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Transcript- Episode 120: APPRENTICESHIPS: A Pathway To A Sustainable Future Workforce Episode 120

May 21, 2024

 

00:00:00 Salvatrice 

For the future, if we genuinely as a community care about the health, longevity, sustainability of our communities, of our local communities, the health of workforce, and I'm not talking about like physical health and mental health, I'm talking about wealth-health of our community, then I'm going to ask the employers to speak to us.
                

00:00:20 Salvatrice 

Tell us what is happening, why aren't they engaging? Is it because it doesn't make sense? Is it because it's just too much? Is it because, well, like I haven't been sold on the value? It's like let's dig in deep, so speak to us.
                

00:00:37 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.
                

00:00:50 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?
                

00:01:02 Salvatrice 

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

00:01:11 Christina 

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

00:01:15 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.
                

00:01:29 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.
                

00:01:49 Christina 

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

00:01:56 Salvatrice 

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

00:01:59 Salvatrice 

Welcome back, this is Salvatrice, your host. I'm joined today by my friend and colleague in Economic and Workforce Development here at Pasadena City College, Ms. Leslie Thompson, who is our Director of Operations. Welcome to the show, Leslie.
                

00:02:16 Leslie

Hello, thank you.
                

00:02:18 Salvatrice 

This is a really good time for us to pause and have some one-on-one dialogue. I think you and I are involved in this work so intimately and I have the honor and the privilege to interview so many individuals across this county and across the country.
                

00:02:34 Salvatrice 

You and I have never really talked about some of this stuff. I mean, we do outside of course, the podcast, but we never really take a moment to talk about some of the things that you and I face everyday within our work, and how it really influences the direction of the podcast. Real time, real talk.
                

00:02:53 Salvatrice 

So, you and I had attended the Future of Work Conference. First of all, we put on our own Future Work Conference, but what I meant to say is that we did attend the economic forecast not too long ago.
                

00:03:05 Salvatrice 

And a reoccurring theme that comes up at a federal level, at a state level, and at a local level are apprenticeships, and how valuable they are, not only to the student, but more importantly to the employer and their role in shaping our future talent. So, I kind of wanted to spend some time like you and I chatting about it. How do you feel about that?
                

00:03:27 Leslie

I think that's great, I think apprenticeships are a fun topic. I mean, for a long time, everybody's talking about internships, but internships are also valuable. But apprenticeships are unique in a lot of ways and I think it's a worthwhile topic for sure.
                

00:03:37 Salvatrice 

We have seen some issues with apprenticeship. There's the obvious of the administrative part of itm and the coordination that involves the Department of Labor, but what else are we seeing? What is the root issue? Why aren't we doing more of it?
                

00:03:53 Leslie

I think there's also issues with labor unions and trying to align apprenticeships within that structure so that it makes sense for everyone involved, that we're not trying to take away jobs or take away opportunities from folks. We're trying to create pathways into those trades, particularly the trades - just trying to create pathways into those arenas.
                

00:04:12 Leslie

So, there's a labor component, not just department of labor - but like labor unions, if you're talking about certain trades. There may be issues there.
                

00:04:20 Leslie

The flip side of it, like you said, administrative challenges for the colleges who are trying to navigate this work. Like with any new program, there are always a lot of, not just learning curves, but kind of roadblocks or things that look like roadblocks, but they're not really roadblocks, we just don't know yet.
                

00:04:36 Leslie

So, there's a lot of learning that has to happen, but I know it's an area of focus across the region, across the state. At the state level, it's an area of focus and that's where we're headed and it's super important.
                

00:04:47 Salvatrice 

You were a former employer at one point in your career, technically. Had I come to you and said, "Look, we need to build an apprenticeship program with your organization." How would that sit with you? Erase the fact that you know what you know now, but at the time.
                

00:05:04 Leslie

No, if I'm just like average employer, and I know we're talking about apprenticeships, but I also liken it to like even just internships. If someone were to come to you as an employer and say, "I would like to create a partnership with you whereby I provide you with students to do work for you, but here's a bunch of rules."
                

00:05:21 Leslie

It has to be meaningful, it's not like you can't bring an intern in like go fetch coffee. It's like it has to be tied to program of study. You have to meet all these rules, you also have to have all these insurances in place because we can't just send our students out there if you don't have all your ducks in a row. "
                

00:05:35 Leslie

It would depend on the size of the employer. I think in this scenario that you're describing, I would consider myself a small business at that point, I mean small to mid-size business at that point. And I don't know that I would've had all those ducks in a row. I think I would've because it was tied to the college at the time.
                

00:05:50 Leslie

But your average small employer may not have all those ducks in a row that they need to accommodate that request. And it would depend on what the apprenticeship looks like. What's the ask? Like how are you tying it to a program of study? What am I going to get out of this when I complete this apprenticeship? I'm going to be certified or I'm going to have some sort of degree, and I'm pretty much guaranteed a job, I hope.
                

00:06:09 Leslie

After I get out of it, it depends on if I'm the employer, if I can provide those things, those educational components, and if I can guarantee that trajectory, that would limit my engagement. I might be like, this is a lot.
                

00:06:20 Leslie

That's why it's important for the practitioners at the colleges and other entities to be well-versed, to have the pitch on hand. When you're out there talking to employers, like this is why it's better, this is why it's great. And I don't know that that works the same for apprenticeships as it does for internships, but that's what I liken it too, the request to place interns.
                

00:06:40 Salvatrice 

I agree with you. I agree that it is overwhelming for an employer. I would imagine that it would be incredibly overwhelming because there's many moving parts. It's not as simple as what most employers might be used to as an internship or a paid internship.
                

00:06:54 Salvatrice 

Although, internships do have agreements and MOUs with employers, but they're not tied to the Department of Labor, they're not tied to potentially unions. And typically, within an apprenticeship program, you certainly could have one employer. If this one employer is securing (just throwing a number out there) - 50 placements.
                

00:07:19 Salvatrice 

Okay, then let's do an apprenticeship program with that solo employer. But typically, what we see is there are multiple employers in a cohort of an apprenticeship program. There could be four, there could be five, very specific to an industry, for example, plumbing or ...
                

00:07:37 Leslie

An electrician.
                

00:07:38 Salvatrice 

An electrician, that's right. I mean there's so many different, what we like to call trades, very specific, high-skilled, high-certified occupations, well-paying. I'm going to underscore that as well - well-paying occupations. So, I think it merits us to pause and really talk about why is it important? Why does it matter?
                

00:07:58 Salvatrice 

Why does it matter that employers get involved in the apprenticeships and students do too? Why does it matter that colleges make a concentrated effort in developing apprenticeships? And lastly, why does it matter for our federal and state government to support the apprenticeship programs?
                

00:08:18 Leslie

I think from a college perspective, obviously, it matters to colleges because for apprenticeship programs to be viable, you have to have a certain percentage of classroom component. So, you need the colleges to be partners, and I think, again, we've made the argument and had the conversation time and time again, why community colleges are the best place for all things workforce.
                

00:08:36 Leslie

Like it makes sense that the community colleges are going to drive this, it makes sense that we're going to be integral partners because there is a component for classroom learning that enhances the on-the-job training that these students receive at the employer level, so the colleges have to be involved.
                

00:08:53 Leslie

Why is it important for employers? Because they get a hand in actively kind of molding the workforce that they're going to be hiring from. And in many cases, they hire maybe the people that they have as apprenticeships and they get them and they've trained them and it's just great for them.
                

00:09:08 Leslie

But again, they're going into this workforce that that employer and the next employer and two other employers in the industry, all employers in that industry are going to be pulling from, and it makes that pool that much better. So, it's just win-win for everyone. And then from the student perspective, it's paid on the job training that leads to, as you said, in many cases, high-paying occupations, it's win, win, win.
                

00:09:31 Salvatrice 

It really is, and I do want to acknowledge though, Leslie, that we've come to some barriers around apprenticeship in the cost associated in developing apprenticeships.
                

00:09:42 Salvatrice

So, for us, yes the outcomes are all win, win, win, but there are real serious hiccups around the development of apprenticeships because of the high cost involved, and I think that's why we're seeing this influx of money coming from the state, and assisting the colleges.
                

00:10:01 Salvatrice

I feel like the colleges have done a really good job in vocalizing like, look, we want to do it too, we're all in it. But A, we need the human capital first, and in order to have the human capital to fulfill these kinds of apprenticeship programs or our engagements, we need the capital itself. So, I just feel like we're in a really good sweet spot right now to do some serious work.
                

00:10:26 Salvatrice 

So, knowing that Leslie, what do we do from here? And what do we do from here when we know that the cost associated with these apprenticeship programs is really one of the biggest barriers. I feel like that's the biggest thing. Although the state's being super awesome right now and acknowledging that and providing more.
                

00:10:45 Leslie

So, I think that yes, that funding is one of the primary barriers because without the money we can't do anything, but I think there are other barriers as well. The state is given money, I think when they're issuing for the grants that just came down, you get the planning grant, they're acknowledging that you're going to get money to spend time to do the planning, because that's going to take some effort.
                

00:11:05 Leslie

And then you have execution, even the state seems to be acknowledging that this is going to take a minute. And it's not just about giving you money and telling you to hit the ground running, you have to plan this out and you have to do it because there's other barriers, like limited employer engagement. We have to figure out how to address that. And we've had this ongoing employer engagement issue, so that's one of the problems.
                

00:11:20 Leslie

Another one of the barriers is the regulatory barriers. Meaning that regulations related to apprenticeship's vary by state to state, they're nuanced in some cases. And you have to learn all that, you have to know all that, that's another barrier you have to work with.
                

00:11:36 Leslie

The education and training resources, the community colleges, again, are the best place to do it, and they have to be prepared to supplement that on-the-job training with relevant classroom experience and relevant curriculum. And the curriculum may have to be updated.
                

00:11:51 Leslie

There's so many things that have to happen, it's not just money. The state is handling that component, it is a big component for sure because without the money we can't do all these other things, we can't even do employer engagement without some money, everything takes money.
                

00:12:02 Leslie

So, there are a number of barriers, I think, that funding is just one. So, where do we go next? I think we start addressing each of those barriers as we can as we go. The funding is a big help, the state providing that funding and creating that kind of call to action by saying, "Hey, this is what we want to do and we want to have X number of apprenticeships by this year - giving that kind of goal for the community colleges I think is really great, and then funding that goal is also really great.
                

00:12:25 Leslie

But in terms of next steps, we're in the planning phases, at least at PCC, we're in the planning phase. We need to be intentional about that and what does that mean, and how do we address all the other barriers? Because that's what the planning stage is about, addressing the other barriers.
                

00:12:44 Salvatrice 

That's right, I also wonder, when you were talking about program development and curriculum and curriculum redesign or implementation or fill in the blank - I wonder if there's elements of ed code that gets in the way. There are industries that are traditional, and curriculum design can wait a year.
                

00:13:06 Salvatrice 

And that individual that goes through that apprenticeship is still going to complete with the skills and everything necessary. But once I said that, I was like, "Well, no, because even some of the traditional sectors are changing quickly due to the speed of this technology."
                

00:13:22 Salvatrice

So, all that to say, as we're trying to bring awareness to apprenticeships, I wonder if we also simultaneously need to bring the awareness piece on the process in which it takes to develop the program?
                

00:13:36 Leslie

I think that's a really good point and a really good question. Are you saying that we need to start lobbying at a higher level to change some of these things like the Ed code and the process? Because we've talked before about how difficult the existing process is in the community college, make it to be responsive to the changing needs of workforce.
                

00:13:57 Leslie

Like we talk about the need for program redevelopment and updating, not just as it relates to apprenticeships, but in general to keep our curriculum current and updated so that it matches the ever changing and rapidly changing needs of the workforce.
                

00:14:10 Leslie

So, it's the same thing, it's the same process, it's the same barrier, takes too long to get a class through, making these changes at the state level takes a while. So, this has come up before, so are you suggesting that we're at a point where we need to go back to the state and say, "We agree this is important, but we need help with this component." Is that what you're suggesting?
                

00:14:32 Salvatrice 

I am, and I don't even know where to start with that. I genuinely don't know where we would start with that. I also wonder if this is something that maybe our very own Los Angeles Regional Consortium Advocacy Committee takes on. I'm putting it out there, putting it out in the universe.
                

00:14:50 Salvatrice 

Maybe this is something that they take on as a problem to solve where policy gets in the way of the work, and is there room for a policy revise so that we can do our jobs more effectively, and we can respond as we have full intentions to respond to our employers. And I think the spirit and the intentions are there, but there's, should I call it red tape? I don't know what to call it.
                

00:15:16 Leslie

There's certainly levels of bureaucracy.
                

00:15:18 Salvatrice 

Yeah, because as the Los Angeles Regional Consortium, just full circle here, our very own LARC has initiated their Launch LA whereas this hyperawareness around apprenticeships and resources available to the employer, the student, and the college - that momentum has picked up traction. So, there's no stopping that train and I don't want them to.
                

00:15:42 Salvatrice 

But I feel like we need to have more of an intentional dialogue around the roadblocks. And so, as LARC does the work, I feel like there needs to be a body that addresses that specific roadblock and others that come up that I think the state is willing to listen, I think at this point.
                

00:16:04 Salvatrice

I feel really confident in that they're wanting to understand and listening because it is important. It's important not only to the state but it's important to us and practitioners in this space. I feel like the landscape is just right, things are changing and I feel like right now, would be the right time to do it. So, how do we do it Leslie?
                

00:16:23 Leslie

Do we have to wait until July 1 when the new chancellor takes in the reigns?
                

00:16:27 Salvatrice 

I don't know, maybe we can get her on this podcast and we can talk through it.
                

00:16:31 Leslie

That's not a bad idea.
                

00:16:32 Salvatrice 

I would really enjoy that. So, if you're listening, we'd love to have you on. I think these are real, real system barriers that we've got to address in a very thoughtful way. And what I mean by that, it's crazy. Like I almost envision the problem on the board and we're just pulling it apart, component by component, pulling it apart, because it is complex.
                

00:16:53 Salvatrice 

There's lots of moving parts to one thing, which is I want to develop a program and there's 50 different components to that machine. It really merits, I would even say, someone outside of the community college system to come in and do their assessment of the issue and the problem, and provide recommendations.
                

00:17:14 Salvatrice 

Because sometimes, we could provide (we, I'm talking about collectively in the community college system) what we experience, but there's someone that needs to come in to really examine the system itself, the technology that we use, the policies that we follow, the governance structures that we follow. I mean, there's so many elements. So, I feel like you need to do something about it Leslie, I feel like you need to start something.
                

00:17:43 Leslie

I'm going to make a post-it note to that effect and I'll get right on that. Got that right here, post-it note.
                

00:17:50 Salvatrice 

You've got it.
                

00:17:51 Leslie

It's actually on my whiteboard, so we'll get to it.
                

00:17:53 Salvatrice 

But I mean these are real things, Les, these are real things that we face.
                

00:17:58 Leslie

So, what's the solution? Now, you mentioned LARC and the Launch LA component, like what's that entail? Like what's going to happen with that, and how is that feeding into the employer engagement plan? And we heard yesterday their employer engagement plan is shifting and now they want to provide a hub of information. How does that feed in?
                

00:18:15 Salvatrice 

That might be us having this conversation as a follow up with Dr. Mckeegan and Dr. Fleming who are leading the Launch LA efforts. But I feel like what they're doing is incredibly important and it's very much the outward facing, there's services and resources to those three bodies that we talked about - employer, student, college.
                

00:18:38 Salvatrice

But there's internal nuances that I think that it's really not the LARC's job to do, it really isn't. But they go hand in hand, and I don't know.
                

00:18:49 Leslie

What can employers do to help in this process?
                

00:18:51 Salvatrice 

I'm putting myself in the shoe of the employer and I would ask myself, "Well, why does it matter to me? And we went and talked about those things."
                

00:18:57 Salvatrice

But for the future, if we genuinely as a community care about the health, longevity, sustainability of our communities, of our local communities, the health of workforce - and I'm not talking about physical health and mental health. I'm talking about wealth-health of our community, then I'm going to ask the employers to speak to us, tell us what is happening, why aren't they engaging?
                

00:19:22 Salvatrice 

Is it because it doesn't make sense? Is it because it's just too much? Is it because, well, like I haven't been sold on the value? It's like let's dig in deep, so speak to us. I think that's the number one ask I would have with employers, is just tell us, be honest and tell us what the real is out there.
                

00:19:41 Salvatrice 

Because we as practitioners are in this bubble, and we're doing our thing, rightfully so. But we don't know all the trials and tribulations that are small business community or business community faces, like we don't know what keeps them up at night, we don't. And there might be things that we are just not aware of.
                

00:19:57 Salvatrice 

So, speak, like tell us, get involved, be a part of advisory committees or just simply pick up the phone or shoot us an email, or gosh, connect with us on LinkedIn, let us know feedback. Like this is real, this is real talk: "Here's what I'm facing as an employer, this is a real thing for me, please consider that as you develop your programs."
                

00:20:17 Salvatrice

On the flip side of that, I'm an employer and you know what, it matters to me that we have a healthy local economy. And so, I want to be that employer that is connected to an apprenticeship program so that I can secure placement. All of it is good, so any kind of communication and feedback is good, that would be my number one thing.
                

00:20:37 Salvatrice 

And now, we would have to spend some time on the how maybe or once we get the information, what do we do with it? It's just like data in, data out. We talk about that a lot in our world, and then it's another conversation, you and I to talk about that engagement piece and then what do we do with that information? And I think that that's where we need to live, is what do we do with that information once we get it?
                

00:20:59 Leslie

I think in part, one of the things we do with that information, we respond to it. We try to solve the problems that are raised, just that we're mindful. Even if it's things that we can't solve today when we do our outreach, when we do our employer engagement, we can demonstrate our sensitivity too and knowledge of the existing issues as part of our outreach.
                

00:21:16 Leslie

Like we understand that these are your concerns and this is what we're doing to address those, or these are the points of conversation where we're looking to explore those. Because we haven't yet resolved them, but we're aware. I think part of getting that information and what we do with it is A, acknowledging it, responding to it and addressing it if we can.
                

00:21:33 Leslie

But if nothing else, at least demonstrating that we hear you mirroring that back to employers when we reach out so that they're like, "Well, at least you know what's going on." They want to be heard too, I'm sure, right?
                

00:21:42 Salvatrice 

Absolutely.
                

00:21:42 Leslie

And we may not know what all the barriers are from their side.
                

00:21:46 Salvatrice 

Right, we don't, and I'm confident in saying that we care about it.
                

00:21:50 Leslie

We do, there are some perceived benefits and I think that we mentioned some of those. Like why it's a win, win, win for everybody. But it goes beyond access to a skilled labor force, it also includes improved safety and quality because people who've gone through these programs have probably also received safety training already. it improves retention, there's a number of benefits to it.
                

00:22:09 Leslie

So, I think that they would be open to it if there are employers that aren't aware necessarily of how it all works. Like if we solve some of those high-level problems before we get to them, and we include that in our outreach when we reach out and do our employer engagement, then we're going to be more successful about gaining those partnerships.
                

00:22:28 Leslie

And so, I guess what you're saying is that we want to hear from them, but how are we going to hear from them? Like at what point are we going to reach out to them? Like how can they get in touch with us? If they're listening, they could hit us up on email or our standard call us back pitch. But are there other ways for them to engage with us?
                

00:22:46 Salvatrice 

You're absolutely right and I think that that's a great way to sense that this conversation is, we know that in order for apprenticeships to work, there are two things, elements and problems to solve. There's little components to solve, but also, that engagement piece of the employer is the icing on the cake when we talk about the apprenticeship. We can't do it without them period.
                

00:23:10 Salvatrice 

And so, I think that what you just shared, how they get connected with us - we certainly will put that into the show notes. And if there are employers listening, please do connect with us and tell us, what are some real thoughts? What are some real feelings that are happening out there with the skilled workforce? And if anything just to have a dialogue because it matters to us.
                

00:23:31 Salvatrice 

It really does matter to us what our employers are experiencing and facing, and we want to be a solution to them. I've enjoyed our time. We do a lot of this behind the scenes and this is like the first time that we've been able to do it here on this podcast.
                

00:23:44 Salvatrice 

And we need to do more of it because there's a lot of what goes on behind the scenes that merits awareness. Because I can guarantee you there are others in the same boat. And so, if we can build a coalition of thinkers and problem solvers here in workforce development, that's what we really want to do.
                

00:24:03 Leslie

Well, I agree. I think this was a great conversation and I look forward to having more conversations with you. And I think the fact that we are constantly in dialogue, sometimes we get in our own heads and we're having our own conversations and we keep these kind of to ourselves, but you're right, other people are having conversations.
                

00:24:17 Leslie

Some of the things we talk about may trigger something in them or they may reach out to us, and I think that's great. So, I think I look forward to the opportunity to explore this topic further because this topic's not over, and then lots of other topics as well, so thanks for the time.
                

00:24:32 Salvatrice 

I agree, thank you so much, Leslie, and we'll do this again soon.
                

00:24:35 Leslie

Awesome.
                

00:24:37 Salvatrice 

Thank you for listening to the Future of Work Podcast. Make sure you subscribed on your favorite listening platform so you can easily get new episodes every Tuesday.
                

00:24:45 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.