Youth@Work: Preparing Young People for the Workforce

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Bob Lanter, California Workforce Association (CWA) executive director; left to right, leads a panel discussion at its 2018 Youth@Work conference with Donna Wyatt, California Department of Education (CDE) Career and College Transition Division director; Carolyn Zachry, CDE Adult Education Office educational administrator; Van Ton-Quinlivan, California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Workforce Digital Futures executive vice chancellor; and Dr. Jenni Murphy, Sacramento State College of Continuing Education interim dean. (Sheraton Grand, Sacramento. Photo courtesy of CWA)

“We have to be creative in providing access to educational and career pathways.” – Dr. Jenni Murphy

Workforce development means preparing people for employment, from the young person weighing college or a career right after high school to the working adult learning new skills to stay competitive in today’s job market. Among the leaders in workforce development is Dr. Jenni Murphy, interim dean of the College of Continuing Education (CCE) at Sacramento State.

Under her leadership, CCE created an award-winning apprenticeship at Sacramento State, where professionals in workforce development complete a suite of university courses and a white-collar apprenticeship to earn a professional certificate and a promotion at the same time. 

Recently the California Workforce Association (CWA), one of CCE’s partners in the Workforce Development Professional Apprenticeship, invited Murphy and several other educators to its 2018 Youth@Work conference in Sacramento. The conversation focused on career technical education in California and a growing need to help young people gain marketable skills. 

“There is no doubt, the state needs skilled labor to fill positions like in cybersecurity. But right now, California is facing a skills shortage that could continue over the next decade,” said Murphy. “We have to be creative in providing access to educational and career pathways — both traditional and nontraditional pathways – that are valued by industry and society.”

“We need to fill skilled positions that are aligned with employer needs and effectively address skill gaps.” 

According to an estimate by the California Department of Finance, the shortage of workers who need only “some college” under their belt might reach as high as 1.5 million by 2025. Career technical education could help ease the shortage, said Megan Bailey, conference coordinator and program manager at CWA, who spent nearly 10 years in workforce development at the Sacramento Employment and Training Agency (SETA), another partner of CCE’s in the apprenticeship program.

Bailey was among the graduates in the inaugural class of the Workforce Development Professional Apprenticeship Program.

“Training for careers can start in middle school and high school,” added Bailey, citing careers in information technology, nursing and human resources. “But first, students and parents have to be persuaded that career technical education is a desirable option,” she said.

If a shift in thinking is required, one is already underway, noted Murphy. The Workforce Development Professional Apprenticeship challenged the status quo when CCE launched it at Sacramento State in 2016. For the first time, a California State University campus offered a university level apprenticeship that combined a rigorous academic component with paid on-the-job training. It was also the first non-trade apprenticeship registered by the State of California.

In 2017, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA) West Region honored CCE with its Engagement Award for the Workforce Development Professional Apprenticeship. The region represents continuing education institutions in the western United States and Canada.

On March 15, Murphy, along CCE’s Extensions Program Director Christine Irion and Senior Program Developer Babette Jimenez, will join Lanter at UPCEA’s national convention in Baltimore, the latest in a series of local, state and national conferences where they present the Workforce Development Professional Apprenticeship. “We have to create new training strategies because we need to fill skilled positions that are aligned with employer needs and effectively address skill gaps,” said Murphy.

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