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Transcript- Episode 112: What You Need To Know about Workforce Training Episode 112

Jan 30, 2024


00:00:00 Leslie

It is not just about getting the employees to be skilled so they can do more work, it's about getting them to be skilled so they can earn more money, so that they can have a better quality of life - so that the positions that you're training for are making a living wage, are increasing their wage, and then you're impacting generations, you're impacting families, you're impacting communities.


00:00:23 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.


00:00:36 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?


00:00:48 Salvatrice

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


00:00:57 Christina

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


00:01:00 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.


00:01:14 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.


00:01:34 Christina

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


00:01:42 Salvatrice

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


00:01:47 Salvatrice

Welcome back. This is Salvatrice, your host, and I'm joined today by my friend and colleague in our division of Economic and Workforce Development, Ms. Leslie Thompson. How are you?


00:01:58 Leslie

Hi Salvatrice, good to be back. How are you?


00:02:00 Salvatrice

Good. Just a reminder to our listeners that Leslie is our Director of Operations for Economic and Workforce Development, and plays a very important role in the implementation of our programs and a lot of the initiatives that are pushed through here at the Office of Economic Workforce Development.


00:02:17 Salvatrice

Thank you again. I get excited about these solo records because it gives us a chance to share with the listener what we're thinking about, what's on our mind, what kind of keeps us up at night, and it also leaves room for you and I to just dig deep on some stuff. It's allocated time, so I really, really appreciate it.


00:02:38 Leslie

So do I. I think this is a good opportunity to talk things through again and again.


00:02:43 Salvatrice

Again and again. Well, today, our favorite topic: workforce training. So, where do we start? Like what's the best way to start about this? Because it can go so many different directions.


00:02:54 Leslie

Well, why don't we start with the kind of overview of what workforce training is. I'll start with our definition here at PCC. We provide specialized, customized, training delivered to businesses and their unique trainings for those businesses.


00:03:07 Leslie

We do it by leveraging ETP money. We also offer it through our extension program, and also, in partnership with both credit and non-credit sides of the house. So, we can put together a customized training program to fit any employer's needs. And that's the same for many community colleges.


00:03:28 Salvatrice

Well, for those who don't know what ETP is, let's just share that a little bit because we like all the acronyms here in academia.


00:03:36 Leslie

Sure. So, ETP stands for Employment Training Panel, it's a California Program. It's an agency that provides funding to employers for training and retraining their employees. It is funded through an employment training tax that employers pay into, but often have a hard time accessing themselves.


00:03:53 Leslie

And so, as institutes of higher education, community colleges can navigate the application process and get those funds and leverage those dollars for training to minimize the cost to employers. So, it's a really great program that has some limitations and restrictions in terms of how you qualify and the competition for the funding and these kinds of things.


00:04:14 Leslie

But aside from the eligibility requirements and program requirements and the application process, which is hard for employers to navigate, it's beneficial for the colleges to do it because then we can receive those funds, and administer those funds by delivering training. So, it's a pretty great program, but that's not the only way that we fund.


00:04:32 Leslie

We also do fee-based training. We also do, again, like I said, credit and non-credit partnerships. So, depending on which courses or programs we're taking, there would be fees or no fees associated with that. And then we do regular custom training that we charge to deliver as a revenue generating service.


00:04:52 Salvatrice

Now, you're making it sound really easy.


00:04:54 Leslie

It's not.


00:04:55 Salvatrice

So, this is kind of what I think that we should really talk through, is workforce training is needed, the upskilling is needed for our employers. That exact same skill that they're looking to upskill their existing workforce, they are hoping that the new workforce already has.


00:05:16 Salvatrice

So, there's two hiccups that we're experiencing, I think with the workforce training piece, is yes, it's needed and the speed and all the hiccups that come along with it makes it a little unappealing (I'm going tojust say it that way) to the employer. Not to us, because this is our work, this is what we like, this is what we want to do. But it makes it a little unappealing to the employer.


00:05:43 Salvatrice

So, I want to kind of live there for a minute and talk through that, because I think it's important for us to share what that looks like to the employer, and why the employers tend to want to leverage community colleges thinking that ... fill in the blank.


00:06:01 Salvatrice

Like they're filling some kind of void for that employer, whether it's access to curricula, whether it's speed of which we do it, which is not necessarily always the best speed for some. Like let's unpack that for a minute.


00:06:15 Leslie

So, there are certain barriers to each delivery option. So, with ETP, there are barriers around funding limitations, eligibility requirements, program requirements in the application process. So, that's why employers don't want to do it themselves. Those are also limitations for us that we have to navigate to get to the point that we have those funds.


00:06:30 Leslie

With contract education, there are other barriers as well, like resource constraints, limited expertise. The competition like community colleges are in competition with private training facilities and other delivery options. And there's a lot of regulations around contract ed that community colleges have to adhere to that private training organizations don't have to.


00:06:52 Leslie

And then there's institutional priorities. And just in some cases, the institutional priorities are focusing on other things like enrollment or retention or graduation rates. And they don't necessarily see the value or the potential in ramping up contract ed efforts as a way to drive enrollment and kind of increase completion rates if we broaden the definition of completion.


00:07:16 Leslie

So, those are kind of some barriers that exist. Like when employers come to us, those are the kind of things that keep us from delivering as quickly as we might want to, that might make it more appealing for employers to either turn to private training facilities or more than likely, to create their own in-house training centers.


00:07:35 Salvatrice

And we're seeing more and more of that. We're seeing companies all around us, even here in Pasadena where they're developing their own academies.


00:07:45 Leslie

We do see that, and there are a number of benefits to that, and I totally get it, like why they'd want to. They have the customization capabilities, they have the relevance, they have the industry specific expertise. They can control the quality and consistency of the training, confidentiality, and proprietary information. They can protect all that.


00:08:03 Leslie

And then there's like rapid adaptation to change. They're there, they're in it, they can change it up as necessary. There's no third party to negotiate, there's no external training provider to deal with. They can control the costs if they ... there's just a lot of benefits to employers implementing their own in-house training solutions.


00:08:22 Leslie

But not everyone can afford it. Not everyone has the capabilities to deliver or the time to deliver because it takes time to develop customized trainings. And I would say time is money. Some people are willing to pay for it. And there are lots of examples of companies that are doing it that way.


00:08:41 Leslie

Toyota has one, McDonald's, Starbucks - these are big, big entities that have it. Hyatt Hotels, IBM, Marriott International, all of these companies have their own in-house training that focuses on specific skills and really drives home like the internal cultural values of the companies, and really gets them in. And they're the experts.


00:09:04 Leslie

And so, anything that community colleges or any private providers would bring to the table would be all external. And you can pick the topic and we can create customized trainings about it all day long. But what we can't do is replicate that internal culture and internal values, and really drive that home the way that a company can do for themselves. But most local companies are not Toyota, Starbucks, IBM, so there's that.


00:09:33 Salvatrice

There's that, I know. The employer for us, as we're developing our own workforce training programs, the employer now has a different role with us. So, typically, we've looked at employers as partners, which we do and we do really great at.


00:09:53 Salvatrice

But there's now an element in the arena where the employer is our competitor as well. Because all the reasons why you mentioned just moments ago why they feel the need to develop their own academies - I'm going to call them academies, but trainings, universities, whatever you want to call it.


00:10:14 Salvatrice

But they're filling that gap on their own because of the barriers that you mentioned. So, now, our employers are partners and competitors, and it's a really unique dynamic. It's not bad. I want to make it very clear, it's not bad. It's actually going to, I think, trigger a movement, a momentum within higher education on how we leverage the existing talent of the employers.


00:10:44 Salvatrice

So, typically, we were going to the employers and saying, "We have the talent, and we're going to come in and upskill your existing workforce and train your new ones too, by the way."


00:10:56 Salvatrice

Now, we need to explore how does the employer teach us, how do we leverage their existing (I'm going to use our language) curricula, their content, their relevant up-to-speed content. How are we now embedding that work and that intel into our institution? Like how are we flipping that?


00:11:21 Salvatrice

And I think that that's something that we really haven't explored. I mean, maybe a little bit with some of the larger entities, but I think there's so much room there for the employer to be able to teach us versus we teach them. I don't know how that could work out. I don't know. Especially with ... I'm going to go down a tangent super quick.


00:11:44 Salvatrice

Especially thinking about enrollments. And we have traditionally not looked at employers as the pipeline to community colleges. We haven't looked at that workforce, the existing workforce as pipeline. We say it, but we haven't quite seen intentionality around outreaching to the existing workforce, specifically creating MOUs with employers to start creating these pipelines of students into our institutions, serving both the need of the student and the need of the employer. So, we haven't quite done that.


00:12:20 Salvatrice

But how do we change that model? Like how do we change our approach on what we are, and how we're serving the employers, and asking them to really be a different type of partner with us.


00:12:34 Leslie

I like the fact that you said to be better partners with us, or a different type of partner with us. Because I don't view them as competitors in terms of training. I view the necessity for some companies to develop their own in-house training centers. It's a need, and they're filling a need.


00:12:48 Leslie

I'm looking at it more as an opportunity for partnership. There are some things they do really well. Again, communicating the internal culture and values. And they certainly have a lot to contribute to content when it comes to very specific trainings. But curriculum development is our wheelhouse, course delivery is our wheelhouse, training delivery is our wheelhouse.


00:13:11 Leslie

And I say "we," I mean, community colleges, the emphasis for us should be placed on partnerships, not just selling a service. Because in some cases, the community college option may be more cost-effective for their employer.


00:13:22 Leslie

Because there's a lot that goes into developing curriculum, there's a lot that goes into developing training. And we already have courses, we already have things ready. For me, it's not just about the customizable programs that we can deliver through workforce training, which is we call it here, our area of workforce training, but it's also in partnership with non-credit and with credit, and with extension and courses and things that are already exist.


00:13:43 Leslie

And so, it's an easier process for employers to partner with us and get those trainings. So, outside of the customized training, there's opportunity for industry partnerships. We have a lot of partnerships, this could create more flexibility and delivery. We have the capability to deliver content in different ways.


00:14:00 Leslie

And also, certification and credentials. We can offer certification and credentials. And those credentials are going to have more weight than probably a certificate of achievement from an employer to an employee. These are credentials that you can take with you everywhere.


00:14:16 Leslie

If you go through a credit program and you get a certificate or a degree, that's something that you have forever, and there's value there. And that's something that we can provide. And again, I don't see it as a competition, I see it as an opportunity for partnership.


00:14:30 Leslie

And you're right, they have a lot to offer and a lot to contribute. And what we can do to be better partners is to learn how to understand what they're trying to give, take it in and incorporate it into what we already have. We have all the tools and all the courses, and all the things necessary to deliver. It's just that we're having a hard time making that connection. And I don't think it's because most of them are doing it themselves.


00:14:56 Leslie

I think it's because they're not, and that's the problem. I think it's because the training isn't being delivered. That the workforce isn't being upskilled at a quick enough pace to keep pace with what's needed. And so, we worry about attracting skilled workforce and retaining them, but how are you going to upskill the existing unit? People that have been in the industry for many years and things are changing and they need to upskill.


00:15:18 Leslie

And part of that's regular PD, and part of that's ongoing training. But there may be opportunities for more robust PD and more robust training that these folks wouldn't ordinarily find themselves back in the classroom. But they could if we partnered with the right employers.


00:15:33 Salvatrice

For both the employee and the employer, I mean, there's a cost associated. So, cost for the employer to, as you mentioned earlier, to build their own academies is very capital intensive. And like you said, they're cultivating their teams, and they're building in the culture as part of this training.


00:15:54 Salvatrice

Everyone else who doesn't have those resources, our colleges become a better choice, not only because of the cost of the training, but the cost of their bottom line. I mean, like if the more you invest in your people and the better you retain them, and the better you position them for growth - not necessarily in your own company, just position them in general as human beings for growth - our employers are going to see a positive effect at the bottom line.


00:16:24 Salvatrice

Versus investing, investing, investing, investing in these trainings that take away, sometimes they take away ... obviously, they take away from the bottom line, but we're investing in the people part. That's what our community colleges do best at.


00:16:38 Salvatrice

And I think that perhaps maybe like our messaging or how we communicate to the employers on how investing in people affects our bottom line might be something we explore. You and I are talking about it right now. Like we're talking about the trainings, we're talking about barriers, we're talking about why it's great, why it's not, but we're still dealing with people.


00:16:56 Salvatrice

And so, what's the long-term game. Like what is the long - term result of all of this? And so, for our employers, I mean, granted, like they're trying to run a business. They're trying to do all the things, they're just trying to be good people, doing good work.


00:17:11 Salvatrice

I think maybe sometimes the message gets lost on why this is important. It's not just about obtaining the skill, it's about so much more. We don't necessarily always talk about the so much more part. I think there's some room for us to do that. I just don't know ...


00:17:29 Leslie

I'd like to hear more about the so much more part. I'd like to hear more about the more part. That's my favorite.


00:17:33 Salvatrice

Like we touched upon it briefly, I think probably in like our first or second episode when we've done these solos. But how do we scale that message? How do we scale the message about what we're talking about here? Why workforce training? I'm going to generalize it.


00:17:47 Salvatrice

Why that is so important, not only to the employer and talking about their bottom line, blah, blah, blah, but us as a community and building our communities, and creating the social mobility for our community members. And it's like why aren't we as a system really talking about that?


00:18:03 Leslie

No, I think it's important to focus on that a little bit more, particularly with the social and economic mobility piece. Yes, we want employees to be skilled appropriately so they can keep up with the changing times. But those trainings also need to coincide with a wage increase for them to be effective, for them to be just, for them to be worthwhile.


00:18:23 Leslie

So, when you think about cost-effectiveness, now I'm an employer and I'm developing training in all of this, and I'm spending all this money to develop this curriculum. And then at the end of it, I also have to pay out more money to my employer.


00:18:37 Leslie

So, they're looking at all these things. Going back briefly to ETP, there's a wage trigger so that in order for us to get paid through ETP, the trainings that we deliver have to result in a wage increase after a certain retention period. And that wage increase, it can be a straight dollar value or it can be a combination of a dollar value and benefits. But there has to be a wage increase in order for us to get paid from the state.


00:19:01 Leslie

So, to me, it's a restriction and it makes it a little more difficult to find the right fit for training, but that's good. That results in a positive change. There's so much more part that we talk about. It is not just about getting the employees to be skilled so they can do more work. It's about getting them to be skilled so they can earn more money so that they can have a better quality of life.


00:19:24 Leslie

So, that the positions that you're training for are making a living wage, are increasing their wage. And then you're impacting generations. You're impacting families, you're impacting communities. We can make the argument all day long about why a living wage is necessary, and that's a totally different topic.


00:19:39 Leslie

But in terms of the business of economic and workforce development, we need to be concerning ourselves with that outcome. There's so much more needs to be what we focus on because delivering training and PD and whatever you want to call it, that's just doing stuff.


00:19:55 Leslie

If it doesn't have an economic, a real economic impact on the other side for the people that we're talking about (and I've said it before, I'll say it again, we're in the people business), then what's the point?


00:20:06 Salvatrice

So, what do you think-


00:20:06 Leslie

What's the point? There's the value.


00:20:08 Salvatrice

100%. We talk about this - I was going to say weekly, but that's probably a little too excessive. But we talk about it a lot. I'm just going to say a lot. I don't know what that number is. Okay, so I'm going to throw this out there. I'm going to play devil's advocate.


00:20:21 Salvatrice

Is it because we can't measure it right now and that's why we're not talking about it? And that's why we're not talking more about this so much more? Is it because it's hard to measure? Or is it because it takes a few cycles for us to see the result?


00:20:37 Leslie

Is it because the way legislation is written and our metrics is ... I mean, I'm not asking you that because I want you to answer ... that you have the answer. You may, like you have your own theories, but I think it'll serve us well if we maybe talked about that a little bit more with our own colleagues.


00:20:58 Leslie

I'm going to say this: we are in a delicate position. I'm going to say we're in a delicate position. We need to develop partnerships with businesses and local constituents. We have to have these relationships. At the same time, we are responsible for, or we purport to be responsible for being part of this machine that churns out a skilled workforce.


00:21:19 Leslie

But how can we be part of that if we're not willing to have the conversations around social justice, around economic freedom, around mobility, around barriers, around certain injustices. All of these things that may jeopardize the relationships with employers and industry that we need. Because now, we're talking about things that no one wants to talk about.


00:21:41 Leslie

It is quantifiable that we can find out the data. We know when folks are being underpaid, we know which industries are not paying right, we know what we're sending our students into. It's not that we can't find that information out.


00:21:53 Leslie

The question is (this may not make the cut), Salvatrice, are you and I as practitioners in this space, the ones to talk about it or not? And is it our place to talk about it? And do we want to get in that conversation? And that's what we talk about a lot. You and I have talked about that a lot.


00:22:10 Leslie

It's looked like different things. It's looked like where's the heart and soul of what we do? Like what's the meaning? Like for me personally, what's the meaning of what we're doing? So, I'm going to challenge you a little bit and say that we do have access to that information. The question is, do we want to have that conversation? And who do we want to have it with? Are we afraid of hurting anyone's feelings in the process? That's just my opinion.


00:22:30 Salvatrice

And I agree with you, and I would say yes. I would say yes, we are in a place where we can have these delicate conversations. And I say yes, because we talked about it earlier this morning. The world is changing, the world has changed. It's no longer the way we used to do things using air quotes.


00:22:48 Salvatrice

We can't live in that space and that mentality. I would say that yes, although difficult and delicate, but I think there's more of the willing, I think there's more willing to talk about that. More employers willing to do that, more legislators are willing to talk about it, more of economic agencies willing to talk about it.


00:23:11 Salvatrice

And maybe it merits us kind of creating a coalition of the willing when having these delicate conversations that are important, but that require like intentional engineering around, like that's the only word I can really think about right now. Like intentional engineering around the structure in the system that we call workforce development.


00:23:34 Leslie

I mean, I think the name itself is workforce development. What does that really even mean? Like what does it even mean? Like developing the workforce - okay, giving them the skills they need, but where are we we sending them off to? Like what's our role in ensuring that when in our case, students get where they're going, that they're ready to perform.


00:23:53 Leslie

But are they going to be treated fairly and compensated fairly? And are they going to be able to live with the choices they make, pay their rent, eat? Don't we have a say in that too? Don't we have a responsibility in developing that side of it too? I think we do. And I don't know how to do that, but I keep bringing it up in the hopes that someone will hear it.


00:24:15 Salvatrice

Well, I mean, look, you brought up one very, very, very important element to this. Simple, yet impactful. The way we call our division (I'm just going to use us as an example) or as a system, we call it workforce development, economic and workforce development. Maybe it needs to shift. Maybe just by shifting that, it allows room for conversation. So, maybe it needs to be economic and workforce empowerment.


00:24:39 Salvatrice

Maybe we need to use different language, just even in how we title things that allows people the safety to really talk about other variables and elements to this work. They may be afraid to do so just simply because of how something is titled.


00:24:59 Leslie

And I think that conversation would also benefit us in our other conversations about how we position EWD within our community and how we get folks to understand the work that we do and the importance of the work that we do. And we do a lot, we have metrics. We put our annual report, we do all we can do, we do all the things.


00:25:15 Leslie

But not everybody gets it. Not everybody gets it. What is EWD anyway? What is that? What is that? When we are constantly showing people what we do, like producing metrics and deliverables and things like that, but if it's not landing, if it's not relevant, I'm not going to say none of it matters - it totally matters. We do really great things and we have good things to show for it. But we've gotten off-topic here into a totally differention session.


00:25:41 Leslie

But I'm going to bring you back. The importance of not just workforce training, but the importance of anything that we're doing here is so that the outcome, that the outcome has to be a positive impact on the employee. We know what the benefits are to employers for upskilling their existing employees.


00:25:59 Leslie

They get greater output, but the goal should be for that the employers are going to have to put out more too, so that the employee's lives are improved by this training, by this experience, that they have greater social and economic mobility.


00:26:14 Leslie

So, again, we're in the people business and what's the outcome for actual people at the end of the day? That's what resonates with people. Because we want to hear about each other and we want to know that we're doing things that really matter.


00:26:27 Leslie

To me, I probably shouldn't say it, but to me it doesn't matter how many trainings we deliver, the metrics for workforce training. I got them, I can report them. That, to me, is not as exciting to me as the 165 people that now make more money because we delivered these trainings under the ETP contract this year. So, to me, that's more valuable to me.


00:26:48 Salvatrice

Absolutely. That's a really great way to kind of close this conversation in that we're in the people business, people matter. The longevity of their success matters, and I think that we're kind of onto something here on how we even position ourselves in these spaces that we are constantly in, being asked to either lean in on a conversation about workforce or economic development, and we start changing our language, Leslie.


00:27:21 Leslie

I think we start changing the language and we even ... look, I mean it's kind of sparking the thought about maybe we switch gears on how we tell the story in our annual reports, like you just said. And we all do this. This is an industry thing. This is not just a PCC, Salvatrice and Leslie thing. This is an industry thing. Like we measure, we quantify everything.


00:27:43 Leslie

We have to. We're using state money.


00:27:46 Salvatrice

Right. But to your point, there's more value and more importance and more worth in the other things, all the other stuff that we just talked about. And I think that after this caller should really reconsider some of our existing work that we have going on, our existing projects. Just thinking about full transparency, thinking about our strategic plan.


00:28:08 Leslie

Yeah, or upcoming marketing too. Like we change the narrative around our marketing.


00:28:11 Salvatrice

That's right. Well, I really appreciate this. Anytime we talk, there's always something new that comes up, there's always another thing. I enjoy our conversations a lot. I hope the audience does too. I'm really looking forward to hearing any of the listeners that want to weigh in on this conversation, maybe some who have taken that shift in their language and in their narrative.


00:28:36 Leslie

And I will do a shameless plug for workforce training too. Should anybody need training and they'd like to partner with a community college, I volunteer PCC and you can reach out to us on the website under Economic and Workforce Development.


00:28:50 Leslie

There's a link there, you click to get a contact with EWD, and you can make a request and you can review any of our offerings through PCC extension, and we can have a conversation about either customized training that we deliver or any of our banked credit, non-credit or extension courses that may be of interest to a local business.


00:29:09 Salvatrice

Thank you. Well, as per usual, we'll put all that information in the show notes. I greatly appreciate your time, Leslie. Sounds like we have more work to do. What do you think?


00:29:18 Leslie

Yeah, I mean constantly, it's great. I appreciate the opportunity to talk and thank you for your time.


00:29:25 Salvatrice

Alright. Thank you.


00:29:29 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.


00:29:38 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.