We Know How to Restore the CA Dream

580 200 Jim Mayer

CA Fwd President and CEO Jim Mayer on stage at the 2018 California Economic Summit (Photo: Will Bucquoy/CAFwd)

2019 could be a watershed year in California’s quest to reduce poverty, increase economic security and restore upward mobility. Moreover, the right actions will improve conditions for struggling Californians now and create the infrastructure we need to be resilient to climate change and economic disruptions.

CA Fwd, on behalf of the California Economic Summit, defined this moment in testimony to the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy this week and urged the committee to seize three insights from the Summit:

1. Equitable and sustainable prosperity will require a system-scale and comprehensive solution.

A thousand fruitful initiatives have bloomed during this uneven economic recovery — improving workforce development, career pathways, job creation and more. But more progress could be made if California had a shared and coherent vision for building inclusive economies and a plan for coordinating the myriad of programs and activities.

The Roadmap to Shared Prosperity, the Summit’s annual action plan, is one model of a comprehensive approach for pursuing human, economic and community development in a way that advances “triple-bottom-line” outcomes of increasing prosperity, equity and sustainability.

The Roadmap is predicated on values of inclusion and collaboration and the regional prosperity plans developed by members of the California Stewardship Network. Over seven years, the Roadmap has matured through deep partnerships with advocacy groups, employers and government agencies.

The Roadmap’s “Million Challenges” — informed by California’s distinct regional economies — identify how the State can help more Californians develop skills to increase their incomes, create more high paying jobs, make housing more affordable and make water supplies more reliable.

Over the last two years, Summit leaders have embraced ways to increase investments and improve results in programs intended to lift low-income Californians out of poverty. The Summit partnered with the First 5 agencies and associations to identify key early learning investments. Summit partners produced a California Local Empowerment Fund proposal and are working on a “Cradle to Career” grant proposal.

Summit leaders also have defined how rural and urban regions could work better together to address the growing threat of wildfires with triple-bottom-line solutions that improve forest health, reduce catastrophic damage to people and the planet, and restore sustainable, resource-based economies in some of California’s poorest and most isolated communities.

Each year, the Summit dives deeper into the root causes of disparities, to identify the linkages between public actions and the health and well-being of everyone. Each year, the Roadmap communicates how a comprehensive approach is required, possible and happening, and in 2018 the Summit proposed a CA Dream Index for measuring progress.

Gov. Newsom has called for more ambitious initiatives and greater coordination to restore the California Dream. The “JEDE” Committee chair, Assembly member Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside), and her colleagues have introduced AB 906, calling for a “triple bottom line” strategic economic development plan.

The Summit’s regional leaders are committed to working with the administration and lawmakers to formalize what they have learned at the regional level about developing inclusive economies and better coordinating state activities to support their distinct strategies.

2. Making improvements at speed and scale will require formalizing our governance infrastructure.

The Summit has modeled how regions-based civic partnerships can align state policies with regional goals. At its best this model creates a virtuous cycle — aligning goals with funding and regulations, lifting up the best practices and making them the new minimum standard.

A vision and a plan provide necessary direction. But every day we move closer to or farther away from equitable and sustainable prosperity. California must fortify and formalize the process, structures and relationships so communities, regions and the state can manage toward the desired outcomes — to create jobs with a future and pathways for those who need them, and the myriad of other components of the California Dream.

If we get this right, state and regional leaders will be able to evolve, adapt, and integrate the plethora of state and federally funded programs righteously intended to address one aspect of one challenge.

The State also will be able to assertively resolve the conflicts among noble goals, rather than expecting every builder and every employer, every student and every homeowner to do so.

This is the hardwiring that must be redone to animate Gov. Newsom’s call to revive the California Dream.

A cornerstone of this new governance model needs to be a public-private-civic partnership that builds trust and respect from communities up, is guided by stewardship values and committed to improving outcomes for everyone.

Summit leaders are committed to exploring how this partnership could be developed, resourced and managed to help inform and connect the multitude of important programs and decisions that have the potential to restore the California Dream for everyone.

3. There is an urgency to innovate, integrate and accelerate the connections between economic and workforce development.

When colleges and training agencies work in close partnership with employers, students learn what they need to know and businesses have the talent to grow. Moreover, employers are the first ones to know where markets and technologies are taking their products and services, and how they must evolve to remain competitive.

California must encourage and reward deep and innovative partnerships between employers and training and education institutions – in every industry, at every level of professional development, and at every rung of the career ladder.

CA Fwd is working with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office to document and strengthen these partnerships and the Summit’s Partnerships for Industry and Education contest will highlight and celebrate the best in class projects.

Summit partners in 2019 also are “blue-skying” how to re-engineer financial support so it can better promote the life-long learning that students and workers will need to be adaptive and resilient.

The Community Colleges Board of Governors this year has proposed expanding Cal Grants to provide some living expenses for part-time students seeking to acquire technical skills – a necessary start to the systemic rethinking that is warranted.

The real costs of education include living costs, which can put an extraordinary burden on low-income young adults.

But those costs also increase significantly when it takes several years to complete a “two-year” degree. And in the future, more mid-career learning – and financial aid – will need to be integrated into careers.

New models will need to be more systemic — integrating adequate financial supports with innovative education delivery to provide the best value for students, workers, employers and taxpayers.

Finally, Summit leaders are exploring ways to empower workers so they can have the same or more economic security as previous generations. A number of innovations in technology and policy have the potential to help workers be fairly valued in the workplace, manage their jobs and their careers, and secure benefits and wealth over time.

Governor Newsom in his State of the State address announced the creation of the Commission on Workforce and the Future of Work, and the Summit’s partners are committed to supporting that effort.


Jim Mayer

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