Crossing boundaries to create a life-ready workforce for California

580 200 Deb Nankivell

(Photo: SIM-PBK)

How do we communicate, align and ultimately leverage public and private assets across sectors to achieve remarkable economic results and transformational change? Transformational means we aren’t just treating symptoms of outdated approaches to jobs and job creation, but rather we are starting from new designs—a different way to think and act together.

This is a question every enterprise is facing in this era of interdependence and rapid change. The lines between economic sectors are blurring. Skills concentrated in one are desperately needed in the others. Yet, silos exist with different operating cultures making it hard to even communicate, much less work together.

More people have recognized they must change the way they think, act and lead. As frustration increased, policies focused on measuring short-term results rather than sustainable outcomes and missions, which we now know damaged professions and industry with its single bottom line narrowed perspective. As leaders recognize that old ways will not work, controlling and knowing leadership styles are shifting toward self-governance. This approach requires everyone to be responsible—able to respond and initiate, not just react or wait for orders. This approach requires true partnership.

How does this apply to a critical issue—developing a strong workforce? We need confident life-ready global citizens. Each word is a bundle of traits and skills. Confident people know themselves, trust they can figure things out and have respect for others. Life-ready folks have developed a range of skills (practical and technical) needed to create a quality life. Those who think globally, whether applied locally or whole planet, understand everything is connected.

Notice that citizen is the noun—the identity. What does a great citizen do? Our founders challenged us to think deeply about this and learn how to embrace diversity while uniting behind shared goals that serve the common good. We can use E Pluribus Unum (“out one many—one”) from the Great Seal of the United States to remind us of our call. We are an experiment in self-governance.

Decades ago, the Fresno Business Council helped start an educational experiment—the Center for Advanced Research & Technology (CART), a career-track high school in Clovis. Highly successful, a beacon to outsiders, we have invested several years to understand the principles and practices. Our approach, which includes project-based, team-taught, cross-disciplinary, and technological elements, is no longer uncommon. Replicating similar approaches is a national movement. But form is not substance. There is something intangible at CART that is deeply personal. The experience changes lives. How can we spread it?

What we discovered is the essence of CART rests in the principles and practices that develop confident life-ready global citizens. It’s the intentionally created culture that develops the mind and heart while guiding actions that equip students for a life of success and contribution. These are the people equipped to adapt to changing conditions and take us to a better future.

As we continue to learn how it’s done and figure out how to spread the culture, we could not be more grateful to the courageous few who started it and the many who have sustained this community treasure for twenty years. If you are unfamiliar with CART, I encourage you to check it out at

Speaking of confident life-ready global citizens, Fresno will welcome hundreds of them from across California this fall when the California Economic Summit is held in our city on November 7-8.

The Summit network works year-round on the big issues facing regions across the state like workforce preparation, enough adequate housing for all, water reliability and supply, and how to lift more people living in or near poverty. We’re thrilled the Summit's leaders and participants are coming to Fresno.

Deb Nankivell is CEO of the Fresno Business Council.

Part of this column was previously printed in the Fresno Business Daily.


Deb Nankivell

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