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CCRL California Center for Regional Leadership
Connecting California's Regions to the State and Each Other

200 Pine St., Ste. 400
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone (415) 445-8975
Fax (415) 445-8974

CalRegions Email Newsletters Archive

Volume II, Issue 2 - March/April 2001

Workforce Development and California's Collaborative Regional Initiatives (CRIs)


I. CRI Roles in Workforce Development
II. State Workforce Development Policy: Investing in California's "Human Infrastructure"
III. CCRL News On Workforce Development


Even as the national economy and California's regional economies currently are disturbed by a cyclical slow-down and possible downturn, the long-term prospect for most of California's regional economies continues strong. However, this prospect is put in jeopardy if we do not solve our short-term and long-term workforce crisis. This is as true of regional hyper-economies which may lose their competitive edge because of a shortage of skilled workers, as it is of under-developed regional economies which can only hope to grow or attract competitive companies and industries if they can offer the possibility of a skilled workforce. This edition of CALREGIONS looks at the role the state's Collaborative Regional Initiatives are playing in workforce development; the need for a statewide workforce development policy that appreciates the importance of regional economic differentiation; and the role that CCRL intends to play in working with the state Workforce Investment Board, the Employment Development Department, and the CRIs to model the implementation of a "new paradigm" workforce development approach.

I. CRI Roles in Workforce Development

The following survey of CRI activity in workforce development was prepared in January 2001 by John Melville of Collaborative Economics,; and Trish Kelly, Program Consultant for the California Center for Regional Leadership.

CRIs are playing the role of catalyst in regional workforce development in various ways. CRI roles range from addressing specific workforce shortages to championing a comprehensive, integrated approach to workforce development, from education to training to welfare reform. What CRIs share in common is the fact that workforce development in one way or another was defined as a top priority in their region. Each CRI has grappled with the question of how best to play the role of catalyst to address that challenge--explicitly choosing one course of action over others. Many CRIs have faced similar obstacles. Many have used their initial successes as a springboard to address broader issues.

The following offers a broad characterization of the various catalytic roles CRIs have played in regions across California. The major catalytic roles seem to be to:

  • Frame the challenge of workforce development using new information
  • Foster collaboration among workforce development partners
  • Organize regional stakeholders to meet a specific, critical workforce need
  • Stimulate system redesign within the region
  • Connect workforce development with other elements of sustainable development

CRIs have collected and synthesized information about workforce demand and/or supply. Some focus on understanding their "cluster" industries, introducing new ways to think about the regional economy and labor market.

  • Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network pulled together information to describe the multi-faceted challenge of the "digital divide," describing technology, achievement, and workforce "gaps" in the region. Joint Venture is now promoting a regional compact to address the digital divide.
  • Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley bundles together information and indicators to showcase the region and its challenges--including those of workforce development--through its Summit 2000 event.
  • Orange County Business Council through its "Grow Our Own" initiative produces an annual workforce supply and demand assessment, focusing on connecting the local workforce to jobs in technology and other high-growth industries in the region.

Some CRIs have played a critical bridging role to accelerate the development of relationships and partnerships among different stakeholders in workforce development.

  • South Bay Economic Development Partnership created the "South Bay Dialogue," which brings together business, educators, administrators, trainers, and local government to focus on regional workforce development challenges. The Partnership also matches students with mentors at specific companies in their "school-to-career" efforts.
  • Fresno Business Council hosts a New Economy Partnership, an effort to build connections among workforce development partners on how to prepare people for the jobs of the New Economy. The Business Council is working with local community colleges to establish a training center in new economy skill sets.
  • Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley has created "The Training Alliance," linking the four community colleges in the region to provide customized employee training, working with employers.

CRIs have identified and organized the community to meet a specific, current, and critical workforce need in the region. They focus on important, but manageable steps toward workforce development, rather than try to "take on the whole system"--although in the process of doing so actually introduce new ways of addressing workforce needs that may gradually change the system. For example:

  • Gateway Cities Partnership has quantified and focused attention on the massive need for machinists in their region, and has received $2.8 million in federal funding to work with local institutions to develop a "virtual" master machinist program. The Partnership is also focusing on promoting training in global logistics to meet local needs.
  • The Santa Cruz Region Cluster Project has launched a targeted workforce development "campaign" to specifically prepare 1,000 people for the region's growing software and hardware industries over the next 5 years, particularly individuals (e.g., Latinos) who are under-represented in these jobs.
  • While not a CRI, the Entertainment Industry Development Corporation's Education and Workforce Development Initiative, offers a good example of this approach. With significant funding from the California Employment Training Panel, EIDC focused on helping existing workers upgrade their skills to adapt to the uses of digital technology in the workplace. EIDC has also published major reports on specific careers and skill needs for occupations in the industry.

Some CRIs have participated in regional efforts to make education and workforce system reforms in California work at the regional level. Arguably, the most difficult catalytic role CRIs have played thus far in workforce development is to attempt to stimulate a system-wide redesign. For example:

  • The Institute for the North Coast is driving a complete redesign of the workforce development system in their region--focusing on defining common career pathways, breaking down funding "silos," developing shared use of facilities, efficiently gaining and disseminating industry input on needs, and looking for creative ways to mesh existing programs.

CRIs are also beginning to play a unique role focusing on how workforce development fits into a larger, integrated view and practice of sustainable development for their regions. For example:

  • Sacramento's Valley Vision/RAP through its proposed shared work centers initiative is trying to overcome in an integrated fashion the skills, transportation, childcare and other barriers to employment for low-income residents. Shared work centers would house jobs close to workers, and support them in those jobs.

For more information on regional initiatives in workforce development contact:

California Center for Regional Leadership, 455 Market Street, Suite 1100, San Francisco, CA 94105, Phone (415) 882-7300, Fax (415) 882-7272,

For more information in general on the work of CRIs around California, visit the CCRL website,

II. Workforce Development Policy: Investing in California's "Human Infrastructure"

The following is digested from a recent CCRL publication "Building a Workforce for the 21st Century" (revised, April 2001). Copies may be downloaded from our website,

California cannot sustain its economy and quality of life without developing and maintaining a world-class workforce. According to the Governor's Economic Strategy Panel "The economic foundations that facilitate an industry's growth and expansion are capital, infra-structure, taxation and regulatory policies, education and workforce preparation [emphasis added], research laboratories and universities, and supplier networks."

But we must have a more systematic and effective, policy-guided and data-based approach, a more systemic approach to development of our "human infrastructure." The Governor's Executive Order establishing the California Workforce Investment Board creates just such an opportunity, when it states the Governor's "...responsibility to implement innovative and comprehensive workforce investment systems tailored to meet the particular needs of local and regional labor markets."

What are the economic and human development foundations of an effective state workforce development policy?

  • Understanding the New Economy, and the Old-Economy-Becoming-New, and on a regional basis.
  • In a knowledge-based economy, the quality of the workforce is central to our competitiveness.
  • Innovation and partnership within the private and public sectors, and between them, is the key to developing the workforce.
  • Workforce preparation begins in K-12 and continues throughout our work life, and therefore requires longitudinal and horizontal integration of education, workforce and economic systems.
  • Leave no one behind: closing the poverty gap is no longer simply a moral imperative (though it is still that), it's an economic necessity, and skills development for career "move-up" is the most effective strategy.

What are the key components of an effective state workforce policy framework?

  • A vision and policy framework for investing strategically in California's people and places.
  • Timely information about the changing economy and marketable skills.
  • A collaborative realignment of the statewide and regional service delivery systems with new economic and workforce development needs and practices.

Who is responsible for developing and implementing the state workforce policy framework? The Governor's "California Workforce Investment Board," with its broad membership of economic and workforce leaders from the public and private sectors.

Two additional reports on this subject are highly recommended: "The Future of Work and Health," written by Stephen Levy and Robert K. Arnold of the Institute of Regional and Urban Studies, now available for download from, and "Shared Prosperity and the California Economy" soon to be available from the IRUS affiliate, the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy, at

III. CCRL News on Workforce Development

The California Center for Regional Leadership has received a grant from The James Irvine Foundation to assist CRIs to develop "new paradigm" workforce development demonstration projects. The focus of this effort by CCRL and the CRIs will be on entry-level positions in high-wage, high-demand industries for the economically disadvantaged.

Specifically, CRIs will focus on (1) the nature and scope of these employment opportunities, and (2) "best practices" for using such information to improve workforce development strategies. CCRL will work directly with the Employment Development Department to produce regional employment datasets on these occupational opportunities, and provide technical assistance to 4-5 CRIs to develop demonstration projects in which they would use (and improve) the data to develop specific pilot training initiatives in their regions. The projects would leverage other resources through partnerships with key regional stakeholders, including WIBs, community college districts, social services departments, and sectoral businesses. CCRL would coordinate and provide technical assistance to the CRI demonstration sites.

As many of our readers know, when the Center started up a year ago, Diane Bone, who was Program Associate in the Sustainable Communities program at The James Irvine Foundation, came over with me to start CCRL, as Director of Operations. Now she has decided to move on to new career opportunities. Mere words cannot express our gratitude, the Board and staff of CCRL, for the many, many contributions Diane has made to help us make a fast and effective organizational start-up. We simply couldn't have done it without her. And we are deeply grateful for her years of service at the Foundation, most especially in helping to develop and nurture the Collaborative Regional Initiatives movement in California, and the many other Foundation initiatives in support of a more sustainable California. As she moves into new ventures, she goes with our very best wishes, secure in the knowledge that she is and always will be a founder, and an important member of the CCRL family.

Nick Bollman