Q: Why is important to celebrate and highlight the workforce development industry?
A. It’s important that we showcase the careers in our communities! Monthly and weekly celebrations like National Apprenticeship week, and especially Workforce Development Month which just occurred in September, provide an opportunity for our workforce ecosystem to come together with businesses, providers, training organizations, and others to highlight high-growth careers. It helps us drive a sustaining workforce and in turn grows the economy while making sure that people are earning family-sustaining wages. There is a lot of untapped talent in our communities, and highlighting workforce development allows us to showcase our own talent in connecting job seekers and employers, while celebrating the important work that we’re doing in growing communities.
Q: As a Workforce Development professional, how is the industry working toward a more equitable and inclusive future?
A. For me, it starts with access. When we talk about equity and inclusion especially around workforce it has to include access. We create programs in our system that are equitable and inclusive for everyone, but unless we make them accessible to the communities, then are we really helping?
We have a huge opportunity to bring high quality jobs for all workers and to drive that inclusionary growth with businesses. We must help business see that just hiring immigrants, Latinos, and People of Color isn’t enough…it’s making those higher wage jobs accessible. Don’t just hire at the entry level and think that’s enough. Grow within your organization!
The workforce industry is bringing in high quality training to the communities, and I think a big piece of that is ensuring that once people complete training and go to look for high quality jobs, they must have the support in place that they need including transportation, housing, childcare, etc. This is why creating more opportunities for apprenticeships and earn while you learn models is critical in helping job seekers sustain families while they prepare for high growth careers, and then also ensuring that they’re able to sustain their families when connected with a high growth career.
Q: What advice do you have for immigrants and first-generation Latinos that find themselves job searching for the first time in the United States?
A. Interesting question! I read an article recently that said by 2060, the workforce will be approximately 30 percent Latino. So, I definitely urge immigrants and Latinos to take the time to explore different options in different industries. As a second-generation Latina, I watched my father work from sun up to sun down in the construction industry when he came into the United States as an immigrant, and then spent his entire life in that industry. While it is a great industry and that became a career for him, he was never able to explore any other opportunities since he was pulled into that first opportunity. He never knew if there was any other industry that might have been a better fit for him because all that mattered was providing for his family.
I understand it’s easy for me to say that, since most people must have an income while exploring and looking for opportunities. However, I really think that you have to empower yourself to at least be open to the exploration. We’re here to provide guidance, preparation, and remove barriers, so we need our populations to come into the ecosystem to understand what is available to them. I urge folks to connect with their local American Job Center! They’ll receive tons of resources like English language learning classes, resume workshops that will actually get their resume in front of employers, interview skills preparation, workplace skills guidance that they might not be familiar with, and most importantly connection to employers in lots of different industries.
Lastly, to all immigrants, Latinos, and Latinas especially – any generation, I say this: Know your worth. When you’re out job searching, don’t settle for the first job or job offer that comes your way…be confident in your abilities and skills. Negotiate!