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Transcript- Episode 92: How to Become A Lifelong Learner in an Ever Changing Industry With Carolyn Hull The General Manager at the EWDD of Los Angeles Episode 92

Apr 25, 2023

00:00:00            Carolyn

Now, you're going to have to be a lifelong learner. Those days of getting that degree and working at one company is probably not the future. And what is important is that we all upskill at various points, and as a result, we need to support the ability to utilize the latest technology like AI.

00:00:20            Carolyn

That wasn't a critical issue or a critical skillset that maybe was needed 5, 10 years ago, but now it is. And how do we incorporate that into our jobs so that we're not made redundant and constantly learning?

00:00:38            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.

00:00:51            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?

00:01:03            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.

00:02:00            Salvatrice

Hi everyone, and welcome back to the Future of Work Podcast, I am your host, Salvatrice Cummo. Today, we will learn about the city of Los Angeles Economic and Workforce Development Department and what the department does. We will also talk about some of the practices and priorities for the economic and workforce development in the city of LA and in what ways we can better prepare for the Future of Work.

00:02:26            Salvatrice

With that being said, we are excited to have Carolyn Hull with us here today. Ms. Hull is the General Manager of the Economic and Workforce Development Department for the city of Los Angeles.

00:02:36            Salvatrice

Carolyn has been with the city of Los Angeles since January of 2020, where under her leadership, has administered a distribution of a hundred million dollars in COVID-19-related financial economic release programs. Some of which include the city of LA's Small Business Emergency Grant Fund, the Los Angeles Regional COVID-19 Fund, and the Los Angeles COVID-19 Childcare Provider Grant Program.

00:03:05            Salvatrice

Before this role, Ms. Hull was Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Industry Cluster Development at the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. That's a lot, Carolyn, thank you. Thanks for joining us today, you're a rockstar, I'll tell you what.

00:03:23            Carolyn

Well, thank you, its a pleasure to be here, it's a pleasure to see you again.

00:03:27            Salvatrice

Oh, very good, likewise, well, let's dive right in. This is work that you and I love to talk about because this is what we do all day, everyday. So, I'm really excited for our audience to hear more from the city of Los Angeles perspective on economic and workforce development.

00:03:43            Salvatrice

So, just as what I normally do on my podcast, I'd like the guest to share a little bit more about your work and the history, and what continues to interest you in this arena of economic and workforce development.

00:03:58            Carolyn

Well, thank you for that. My work trajectory certainly has been a journey. But to be honest, cities and the linkages of the build environment: education, transportation, economic mobility - have fascinated me since my childhood in Brooklyn, New York and Jersey City, New Jersey.

00:04:14            Carolyn

I'm trained as an economist and urban planner, and in the early part of my career, I was an economist with DRI Standard & Poors, and later a land use consultant with CBRE. And before joining LAEDC as you just indicated, I spent approximately seven years at the redevelopment agency for the city of Los Angeles.

00:04:32            Carolyn

Where I worked on place-based initiatives primarily in South LA, and applied innovative financing tools like new market tax credits to fill the void left from traditional capital's unwillingness to develop commercial or mixed use projects in underserved communities.

00:04:48            Carolyn

I then transitioned to LAEDC, and in that role, I started to think about a city's economic base, the major industry clusters and educational attainment of residents, and how that impacts economic mobility.

00:05:01            Carolyn

I'm still very interested in all of those areas. But in my current role at EWDD, I'm focused on breaking down the silos of economic and workforce development. I see them as flip sides of the same coin and I want to leverage the ecosystems of both aspects of the department to optimize outcomes.

00:05:19            Carolyn

And what I mean by this is that the city supports 16 WorkSource Centers, 10 BusinessSource Centers, 14-UseSource Centers and numerous incubators. I want to align the goals of that ecosystem. It sounds simple, but it's quite a challenge. Let me just give you an example.

00:05:35            Carolyn

We recently concluded the Meta Facebook internship program. Over 200 youth participated in a city-funded paid digital marketing and social media training and internship. The youth were placed at local businesses that were being served by our BusinessSource Centers to enhance the digital footprint in the marketplace for these small mom and pop shops.

00:05:57            Carolyn

Facebook, our private sector partner, provided training and mentorship to the students. It was a successful pilot and I want to scale that up in the coming years, and scale up other successful projects like that, that really leverage our ecosystem.

00:06:12            Salvatrice

That's excellent and that gives us a little bird's eye view of what your department is doing for the city of Los Angeles. And I know there's so much more work there, there's lots of moving parts to this engine that we have to move, which is economic and workforce development.

00:06:29            Salvatrice

You mentioned breaking down silos and working collaboratively with all areas within the city of Los Angeles and we do that too. Like there's all big public entities have the tendency of sometimes working in their siloed areas, so what might that look like to break down those silos? I think I could learn from you here, it'd be a learning moment for me for sure.

00:06:56            Carolyn

Well, you know what, I think what helped oddly enough in breaking down the silos was a pandemic. A pandemic knows no boundaries and so, hence we couldn't solve the problem with being in our silos.

00:07:08            Carolyn

So, when the pandemic hit, we immediately reached out to our counterparts at the county, our counterparts in philanthropy, the private sector. We had literally daily conversations and we put together something called the LA Regional COVID Fund.

00:07:23            Carolyn

And that for me, was the model because suddenly, we had to figure out what each entity could provide and what our best skill sets were to deliver what the residents and the small businesses in the city of Los Angeles needed. What residents and businesses don't want to hear when they're in a crisis is when they call for someone to say, "I'm sorry, you're in the wrong jurisdiction, you need to be in X."

00:07:48            Carolyn

So, we decided that we would build platforms where literally, when a business would put in their information, even if you weren't in the city of LA, you never knew that, the system took care of that, and sent it over to the county.

00:08:00            Carolyn

That simple technical aspect of what we did was so instrumental in us being seamless to the outside world and having people honestly say, "You are here to help me, it doesn't matter what jurisdiction I'm in."

00:08:15            Salvatrice

And it sounds like because you started in January of 2020, so right before ...

00:08:22            Carolyn

To be honest with you, I was probably confirmed in January 2020. I don't think it started until the second or third week of February. I didn't even know where the bathrooms were when the Mayor said the safe red home orders. So, it was a world win event.

00:08:38            Carolyn

But again, I have to admit, crisis brings out the best of people, if we're lucky. And in this instance, we were so focused on delivering for the needs of the community that it almost didn't matter. It was nonstop 24-hour activity. But yes, I had no idea where the bathrooms were.

00:08:57            Salvatrice

Because I was going to say, it's like you don't really have a reference point of what it was pre-pandemic because, well, you weren't there.

00:09:06            Carolyn

There was no pre-pandemic for me.

00:09:08            Salvatrice

You weren't there, so it did allow for immediate creativity and immediate collaboration in a way that most public entities have never seen before.

00:09:19            Carolyn


00:09:20            Salvatrice

I would imagine that that was quite interesting and you learned about a model that can be replicated post-pandemic as you mentioned, like the LA regional COVID Fund.

00:09:30            Carolyn


00:09:31            Carolyn

Like that was a model that just boom, it just got implemented with a simple yet significant use of technology, and everyone sees the benefits of really coming together and solving a problem.

00:09:45            Carolyn

We were focused on solving the problem, but also, we were really focused on equity. One of the things that I'm proudest of, of the programs that we put together is that first of all, it was coming out of the silos, but the second aspect of it was looking at the fact that the original federal funding from the government PPP really didn't hit those businesses and individuals in underserved communities.

00:10:09            Carolyn

We developed a system that prioritized small businesses in those communities. So, when we talk about the over a hundred million dollars that we sent out to the community and businesses, vast majority of that went to business owners and street vendors and childcare providers that were people of color in areas that had been underinvested in.

00:10:30            Carolyn

It seemed like a simple thing, but really, kind of developing systems that really prioritize those individuals and businesses in those areas was another great aspect of a model that we are now carrying forward. Not that we weren't thinking about it before, but we were very intentional about it during the COVID Regional Fund.

00:10:50            Salvatrice

And there was certainly a sense of urgency as well, it's not something that could have been vetted slowly or piloted slowly, it was something that you needed to activate very quickly. And so, fast forward, we're in 2023 rapidly fast forwarded to 2023, let's pause here and think how do you feel about the priorities of your area? What are some of those priorities now that some of the dust has settled post-pandemic, where's your direction headed and priorities headed for the city?

00:11:22            Carolyn

Thank you for that, we have several. I think one of the top priorities for us is expanding youth employment programs.

00:11:28            Salvatrice


00:11:28            Carolyn

As in the pre-pandemic labor market, large segments of the population continue to struggle to recover from setbacks over the last couple of years, and youth in particular, endured the highest levels of job losses and educational losses during that time through distance learning.

00:11:45            Carolyn

So, we're really focusing on a UseSource system to better incorporate career pathways. And as you know the governor has put forward an allocation of funding for California for all where we are, again, being intentional, focusing on the youth, but also really looking at career pathways.

00:12:05            Carolyn

Another aspect that we're focusing on is prioritizing supporting training programs and growth industry sectors, whether it's youth or adult, and to develop publicly owned land designated for job generation toward not-for-growth companies.

00:12:21            Carolyn

And what I mean by that is looking at what the growth industries are or what our emerging industries in the city and the county of Los Angeles, and making sure that we have a relationship with the private sector and supporting the development of the facility they need so that they can remain in this area.

00:12:41            Carolyn

Great example of that is the bioscience sector.

00:12:44            Salvatrice


00:12:44            Carolyn

It's an emerging sector, they have specific physical needs, and making sure that we are able to meet those base needs while training individuals for the middle skill jobs is really critical to the growth of the economy of this region.

00:12:59            Salvatrice

Got it, and with the unemployment rate right now being at 4.5% and these priorities are really gearing towards minimizing that percentage specifically around the career pathways because I find that very, very exciting. You know, that speaks our language, our community college language.

00:13:17            Salvatrice

Can you unpack that a little bit more with me? What does that look like? What are some ideas that are being generated from career pathways? And most importantly, I invite my colleagues here at the community college to be of service to the region and to the city of LA, and how do we become better stewards and partners to your work so that we can assist you in pushing that priority forward?

00:13:38            Carolyn

Well, that's great because we need partnerships, but first let me address the comment of the low unemployment. We rather have a low unemployment rate than a high unemployment rate. But even prior to the pandemic, when the county was actually growing at a very significant rate the Los Angeles county had the highest poverty rate in the country.

00:13:59            Carolyn

So, while the unemployment rate may be relatively low, we have to look at the number of people living in poverty and the level of income that people probably could survive with. And that means looking at the types of jobs we're generating.

00:14:13            Carolyn

And so, really what we'd like to look at is working with community colleges to upskill or reskill individuals so they can take advantage of some of these growth occupations which do not require a four-year college degree. And also, looking at how do we provide childcare and other wraparound services so that people can take advantage of these training programs.

00:14:36            Carolyn

It's one thing to say you have a training program, but as a mother, I can tell you one of the biggest challenges to my getting to work is childcare and transportation. So, while we're looking at these programs, we have to work collaboratively I think between the private sector, the workforce system including and most importantly, community colleges as to providing funding that will take care of the holistic needs of our students.

00:15:02            Salvatrice

If you had a magic wand ...

00:15:06            Carolyn

I wish I had one by the way. I already love the question.

00:15:11            Salvatrice

What could we as a community college do for you? Specifically like, "Salvatrice, I need you to ... fill in the blank."

00:15:20            Carolyn

I think what the community colleges could do for us is probably strengthen the relationship with the private sector. So, we know that we're having these certificate programs so that we can place individuals in a job. And what I mean by that is government doesn't do a great job of working with the private sector to determine what the skills are that they're looking for.

00:15:42            Carolyn

And I think the community colleges are probably best aligned to do that and I'd like us to better work together because these businesses are also busy. So, if I put together a working group to call business X to find out what skills they're needing, and then another company does it, and the community college to do it, they're just going to be overwhelmed.

00:16:03            Carolyn

And I'd love us to designate the community college system with whomever you are going to work with, to be that voice with the private sector to determine what skills they need and then we can act on those programs. So, can you do that for me Salvatrice?

00:16:17            Salvatrice

I sure can. Actually you know what, I think I can.

00:16:20            Christina

Oh, see.

00:16:22            Salvatrice

And the reason why I can, I confidently say that we can is because we are currently building that centralized streamlined approach to employer engagement via the Los Angeles Regional Consortium for which falls under my purview in my division.

00:16:39            Salvatrice

So, I think we could probably pilot a few things, and unpack that and explore that even further because the Los Angeles Regional Consortium, the LARC is designed to do that, is designed to be a central hub, a central focal point for industry engagement, again in a very streamlined approach so that it doesn't make it so complicated from our side (you and I, from the government side), then from the employer side. And most importantly makes it a much more pleasant experience for the student who engages in some of these activities.

00:17:14            Carolyn

So , that's a partnership I want us to start immediately and I would love for our team to maybe either be part of your consortium on a regular basis or get updates. I think that'll be a critical partnership as we move forward.

00:17:26            Salvatrice

You bet, I'm on it. As soon as we're done, as we conclude this, I'm on it.

00:17:31            Carolyn

That's perfect.

00:17:34            Salvatrice

Thank you.

00:17:35            Carolyn

Thank you.

00:17:35            Salvatrice

You touched on poverty. So, let's circle back to that. We touched on poverty, the Mayor has made it a number one priority for the city from what I understand.

00:17:45            Carolyn

Yes, absolutely.

00:17:47            Salvatrice

And the job opportunities are limited for a number of reasons: skills, willingness from the employers and industry, et cetera - how do we better serve this community in a way that's intentional and customized because it's not a one-size-fits-all approach to lower the bar, lower the percentage of unemployment.

00:18:08            Salvatrice

Well, I guess what I'm trying to say is our approach to some of the things like career pathways or training opportunities, they're going to be very different for this community. And so, what could we do? How do we explore that more and what could we do to be a partner in that work as well?

00:18:24            Carolyn

Well, that's a great question and it's a complicated solution and if it wasn't, we would've solved it already. But one of the areas that I want to uplift is a program that we have here called LA:RISE. It's an innovative collaborative partnership that unites the city and county of Los Angeles's workforce systems with non - profit social enterprises and for-profit employers, in order to help men, women, and youth with high barriers to employment get jobs and stay employed.

00:18:53            Carolyn

And they particularly work closely with those that are either unhoused or in danger of becoming unhoused. And after working in a transitional job at a social enterprise and leveraging training and social services from the WorkSource Centers, LA:RISE participants are placed in for-profit entities.

00:19:11            Carolyn

And let me say a little bit why that's important. And when we say social enterprises, I mean the Downtown Women's Center, Goodwill - it's really important as people are entering this system as if they're coming back from being touched by the justice system, that they have a support system around them.

00:19:27            Carolyn

So , what the LA:RISE program does is it not only allows people to get back into a rhythm of workforce while being paid, but they're also given the support system around them that they need so that they can become self-sufficient.

00:19:42            Carolyn

And if for example, they show up to work late a couple days in a row, maybe if they'd went right into the private sector, they may be fired. In this system someone goes and gives them the support they need.

00:19:54            Carolyn

And I think scaling up programs like LA:RISE is really critical because it allows us to give ... again, treating people where they are in a holistic fashion, giving them a job and working with their situation and providing them with an opportunity to actually reenter the workforce in a systematic fashion.

00:20:17            Salvatrice

I love that. Is there a way that we can work together in amplifying the work of LA:RISE or scaling that work? I mean, what do you see is the need in order to scale?

00:20:27            Carolyn

We need more employers.

00:20:28            Salvatrice


00:20:28            Carolyn

So, once we go through the transitional system and now, they've gone through that transitional system and now they're looking for their first job in the private sector, that bridge is where we would love to work with your consortium to find the right occupation so that we could seamlessly move people in from transitional employment into private sector employment. That's another area Salvatrice, we've got a lot to follow up on.

00:20:56            Salvatrice

We've got a lot of work to do, I'll tell you what. I think that's the beauty of this work. I mean, the beauty of this work is that it's so fluid and it's so fluid in that there is always room for improvement. There's always room for creativity and innovation, and doing things a little bit differently because at the end of the day. We're helping sustain and get into jobs and directly impacts our local economy.

00:21:24            Salvatrice

And so, who doesn't want a community that's flourishing? Who doesn't want a community that is vibrant? Because unemployment is super low and employers are engaged and colleges are producing the talent and upskilling the existing talent that is out there with our employers. So, this work is ever-changing and that's what makes it exciting. So, all that to say, I've got work to do.

00:21:52            Carolyn

We're going to do it together. Yes, you have work to do. We have work to do.

00:21:56            Salvatrice

We have work to do. But this is the Future of Work Podcast and this would not be the Future of Work Podcast if I didn't ask this question to my guest, and I ask every guest this question. If there was one thing that you would like our listeners to understand about what we've talked about today or things that are percolating in your world as it relates to the future of work, what might that be?

00:22:22            Carolyn

I think one of the things that we didn't touch on enough is the fact that obviously, it's called the Future of Work and the landscape is changing. And I think your listeners probably need to understand that now, you're going to have to be a lifelong learner.

00:22:35            Carolyn

Those days of getting that degree and working at one company for the next 20, 30 years is probably not the future. And what is important is that we all upskill at various points, and as a result, we need to support the ability to how to utilize the latest technology like AI.

00:22:56            Carolyn

That wasn't a critical issue or a critical skill set that maybe was needed 5, 10 years ago, in fact I know that. But now it is, and how do we incorporate that into our jobs so that we're not made redundant and constantly learning, I think that's really important.

00:23:12            Carolyn

The other aspect is we really want our private sector partners to understand that we want to provide people with living wage jobs and we want to give people an opportunity to succeed. Maybe they didn't go to the fanciest schools, but they've had life experience. And to really look at life experience and to give credit for that so we can move people into these middle skill jobs.

00:23:38            Salvatrice

You make a very, very, very valid point in that there's elements and variables to this work that forces us to evolve, that forces us to think things differently, do business differently, create programs that are different and I really, really appreciate that you shared all of that.

00:23:54            Salvatrice

And I feel like there's a part two to this conversation, both recorded on this podcast as well as out of the podcast. But I really appreciated our time here, and listen, our door is open, this podcast is open, anytime you want to talk about some stuff relating to economic and workforce development, we're here. We're absolutely here, Carolyn.

00:24:15            Carolyn

Well, fantastic, and I really mean it. Let's get together after this and brainstorm with our teams on how to deepen the relationship and the partnership.

00:24:23            Salvatrice

I would love it, absolutely love it. For our listeners who would like to connect with you, hopefully, some private sector folks, some of the private industries, how could they connect with you, what's the best way?

00:24:35            Carolyn

Probably the best way is to go to our website, and you'll see contact information, you'll be able to get in touch with me personally and our staff. You'll find our WorkSource Centers, our UseSource Centers, so please hit the website.

00:24:57            Salvatrice

Fantastic, thank you so very much, we'll be sure to enter those into the show notes. I look forward to chatting with you in just a little while.

00:25:05            Carolyn


00:25:06            Salvatrice

Alright, thank you, Carolyn.

00:25:07            Carolyn

Thank you, it's been a pleasure.

00:25:10            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.

00:25:28            Salvatrice

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.