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Community Planning, Growing Local Businesses, and Creating Youth Success: Key Areas of Leadership Focus for the Sacramento Works Employment and Training Agency

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Mar 22, 2011

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Last week we interviewed Robin Purdy, Deputy Director of Workforce Development for the Sacramento Works Employment and Training Agency (SETA) and Sacramento Works, Inc. (SACWORKS, Inc., the local Workforce Investment Board). Here's are some highlights from our conversation.

 Community Planning
“When you do the right things that impact the community, philanthropic investment comes into the community,” Robin stated as she described the region wide community planning process called “Partnership for Prosperity” that began six years ago. This was a proactive initiative—one that was not in response to a crisis. It helped to build strong collaborative relationships across the region and identified strengths of each partner involved.  During this process the community partners collectively envisioned a “Green Energy Technology Region and a good place to live” for their community. Once this was decided, every partner identified thier contribution to making it happen.

The planning process bounced back and forth among visioning, policy setting, planning and the concrete ways to implement the plan. “This helps you balance reality to what could be; you are grounded, yet still able to see the future,” Robin stated.

Robin initially thought that the results of the process would be focused only on high level research jobs with Intel and UC-Davis being a part of the process.  However, the initiative went deeper and included not only jobs requiring long term training, but also focused on jobs requiring only one to two years of training, thus pulling in the community colleges and workforce development partners.

One of the many products that resulted from this community planning is the website entitled http://www.careergps.com.   It provides workforce forecasting for the region, with quarterly updates.  It also has a database of training organization and the programs they offer, so it is utilized by the career centers to assist job seekers in career planning.

 Grow Local Businesses
“Sacramento has a high number of public sector jobs,” stated Robin.  “Therefore, it is a priority to support private sector business growth”.  Growing employer health begins with establishing strong relationships with the local Chambers, economic development agencies, and the Sacramento Commerce and Trade Organization.  These agencies provide incentives and support to help businesses grow.  They use the workforce training programs as a part of their marketing process.  In addition to providing recruitment and screening for employers’ job openings, and on-the-job training contracts, SACWORKS also serves as the vouchering agency for the Enterprise Zone.

SACWORKS, Inc. augmented their support of business growth with the addition of Recovery Act funds, which they used to create business development programs with outreach to employers.  One example is “Employer Business Walks” where volunteers recruited by City Economic Development Departments and Chambers of Commerce go door to door, talk with businesses about their needs, and refer them to appropriate partners.

SETA is also working hard to develop career pathways in green, healthcare, and information technology sectors. Robin cited numerous examples of programs including alternative vehicles training (where they purchased five hybrid vehicles for the local community college to use in training 150 incumbent workers and new entrants), and a home energy rating system program (where workers audit businesses and homes to determine energy efficiency, develop plans to improve that efficiency, and audit again after plan implementation to measure the total amount of improvement.)

 Creating Youth Success
Robin identified high youth unemployment as another one of her community’s top workforce development issues, indicating that too many young people in the community “are not successful in school or are out of school, and are at risk of participating in criminal activity or joining a gang.”  One way SETA sought to solve this problem was by forming “Safe Community Partnerships”, an anti-gang program that identifies the “drivers of violence” and, in partnership with the police, offers education and employment services to change behaviors of those drivers. By focusing on working with the criminal justice system, SETA attracted grants to support school, wrap around services, case management, support systems, GED preparation, and skills training services.

Another partnership was created with the Casey Family Programs to assist youth who are transitioning out of foster care. This partnership developed systems and supports for college training and transitional housing. The Casey Family Foundation focused on public policy aspects, while SACWORKS, Inc. was responsible for program development and implementation.

Another example of ways SETA and SACWORKS, Inc. are assisting youth to become successful is the Green Job Corps grant. These funds assist high risk youth by making them aware of environmental issues through participation in community services and a green literacy program. 

We will be following-up to gather materials and resources – including information about the programs SETA has developed in collaboration with other workforce partners – and doing a more comprehensive analysis of all of Robin’s insights throughout the course of the project.