Closing the opportunity gap in the post-COVID workforce

A conversation with Peter Callstrom, president & CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership

In this episode of Work in Progress, Peter Callstrom, president & CEO of San Diego Workforce Partnership, joins me to talk about closing the opportunity gap in the post-COVID workforce.

The Workforce Partnership does workforce development, talent development, and skills development for all 3.4 million residents and employers in the San Diego Country region.

According to Callstrom, they help “people from all walks of life and places in their career journey. We’re there to serve everybody—from youth all the way through seniors—in a wide variety of ways by deploying the public investment through Department of Labor, as well as the private sector and philanthropy.”

In all, that is about $35 million invested in the county’s workforce each year. Much of it, says Callstrom, is in programs designed to help close the opportunity gap for all the people they serve, including so-called opportunity youth.

“Before the pandemic there were around five million opportunity youth—or disconnected youth—around the country. Those are 16- to 24-year-olds not working and not in school. They haven’t found their way for a variety of reasons. This is not kids sitting on the couch. This is a number of societal issues from just disconnection in any number of ways. But a lot of talent and a lot of opportunity within this group of young adults. That’s almost one-in-10 youth in that age range. And that was pre-pandemic. Now we know it’s only grown through COVID.”

Callstrom says it is important that we invest across the country in opportunities for all youth to “to get into the workforce in any number of ways, to get their start, to experience what it means to work with an employer and coworkers, and develop the soft skills, and to understand money management, and to be able to look at a career, look at different options.”

He adds that many of the jobs are entry-level jobs, but it’s part of the path we all start on. “But if you don’t even get onto that path, your future possibilities for the career you want are really, really impacted, and oftentimes in a very negative way. So we can get ahead of it. If we really invest in our youth so that we can get them on a very positive and productive path then we all win.”

This is just a tiny portion of what Callstrom and I discuss in the podcast. We talk about their remarkable and highly successful income share agreement project, the only one in the entire country operated by an organization within the workforce development system.

Callstrom also tells me about a new $1.5 million grant from the James Irvine Foundation which will help the Workforce Partnership train people wanting to enter the cybersecurity industry or upskill in order to get to the next step in their careers. “We’re targeting underserved, underrepresented individuals, so that we can have people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these great careers to get the support necessary to flourish in this really high in-demand and growing sector.”

You can hear the entire conversation here, or find us wherever you get your podcasts.

Download the transcript for this podcast here.

Episode 184: Peter Callstrom, president & CEO, San Diego Workforce Partnership
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

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