Coachella Valley Economic Partnership’s Workforce Excellence programs start at the end goal — filling the labor market with skilled employees in high-wage growth sectors — and working backward by paving educational pathways as early as kindergarten.
The Workforce Excellence model builds partnerships between the private, civic, and education sectors. “With an educated workforce, we will attract 21st century jobs to the region,” says CVEP President and CEO Tom Flavin. “To assure success, the business and education communities must execute programs simultaneously and in concert.”
This “collective impact” brings all the concerned parties to the table, says Sheila Thornton, vice president of Workforce Excellence.
Launched by CVEP in 2005, in partnership with the James Irvine Foundation and Riverside County Economic Development Agency Workforce Investment Board, the initiative creates career pathways in three high-growth industries: healthcare and life sciences, clean technology and energy, and creative arts and design. CVEP’s growth-industry councils provide employers with direct access to educators, work-based learning, and participation in workforce pipeline strategies.
“Higher levels of education are absolutely correlated with high levels of economic well-being for a region,” Thornton says.
With 71,000 students in Coachella Valley public schools, the three school districts (Palm Springs Unified, Desert Sands Unified, and Coachella Valley Unified), Riverside County Office of Education, College of the Desert, California State University San Bernardino, and University of California Riverside at Palm Desert work together to align curriculum to growth sectors. The school districts and College of the Desert have adopted CVEP’s new Regional Plan for College and Career Readiness.
“That is a guiding force for the next five years,” Thornton says. “Virtually everybody who impacts a student’s life in the education system, from kindergarten into the workforce, can work on this common effort to align our resources to gain the maximum impact on students’ individual achievement and the economy’s overall well-being.”
Five-year goals include:
• enrolling 30 percent of students in a career-themed academy
• personalizing a graduation plan for 80 percent of students
• increasing the high school graduation rate by 10 percent
• achieving a 85 percent completion rate for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
• raising the college-going rate by 10 percent
• generating $1 million annually through an endowed scholarship structure
In addition, CVEP has joined six other areas across the U.S. in implementing the Alignment USA model, which encourages community involvement ranging from parental engagement to business partnerships. Strategies focus on real-world skills and readiness, such as communication, critical thinking, and résumé writing.
“Alignment created a business structure for how communities collaborate,” Thornton says.
Pathways to Success, another component of Workforce Excellence, offers scholarships, college-readiness workshops, study skills, guidance, and one-on-one counseling.
CVEP’s Workforce Excellence also seeks to expand high school career academies — currently at 16 “schools within a school,” Thornton explains. Areas of hands-on study include culinary arts, healthcare, renewable energy, data and technology, and the creative and performing arts.
“You want the students to experience what it’s like to be part of the economy, to have a sense of who they are in the work world, and to have a sense of connection to their power and capability,” Thornton says. “In high school, they’re learning how to build a wind turbine or how to take blood pressure and how that relates to their math class. If you really want to engage somebody, you teach them with tangible learning.”
Key partners in Workforce Excellence include Desert Healthcare District, which invested $2 million; College Access Foundation, which contributed $7.2 million and committed to $1 million a year through 2019; James Irvine Foundation, which invested $1.675 million to support Linked Learning, high school academies, and college and career readiness programs; and Ford Motor Company Fund, which helped CVEP develop its regional plan for the next generation of learning.
WORKFORCE AT A GLANCE
• ALIGNMENT: Based on the Alignment USA model, the program encourages community involvement ranging from parental engagement to business partnerships. Strategies focus on the end goal — jobs — and work backwards, beginning in K-12, to build a support model for success.
• WORKFORCE EXCELLENCE INDUSTRY COUNCILS: These meld 400-plus partners from education and industry. The councils focus on scholarships, work-based learning, labor market projections, and pipeline development in healthcare and life sciences, clean technology and energy, and creative arts and design.
• PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS: This program offers scholarships, college-readiness workshops, study skills, guidance, and one-on-one counseling.
BY THE NUMBERS
$6.4 million in workforce development grant revenue since 2005
6,500 career-themed program participants
1,575 college scholarship recipients
11,000 hours volunteered by industry partners
$7.8 million college scholarship dollars
22 matching partners investing $700,000 in scholarships annually
$12 million in new revenue from outside funders
60 new industry sites for workplace-based learning secured in 2012
Source: Coachella Valley Economic Partnership
TEACHING FUTURE CARETAKERS
Eisenhower Medical Center became the area’s first teaching hospital this year when it welcomed its inaugural class of medical residents to the School of Graduate Medical Education and Research. Twenty-two new physicians — eight each in family and internal medicine — are training at Eisenhower for three years, with six preliminary medicine physicians enrolled for one year.
With the shortage of doctors in Palm Springs — especially in primary care — the region has stepped up efforts to fill the void.
University of California opened a medical school at UC Riverside with 50 students; it will expand in 2015 to include graduate family medicine programs through Desert Regional Medical Center.
The UCR medical school engages in local Workforce Excellence initiatives, including the Future Physician Leaders program, a mentorship program for pre-med students.
College of the Desert opened a 14,280-square-foot nursing center in 2009; CSUSB opened a Palm Desert Health Sciences Building in 2008 and now offers a four-year bachelor of science degree in nursing and an RN-to-BSN program at the Palm Desert Campus.
In addition, the Coachella Valley Innovation Hub Accelerator Campus was awarded a three-year, $500,000 grant from Desert Healthcare District for a Health and Medical Innovation Center, with another $1 million from the city of Palm Springs to attract medical-related employees and companies.
Training and exposure to medical careers starts in elementary school, explains Sheila Thornton, vice president of CVEP’s Workforce Excellence. For example, “JFK Memorial Hospital does a pediatric disaster drill once a year for two days, and they bring the fifth-graders from Dr. Carreon Academy in Indio. The kids play the role of pediatric disaster victims, and they learn all about careers. They interface with 46 professionals in that day. They learn about emergency Life Flight helicopters, triage in an emergency room, what a respiratory therapist does, and what the nurse director would be do during a disaster.”
Thornton adds, “Desert Regional and Eisenhower host groups of 30 eighth-graders every month in tours through the hospital. They get hands-on, practical experience that really triggers a new imagination about who they can be and how they fit into the future workforce.”