Opportunity Knocks

The economy of the Sacramento region is changing - rapidly.

As new industries take hold, employers are demanding new skills from our workforce. But can our high schools, colleges, and universities adapt to train the workers of the 21st century?

JUDITH MONAST: We're looking at more and more corporations moving outside of California and in some cases moving outside the US because they can't find a trained workforce.

And does our region offer the amenities that attract - and retain - the best and the brightest?

CHRIS CABALDON: People across the nation are reconnecting with the culture in their urban centers, with the energy, with the vibrancy, with other people in a way that we haven't seen in generations

On this edition of New Valley, we gauge the health of our educational system, to see if we're building the qualified workforce that industry requires, while providing the quality of life our workforce deserves.

New Valley is brought to you by the following sponsors:

Williams + Paddon: architects, planners, people. Providing architecture, planning, and interior design for corporate, institutional, and educational clients. Design services for a sustainable future.

VSP is a proud leader of Partnership for Prosperity, working together to create a shared regional business agenda that enriches our quality of life.

Five Star Bank is a full-service commercial bank headquartered in the Capitol region. Five Star Bank specializes in serving the needs of the local real estate community and business owners of the Central Valley. Five Star Bank is proud to serve the community and support public television.

Treasure Homes is proud to support New Valley in an effort to build better communities and encourage smarter business practices. Fallen Leaf at River Bend in Natomas is an example of Treasure Homes' commitment to building energy efficient homes that promote clean energy and enhance the quality of life throughout the Sacramento region.

TEACHER: Anyone know the name of the cartilage here? It's one of the major tears of the knee.

It looks like a college class for aspiring doctors, but these students are actually in high school. The Arthur A. Benjamin Health Professions high school is part of a new wave of schools throughout the area combining basic high school academics with a career-focused curriculum. Students not only get to learn about a wide range of health professions; they're getting a leg-up on college, too.

MATT PERRY, PRINCIPAL, HEALTH PROFESSIONS HIGH SCHOOL: What makes us different is we integrate healthcare topics into every class. So whether it's your P.E. class or your chemistry class or your Spanish class, math class -- even in the English courses -- healthcare themes integrated throughout.

This public school is the first of its kind in northern California and is open to all students.

TEACHER: You have one minute! Get as much as you can!

A fun lab experiment teaches freshmen about natural selection. The curriculum packs in more lab time than traditional high schools, and students take four full years of science to ensure they are well prepared for college.

JENNIFER BILKA, BIOLOGY TEACHER: I think that it's a great opportunity to get kids ready. There's so much in college that they need help getting a step on when they take. They're going to be taking anatomy and physiology there senior year, and those are hard classes so if you can get a taste of it makes you that much more…ahead as you get to college.

MATT PERRY: One of our goals is that our students will proceed to college without any remediation, and along with that we're preparing them for a highly successful career -- whatever career they may choose.

TEACHER: You have to learn how to interpret these symbols…

Another goal of the school is to instill work based learning skills that they hope will not only help students get a job, but keep it.

MATT PERRY: Essentially that's their ability to communicate, show up and work on time, be a solid team player employee, be able to resolve conflict appropriately.

STUDENT: Sodium nitrate -- what is that…?

OBED HURTADO, SOPHOMORE: I want to go to college and study Radiology.

Sophomore Obed Hurtado knows what he wants to do when he grows up. Students that aren't so sure are exposed to the many possibilities.

MATT PERRY: When the students come in they all want to be a doctor, a nurse or a veterinarian. So as they move through their freshman year and their sophomore year, then they move into other aspects: respiratory therapy, radiology. They look at medical billing. They look at medical office. So what we try to do is give them the full spectrum of all the different pathways of work within healthcare.

One way they expose the kids is by getting them out into the community.

OBED HURTADO: We have a lot of field trips to hospitals like UC Davis and Kaiser and by going there and seeing how the workplace is that's making me make a good decision for me.

The real life experience helps to pique their interest. That's the most helpful tool any student can have.

OBED HURTADO: Since I like learning about it, it's going to be easier to keep in my mind and then probably get a good job.

Professor B.J. Snowden says he can see a clear difference in the students that come from a career focused high.

B.J. SNOWDEN, PROFESSOR, COSUMNES RIVER COLLEGE: The students that we get from the programs that are focusing on workforce are excellent. I think that the students come in with a much stronger foundation. And are able to last longer and actually do better when they do move into the actual workforce. So the students that come from that program will have a better chance of success than students that are just coming from the typical college prep curriculum.

Students like Rachel Lanoza wished her high school had offered more career focused curriculum.

RACHEL LANOZA, STUDENT: To enter into the workforce, I don't think they prepared me as much as they did preparing me to go on to college. They should have balanced it out more, because I think they automatically assume that everyone is going straight to college. I think that they should have definitely put a little more time and effort into those who wanted to pursue getting a job right away.

So Rachel has begun to build the groundwork by attending Professor Snowden's Radio Workshop advanced radio production course at Cosumnes River College.

RACHEL LANOZA: I knew I wanted to do something in the media industry. How to reach that was where the questions started coming. And that's when I decided I'll start with radio, and go to a community college which is known for radio.

The radio workshop course is available not only to CRC students but also eligible high school seniors. The students gain hands on experience and skills needed to pursue a career in radio.

B.J. SNOWDEN: The students that come through our program at the community college typically want to be successful. They want to have a career to sustain a happy life in something that they love. They don't want to feel like they're settling in their careers.

For some students their High School graduation day is "phase one" in their master career plan. But for many others, that walk across the stage can leave them pondering the question: what now? Hopefully with continued focus on career preparation in high school, and the programs offered through secondary education, more students will have the answer for that question.

RACHEL LANOZA: You're listening to KCRC: River Radio, Sacramento, California.

What would happen if all the skilled workers in our region suddenly retired…and no one was there to take their place? In a past episode of New Valley we explored that question in Modesto; as a city with agriculture and manufacturing as its chief employers, they're a bellwether for an entire region on the verge of crisis. A lack of affordable housing, combined with years of neglecting to teach vocational skills, could devastate local economies.

JUDITH MONAST, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, MODESTO JUNIOR COLLEGE: If you look at employment levels, if you look at opportunity, if you look at housing, if you look at the amount of government support that's coming into our area, we really are at the edge of a storm, and we're being described nationally in terms that scare me.

So how will California's educators and businesses deal with a massive skilled labor shortage? Modesto's leaders knew they'd be an epicenter; so they responded: high school vocational programs, community computer training, businesses learned to train their own employees… And the educators at Modesto Junior College knew they too would be an essential component.

JUDITH MONAST: Our average student at Modesto Junior College is 27. So non-traditional students for a community college…that's traditional for us. So we're working hard to better meet our community's needs.

In doing so they bolstered their Accelerated Careers in Technology programs, offering vocational training in several high demand fields.

PEDRO MENDEZ, DIRECTOR OF TECHNICAL EDUCATION, MODESTO JUNIOR COLLEGE: It's a great opportunity for people to change their lives. Today we have Pathways in Manufacturing, automotive, electrician pathways, welding pathways, just a whole variety of different pathways, including pre-construction that students can choose from.

But along the way they learned their teaching was still falling short.

JUDITH MONAST: We can do tests all day long on reading skills and math skills, but what our employers want to know is: how does that relate to the job? Employers want to know how a potential employee will do on the job, not how that potential employee will do in the classroom.

And so in Modesto they've collaborated. The college partnered with the former department of employment, now Alliance/Worknet, to pinpoint skill deficiencies using a specialized test called WorkKeys .

WILLIAM BASSETT, CEO, ALIANCE/WORKNET: It gives us the ability to access what the aptitude of that person is for certain types of work. Signature Fruit that we were talking about, they used to hire 5 people to get to one good one. Now they're down to one to one, because they're using WorkKeys, and so it's really an effective program.

JUDITH MONAST: We've been talking about assessment for years. Coming from us, employers look at us and say okay you're educators, right. We hear a lot in our vocational programs, "You're going to learn how to do it the official way at the college campus, but we'll show you the real way when you get over here to work with us." What we want to do is give our students, and our community members, real world workforce skills, and that translates into when they come out of a program from us they can do the job. And so having that kind of partnership has been a godsend for us, because businesses listen to other businesses and that's been through our partnership with the Alliance, that's what Modesto Junior College has been able to achieve.

But to truly attract and retain business, communities need a workforce that's not only well-trained, but plentiful. And a lack of affordable housing often means employees can't afford to live in the cities where they work -- a classic chicken-and-egg problem. So the college partnered again, this time with Habitat for Humanity.

ANITA HELLAM, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, STANISLAUS HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: Habitat for Humanity is this wonderful umbrella organization based out of Georgia, and there are many affiliates. And our affiliate here in Stanislaus County is committed to the overall goal and objective, which is to eliminate poverty housing from the face of the Earth.

The two partners recently received a Housing and Urban Development grant that will help fund the construction of 20 affordable new homes in the Hope Village area of Modesto.

JUDITH MONAST: It's not just what it's going to do for the neighborhood. It's what Hope Village will do for all of Modesto. What this project will do for the whole area of Stanislaus County is give 20 people a shot. Twenty families have a shot.

Inside the Habitat offices, you can see evidence of families whose lives have been changed.

JUDITH MONAST: When you have folks who work in the service industry who have to drive 30, 40 miles -- 60 miles -- to get to their job because they can't afford a rental in Modesto, and then you see the prices of gasoline increase, you lose that employee base.

The homes aren't a hand-out. Habitat families put in hundreds of sweat-equity hours toward building homes that they then purchase at a reduced rate. Because what's good for these families may ultimately benefit everyone. Businesses get the local workforce they need, and college students in vocational courses get a real-world opportunity to practice their skills…and hopefully something more.

JUDITH MONAST: We feel like this isn't auxiliary to the college experience; it's core. The opportunity for service learning is such a great way to change perspectives. Because when you look back over your life, when you think about that one moment where you kind of changed your vision of the world, and your worldview, those moments occur oftentimes occur having something to do with college.

ANITA HELLAM: And as the students get involved with this community service activity, they actually become engaged. And we're hoping that as these young students grow into professionals and get good jobs that they'll remember that work ethic and that experience and that they'll continue to be better citizens.

From education and affordable housing issues to skilled labor shortages and business retention, no problem is an island unto itself…and the people on the frontlines in Modesto have a message for Sacramento and the entire Valley.

JUDITH MONAST: If you try to go it alone you'll fail. Partnership is critical. Go outside your comfort level. Partner with folks who you never thought about partnering with before. Who would ever think an educational institution would partner with a faith based to this degree -- on a building project, no less, that involves service learning?

ANITA HELLAM: The reality is that no one agency has all of the personnel and all of the answers to all of the problems.

JUDITH MONAST: Those are the kind of different partnerships that have made our funding streams much stronger, because we approach folks in a very different way. And I think that the entire Central Valley could do that, and I'd like to see that happen.

Meet Erik Hendricks. Erik is just one of a large number of students using the re- entry center on the American River College campus to retrain in an internship.

ERIC HENDRICKS, STUDENT: Well, I'm changing the entire focus of my career. I was a bartender for 12 years and there's no upward mobility, no benefits, there's no retirement. You make good money and that's it. That's where the career ends.

Students transitioning toward new career goals may feel overwhelmed by the prospect of going back-to-school to retrain. Fortunately, there are plenty of programs designed to lessen the struggle and to strengthen the success.

MIMI CUDZILO, ARC COUNSELOR/COORDINATOR: The re-entry center is a place on campus where students can go to get information about the college if they're considering returning to school. Students who are a little bit older, they've been out of school for any length of time, they're coming back into school and initially they feel very disoriented, because things have changed so much. The whole library -- the card catalog is gone, and you do everything on the computer. You register on the computer.

And speaking of computers…Information Technology and Computer Science are one of the hottest fields for re entry students today.

CAROL LEEVER, PROFESSOR, COMPUTER SCIENCE & INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY: A good portion of students are in a career where they are not happy with what they're doing and would like to try something new. Some have never even touched a computer before, and they have to learn everything from the beginning: what a mouse is, what a cursor is. So they have to learn all these new things, and that can be very intimidating.

ERIC HENDRICKS: So I've come back to school to learn an entire new field. So I'm devouring the IT field in one fell swoop.

Returning students are also encouraged to take advantage of campus workshops which help with resumes and interviews while bringing eager candidates and recruiters face to face.

EVA MEISNER, STUDENT PERSONNEL ASSISTANT: Our goal is always to bring businesses in for recruitment, and so we'll invite them for career fairs. And one of our student personnel assistants conducts those workshops, where she sits with the students and explains all the different types of resumes that are available and how to take previous skills and then translate that into the resume that's appropriate for the specific job.

These may include jobs using such advanced technology that it may not have existed just years ago.

HUGH HOWARD, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR/GIS COORDINATOR: GIS stands for geographic information systems. The U.S. Department of Labor recently identified the geospatial industry as being one of the top job growth fields in the United States. We have very few traditional students. Most of our students maybe half come in with degrees already they are in a field working and for some reason or another they need to switch. I've got one student who was a gardener, hurt his back and needed a new career, heard through the grapevine about GIS. He's been a fan of maps and he's now a student. Another student was a software engineer who was burned out by that way of life.

KAVIDA SUBBAROYAN, GIS STUDENT: I was a software engineer, but I wanted to do something related to the earth. So I combined geography with information technology, so I came up with GIS. I work as a GIS Analyst. I do mapping for them.

SMUD used GIS to map its infrastructure. The Department of Fish and Game uses GIS to map plant and animal populations, and CalTrans uses GIS to map the state's roads. Even the Police use GIS for crime analysis.

KAVIDA SUBBAROYAN: After done with certification , doing masters in GIS. Penn State University, they are offering the online classes so I am thinking of taking that.

Over half of the students on the American River College campus are 25 or older, returning to college as a way to retrain for new careers…or adapt to other life changes.

MIMI CUDZILO: For one thing they're very mature, they're more focused on the importance of school, they are much more motivated, more disciplined and they tend to do quite well in the typical classroom as compared to the younger students."

ERIC HENDRICKS: So I work here, go to school here…my kids go here and I'm getting readjusted to school life. I wouldn't have been able to do any of that without the re-entry program.


ANTHONY YORK, EDITOR, MIDTOWN/DOWNTOWN MONTHLY: The two great ways to lose money are to start a restaurant and start a magazine.

But editor Anthony York is hoping to buck that trend with the new Midtown/Downtown Monthly.

ANTHONY YORK: It's a publication that's geared toward the midtown/downtown community -- typically a younger audience, probably 18 to 35. Our goal is to have a different take on local news, and arts and cultural coverage as well.

Anthony himself has bucked a trend -- by returning to Sacramento after 5 years working in the Bay Area.

ANTHONY YORK: I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd come back. But I did!

It's called "the brain drain" -- the unfortunate tendency of our young professionals to leave the Valley for cities such as San Francisco or L.A. that are seen as more vibrant, exciting environments in which to work -- and play.

But Anthony's return, and his belief that Sacramento is ready for a new alternative publication, are positive signs that the city and the region are on the move.

ANTHONY YORK: Just the amount of development, and building, and the pace of change here seems to be hopefully like we're crossing a threshold.

And Anthony hopes that the new businesses that arise from this development will support his endeavor through advertisements. He's confident that the audience for such a magazine is healthy -- and growing.

ANTHONY YORK: The Capitol attracts hundreds of young people to the Capitol here every year, who are here professionally but they don't just work at the Capitol. They also eat in restaurants, and shop at boutiques, and listen to records.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON, MAYOR, WEST SACRAMENTO: To think about what makes a place fun to be in, and creating a 24-hour downtown -- or at least an 18 or 17 hour downtown -- it's really important because, for folks coming out of college or out of the military -- you know, some of the best and the brightest. They're not looking for the same kind of place as, you know, a suburban sprawling subdivision with nothing to do.

Christopher Cabaldon speaks from experience. As a young man, he never expected to settle in the Sacramento region -- let alone become the mayor of West Sacramento.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: I grew up in Los Angeles and then went to Berkeley and I was starting to get really interested in state government and state politics. And this was the place to do it. It wasn't attractive otherwise.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: I was bored out of my mind, drove back to the Bay Area every single weekend, to get a hair cut, to eat, to go out, to see friends because it just felt like there was nothing here.

But times were changing. Sacramento began offering more amenities. And Christopher began feeling the need to slow down, and settle down. So he bought a house…across the river.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: The moment I sent out my housewarming invitations to all my friends, and coworkers, and everyone I knew in downtown Sacramento, the response was almost universally, "What are you doing living in West Sacramento? Are you crazy?!"

But Christopher's actual experiences were a far cry from his friends' dire warnings of drugs and gangs.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: The neighborhoods were actually really healthy and vibrant. The family networks that are in West Sacramento have been there for generations, and they're very strong and tight. But that's not what the rest of the world saw. So part of the transformation that everyone sees in West Sacramento is really the true West Sacramento coming out.

And Christopher hopes that transformation draws more young professionals like himself, looking for the best of both worlds.

CHRISTOPHER CABALDON: West Sacramento has this amazing opportunity. It's a challenge I don't know how to solve, but it's a huge opportunity, which is: how to become really the urban heart of the region, along with downtown Sacramento, and also to be this kind of very comfortable small town that is what we all love about the place.

In just a few short months, these seniors at CSUS will need to make some big decisions about what they want to do, and where they want to live. Thanks to an innovative program called the Center for Small Business, they've already built strong ties with the Sacramento business community.

DR. DENNIS TOOTELIAN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, CSUS: Basically, we're a consulting company. Our students provide consulting services. They basically give them the recommendations on how they ought to either get their business started, how to grow their business, or how to, in some cases, get out of trouble.

That's what prompted Carol Carvell to ask the Center for help. After the events of 9/11, she and her husband saw their business drop by some 24%. Then tragedy struck closer to home…

CAROL CARVELL, OWNER, CARVELL PRINTING: My husband passed away very suddenly from a heart attack four years ago, and he was the business person of the business. And I found myself with the full responsibility of having the business, and not being fully trained.

The company had traditionally relied on word of mouth, but the students who came to Carol's aid put together a marketing plan that helped her regain some of her lost business.

CAROL CARVELL: I think I got a real good education, because the reports they put together - I can go back and I can review them and I can say, "Here's something I didn't do that I should be doing."

Carol was so pleased with the results that a few years later, she became a return customer.

CAROL CARVELL: I understand there's a lot of people who want the resources, so I'm very grateful that I got not only one opportunity, but two.

Each year, the Center helps between 130 and 150 small businesses in the Sacramento region, giving students a glimpse into the challenges of running a small business.

KATINA TRAINER, STUDENT, CSUS: It's just a great experience for us to be able to apply the things that we're learning in our classes and really get the real life experience, instead of something that's just out of a text book. Because it's a really hands-on experience.

And for some students, hands-on could lead to hired-on.

CHRISTINA CHAPLIN, STUDENT, CSUS: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, with the company where we're working with, they're all ready to start working with us even after we graduate.

But for Malia Hicks, choosing to work in Sacramento runs in the family…

MALIA HICKS, STUDENT, CSUS: I was born in the Bay Area, but we moved up here because my mom felt it was a better place to raise me, which I happen to agree. So I'll stick around here for sure.

The innovative business programs at CSUS aren't just for undergrads. The school recently introduced a new MBA program tailored for those who are already a part of the Sacramento workforce.

DR. DENNIS TOOTELIAN: It's different from our regular MBA program in that this one is for individuals that are working professionals. They take courses on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings, and they take one course a month and they're done in about 12 to 13 months.

JASON ROSS, STUDENT, EXECUTIVE MBA PROGRAM, CSUS: Taking a year off to do a full-time, daytime, traditional MBA program really wasn't a practical alternative for me.

SANJAY VARSHNEY, DEAN, COLLEGE OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, CSUS: These folks, after they exit our program, are going to be thinking very strategically and long-term, and they are the ones who are going to be the leaders in the business sector. We are really creating the next generation of risk takers and entrepreneurs.

And back in the offices of Midtown/Downtown Monthly, Anthony York is looking forward to the company.

ANTHONY YORK: I think it's sort of a canary-in-a-coal-mine kind of thing, trying to see if Sacramento's ready to have myriad voices, and a diverse set of publications that would reflect the city. Come back in about six to nine months and we'll be able to tell you if it's worked or not.

Whether it's training, retraining, or retaining, the Sacramento region seems well-poised to meet the needs of its workers in this new and changing economy.

On our next episode, we'll look at efforts to make our region the most appealing place to do business in California. We'll see what innovative approaches are being used to grow new companies, retain and expand those that are already here, and lure new business to the Sacramento region. Join us next time…on New Valley!New Valley is brought to you by the following sponsors:

Williams + Paddon: architects, planners, people. Providing architecture, planning, and interior design for corporate, institutional, and educational clients. Design services for a sustainable future.

VSP is a proud leader of Partnership for Prosperity, working together to create a shared regional business agenda that enriches our quality of life.

Five Star Bank is a full-service commercial bank headquartered in the Capitol region. Five Star Bank specializes in serving the needs of the local real estate community and business owners of the Central Valley. Five Star Bank is proud to serve the community and support public television.

Treasure Homes is proud to support New Valley in an effort to build better communities and encourage smarter business practices. Fallen Leaf at River Bend in Natomas is an example of Treasure Homes' commitment to building energy efficient homes that promote clean energy and enhance the quality of life throughout the Sacramento region.