Emerging partnerships are key to the IE’s promising future

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By Phil Cothran, Chairman, San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board

Developing partnerships are helping to establish a new roadmap for the Inland Empire as we boldly embrace a future of economic opportunity and prosperity.

Robust, cross-sector initiatives such as Inland Economic Growth & Opportunity (IEGO), Inland California Rising and Regions Rise Together are demonstrating the power of collaboration and shared visioning when it comes to promoting business growth and developing a next-generation workforce.

More locally, efforts such as the Fontana Mayor’s Education Coalition are reinventing how schools, businesses and the public sector can work together to build stronger, more prosperous communities.

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Add it up, and the IE is clearly poised to fulfill its promise as one of the country’s fastest-growing population and economic centers.

But it’s how we’re doing it that stands out – recognizing that our collective might is far greater than the sum of our parts.

At the recent Regions Rise Together launch event at Cal State San Bernardino, members of our San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board (WDB) team worked side-by-side with stakeholders from throughout the IE and the governor’s office to discuss proactive steps we can take as a region to maximize the opportunities ahead of us.

Similar discussions are taking place with IEGO – a cross-sector collaboration committed to attracting more middle-class employment opportunities– and Inland California Rising – a developing partnership between stakeholders in the IE and Central Valley to seed broader regional opportunities.

Among the recurring themes in all of these efforts: The Inland Empire will continue to experience significant population growth in the years ahead, which is attractive to businesses looking to build or expand their workforce. We’re also a young community – more than 25% of our population is under the age of 18. It’s incumbent upon us to prepare that next-generation workforce for emerging career opportunities.

Again, partnerships are the key.

In San Bernardino County, initiatives such as Vision2Succeed, the Workforce Roadmap and GenerationGo! are establishing the framework for aligning our workforce and economic development efforts. Through GenGo!’s career pathways program, students are getting hands-on learning opportunities, internships and apprenticeships at local businesses. If scaled, this model could help tens of thousands of high school students in our county alone get the initial skills training and workplace knowledge they need to get that first real job.

The Fontana Mayor’s Education Coalition is built on the same foundation, and is already producing tangible results, such as a newly launched program that is teaching high school students workplace skills ranging from interviewing to dressing for success to conflict resolution. The weekend classes are taught by business owners, who are gladly offering their time and expertise to give young people a preview of what will be expected of them when they get a job.

For those of us who couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, it’s incredibly encouraging to see these efforts come together the way they have. Together, we’re building that workforce of the future … today.

Phil Cothran is chairman of the San Bernardino County Workforce Development Board. The WDB strives to strengthen the skills of the county’s workforce through partnerships with business, education and community-based organizations. The WDB offers a variety of programs designed to help youth and adults identify career pathways and get the appropriate training and skills. Learn more about the work of the WDB by visiting http://wp.sbcounty.gov/workforce/.

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