do you want governance to look like? What is your vision for how this new LARC, this LA Regional Consortium is going to look?"


00:15:27 Audrey

You used a professional facilitator and you ended up with a collective impact framework, which I think is effective. And so, that's evident in the documents that you submitted to the state. The region is already aware of it. So, I think following with that model is good and it insists on communication and measuring results. And there are some specific within it that are helpful.


00:15:52 Audrey

Speaking of specific tools, I work with project management and education now, and to specifically bring to this work that we're doing together now, project management tools and I have, and it's not always evident because it doesn't have to be, but I think project management is a whole field too that is very useful to us. There's already a whole school of thought, a whole certification program, professional organizations that are managing projects all the time. It's nothing new.


00:16:21 Audrey

And in education, sometimes one of our shortcomings is that we think we have to reinvent something every time we have a new project, and we don't have time. So, project management tools I think are another useful way that we can move forward as a region, as a new independent region, and it's exciting.


00:16:39 Audrey

Another thing you talked about was work-based learning. So, I know that work-based learning is a focus of what the LARC wants to do. Specifically, for me, apprenticeships are so effective and they tend to work with our populations that are most vulnerable. So, we want to work with people who are the veterans. We want to work with nontraditional students. We want to work with ex-offenders and out-of-school youth.


00:17:06 Audrey

So, apprenticeships, a lot of times, will serve those folks it's paid. And they usually ... well, I want to say usually because I hesitate to say a hundred percent, but they train for living-wage jobs. And 90% of those apprentices enter into those jobs. And so, why wouldn't we strengthen that area of work-based learning? We have funding available from the state, some of our colleges have it. So, I think expanding that in LA is one of the approaches that we could use.


00:17:37 Audrey

In addition, data collection and reporting. I want to make a point that might actually contradict something you said. Past projects were effective. It's just we didn't collect the data well enough and we did not report well enough. But there are boutique stories, success stories. There are projects where people in the know can tell you, "Oh yeah, this project did this, that and the other."


00:18:03 Audrey

And we would go, "Oh my gosh, that was a totally successful project, but we don't know it because we didn't have good data collection systems." And that's paramount, I think as LARC moves forward. And I think it's something that you did very well writing into your proposal and it's moving forward.


00:18:19 Audrey

And so, those types of, I guess, programmatic or approaches are going to really set LARC up to be the leader it should be There is no reason LA Regional Consortium should not be the leader in the state. As you said, we're bigger than some countries. So, it's not that we're competitive, but why LA should not emerge as the center of best practices because we have them. It's just we didn't communicate them well.


00:18:49 Salvatrice

Yeah, I think we will emerge. And I feel it's ... and this is just now, this is like a personal thought at this point. Not concrete at all, no evidence behind it. But we now get to kind of spread our wings a little bit bigger and we get to really, to your point, really showcase the already exciting momentum that we had as a body of 19 colleges under the previous consortium.


00:19:19 Salvatrice

To your point, what I picked up when I was listening to you, what I heard was as well, was just telling our story better. I mean, we've had and we continue to have amazing projects that are birthed out of our 19 community colleges: the non-credit program, career pathways, CCW, the AWS, the cloud project - and I can spin off and share so many other more projects that we've had, and we're going to continue to fulfill and bring on more projects.


00:19:57 Salvatrice

But I think that to your point, you're right, this is a beautiful opportunity for us to showcase LA in a way that it's never been showcased. And most importantly, I think that what it allows us to do, it allows us to better align with our county systems. So, that at the end of the day, really what we're doing this work for is for our student, that's all.


00:20:21 Salvatrice

It's so simple, but yet complex. We are doing this for our student so that they can competitively position themselves for the future of work, for the jobs.


00:20:33 Audrey

Absolutely, right.


00:20:33 Salvatrice

I mean, I really appreciated this dialogue. Thank you so much, because I think I was going to ask you about like where should we kind of be spending our time and our resources to improve our programming, but I think what I'm hearing, and what I've witnessed too, and you've underscored it, is that our programs are stellar programs. The regional projects that have come out of LA have been phenomenal and I only named a few.


00:21:06 Audrey

There's so many more.


00:21:07 Salvatrice

But there's so many more. Yes, there's so many more. I think we just got to share it out and tell the story. Thank you. Thank you for ... that was like an aha moment for me, so I really appreciate that because it is about data collection, but it's also about sharing it out and doing better, being better at sharing it out.


00:21:26 Audrey

And we didn't have a system and now, we're going to. I know it's a big task, but absolutely, really important for us, I think.


00:21:34 Salvatrice

Yep, it is. You know, I've learned so much during this process and not only with building the new infrastructure for LARC, but I've learned so much from you. And I kind of want to shift gears just a little bit and talk about EducateX. This is your new journey and I think our audience would like to hear a little bit more about it. What are you focused on with EducateX? First of all, how did it all come about and what are you focused on?


00:22:02 Audrey

Well, thank you for asking. And honestly, you can see me smiling because I have always had the entrepreneurial bug, but if you hark back to my story, security was really important to me for a long time. And I needed, wanted the security of a job. I need to know how much I'm getting paid and when, and I need benefits, retirement, have a pension - I wanted all of that, and you had to have a job to get it.


00:22:29 Audrey

So, I wasn't ready to be an entrepreneur. And finally, after 30 years of work experience, the opportunity came up and I left and I had no intention of not working anymore, especially in this field because I actually I do love the work. But I wanted to do it in a different capacity and I had the opportunity. So, I founded EducateX, and the intent is project management in education.


00:22:58 Audrey

I got my PMP credential, which is the Project Management Professional credential from PMI, which is the organization that issues the credentials for project management. And I'm very proud of that. I also teach project management at a local university and I wanted to apply it to education. Because again, I don't think we're using as many tools, techniques, and approaches as we could.


00:23:20 Audrey

And it might help instead of sort of leaving people floundering whenever they get the funding, like, "Oh my gosh, what do I invent now to come up ..." You don't have to invent. You can take what exists and then customize it. And so, that's what I'd like to do for colleges. And I have been doing that for Pasadena behind the scenes. Maybe a little under the radar, but that's what I want to do. And there's so many projects.


00:23:45 Audrey

We call our work projects, so why wouldn't we use project management to address them? There are tools that are going to work well, there are others that aren't, and that's okay. That's project management, it's flexible, just like education and our work has to be. So, that's what I'm doing, and both at the K12 and the community college level.


00:24:06 Audrey

I'm focused in LA right now, but who knows what's going to happen in the future. But LA, I know people, I have a network, and I kind of know the needs just because of my past experience as RC, because I was the one calling them up and saying, "Hey, you got to turn this in. Or what's happening with this?" And I had access to all of that. So, I feel like I know where some of the gaps are and I want to help.


00:24:33 Salvatrice

Yeah. Thank you, thank you. Yes, you've been very, very helpful to us, and again, building the infrastructure and it's really important. It's really important as a new consortium that we have a solid infrastructure. And there's going to be tweaks along the way, it's going to evolve, it's going to grow, and that's important. And I think that what we're learning is that the infrastructure needs to be just as flexible and just as responsive to our colleges as our colleges need to be to industry.


00:25:10 Audrey



00:25:10 Salvatrice

So, that flexibility is very important in this infrastructure design. So, thinking about future five years from now, maybe three years, let's just go that far because one never knows. With your EducateX CEO hat, and your past experiences with consortium work, where do you see us in like three years with programming and just kind of like the overall landscape of workforce development? Like where do you see workforce development looking like in the next three to five years?


00:25:48 Audrey

Well, I have to talk for a moment about the great resign because I was part of it and people left the workforce. And so, it's okay. I feel like in three years, I have a feeling institutions and employers, businesses, industry, might be more used to buying talent, whether it's on a contract basis or short-term employees, or a different type of employee structure, where they're expected to complete projects and deliverables, but not necessarily a timesheet.


00:26:27 Audrey

I'm hoping, I don't know. I love the flexibility of completing my work as agreed, and then some, because I do want to offer more than what I promised. And I think that I'm not the only one. I think lots of people are in this space where they have a lot to offer and they want to offer that skill while either being their own boss or having some measure of independence.


00:26:53 Audrey

The pandemic gave us a chance - many of us, not everybody, because I don't want to say everybody got to do this. It's absolutely not true. But a lot of people worked from home. A lot of people worked remotely and between family and pets, and being able to start dinner immediately by walking from one room to another, instead of wondering what you're going to do as you're driving home, all of those things brought back the importance of personal care.


00:27:22 Audrey

And so, I think that's important moving forward and I hope it stays important both at an individual level from the employees that still need and want that. And also, on the institutional level, I hope that becomes more a way of work, the future of work, if you want to call it that. I hope that becomes the way that we work, is that we get our stuff done and we allow people to also have their lives.


00:27:50 Audrey

And for some people, it's going to mean I need to go to work eight to five because working at home doesn't work for me or I love the personal interaction when I'm with my colleagues and that's important too. So, I see that, I guess in three years, of more flexibility in how we get things done.


00:28:09 Salvatrice

Excellent. Thank you. And you touched on it a little bit about your role in the future. Is there anything else that's kind of like percolating in your mind as this entrepreneurial bug is, or the spirit has been ignited within you? Is there anything in the future that we can look forward to?


00:28:29 Audrey

Yes, well, I want to grow of course, as an entrepreneur and I am seeking help from small business centers, which I also believe in. That's a wonderful community college resource and I, myself, I'm tapping into it. I've gotten a lot from it and I intend to continue.


00:28:44 Audrey

So, in the future, what I'd like to do is grow. So, project management for education, I think is a way that, I mean, ideally, it won't just be me. It is now, but I'd like for my business to grow. And I think, and I actually have some people that have reached out and some people that I have in mind as I can continue with additional projects where the personal care that people might want from EducateX, I need it to be EducateX instead of only me personally.


00:29:16 Audrey

While I tend to be pretty involved, I don't want to micromanage, but I want to expand my team with really quality project managers, preferably with an educational background that are ready and with a little bit of training, on the job training from me and from EducateX we can expand and serve more of the need than I could as a single individual. So, that's what I hope for in the future for EducateX.


00:29:45 Salvatrice

Awesome. Thank you. Thank you, Audrey. This has been awesome. This has been a really great morning. I appreciate it. I know you're a very busy lady and we have a lot of stuff to do Audrey.


00:29:58 Audrey

We do. We're getting it done though.


00:29:59 Salvatrice

We're getting, we're getting it done. Thank you so much for spending your time here with me this morning. And I think our audience has a better perspective of the value of regional work, the importance of regional work, and your role here with us. And we greatly appreciate it. If someone wanted to contact you, what would be the best place for them to reach out to you?


00:30:21 Audrey

Well, I'm on LinkedIn, Audrey Childers. And also, I have a website So, either of those will get you to me and I would love to hear from people and I really, really appreciate your time, Salvatrice. Again, it's been a pleasure working with you and Pasadena, and I'm just so excited and optimistic about the future of LARC. So, thank you for the time and for taking that on.


00:30:48 Salvatrice

Thank you, thank you. I'm excited about it. I've been kind of giddy about it ever since we submitted the application, and so I can't wait. I can't wait for us to do more, to showcase more, to speak loudly about the wonderful goodness that's here in the LA region. And thank you for being a partner to it.


00:31:09 Salvatrice

We'll be sure to enter your contact information into the show notes. Yeah, thanks again. And we'll connect again soon.


00:31:15 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.


00:31:38 Salvatrice

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