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Workforce Dev Board Chair Wants to Extend More Opportunity to California’s Youth

Max Elramsisy | California Black Media

Advocates in California committed to improving the skills of individuals to meet the human resource needs of the state want to see more diversity among young people joining the workforce.

Dr. Angelo Farooq, Chair of the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB), says he’s proud of the work his office has done to connect young people from diverse backgrounds to opportunities in various fields — but more needs to be done.

The CWDB is a board reporting to the Governor that is charged with overseeing and strengthening the state’s workforce development system, governing all federal workforce funds coming into to the state, and developing a common policy framework for related programs.

“The CWDB partners with other governmental entities such as the Department of Rehabilitation, Department of Education, and Department of Social Services to leverage funding to facilitate access to work experience opportunities for youth, including paid state internship programs,” Farooq told California Black Media (CBM).

Farooq, who was appointed Chair of the National Association of State Workforce Board Chairs (NASWBC) in August, says the CWDB also partners with non-profit organizations to open pathways to careers for young Californians.

“The CWDB received approval from the federal Department of Labor on a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) waiver that targets systems involved youth – that is homeless or housing insecure, foster care, and justice involved youth,” Farooq added. “This waiver allows Local Workforce Development Boards additional flexibility in the way they use their youth funding to specifically target systems involved youth before they disconnect from the school system.”

In August the Legislature passed ACR 16, a resolution that requires the state to “develop a statewide plan that will reduce persistent economic inequities endured by California’s youth,” according to the bill’s language.

The 2021 American Community Survey (ACS) of the United States Census reported that 572,756 youth in California 16 to 24 years of age were neither in school nor at work.

For Black and other minority youth, the statistics are more dire. At 22.3%, the rate of Black teens and young adults,16 to 24 years old, who are disconnected from the educational system and workforce was more than two times higher the number for their White peers, which was 10.9%

Farooq said CWDB is currently working to expand its youth portfolio; after passed this year, the CWDB will deepen the partnership work in order to develop a statewide plan that will aim to reduce persistent economic inequities for “opportunity youth.”

Although, addressing youth unemployment is a top priority for the CWDB, the board does not limit its programs and advocacy to young people.

The agency develops initiatives designed to create work pipelines for targeted disadvantaged groups, including formerly incarcerated and justice-involved individuals, as well as pathways to employment in growing industries like construction and infrastructure.

In September, The U.S. Department of Labor awarded a $5 million grant to the CWDB under the Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program, the largest amount awarded to an agency of its kind in the country. In Farooq’s role as chair of the NASWBC, it is the first time California has lead workforce development initiatives on the national level.

“I am honored to have the trust and confidence of my colleagues across the nation,” said Farooq, after he was elected. “In my five years serving as Chair of the CWDB, we have expanded high road partnerships to new sectors, established construction partnerships in every corner of our state, and much more. I look forward to working with my fellow workforce development board chairs to share what has worked here in California and how we can extend economic opportunity to more Americans.”

The NASWBC is an affiliate of the National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices, which supports administration and meetings for the Association. Members of the association are the chairs of Governor-appointed state workforce development boards. The Association provides a vehicle for state workforce board chairs and staff directors to learn from the experiences of their peers, share best practices and find common ground on national policy issues.

“Dr. Farooq has been instrumental in building a high-road economy here in California,” said Secretary Stewart Knox of California’s Labor & Workforce Development Agency.

“Under Governor Newsom’s leadership, Dr. Farooq and the CWDB have over $1 billion in workforce investments in the field today and are leading the way in creating good jobs and meeting the workforce needs of California businesses,” Knox added, praising his colleague who is also President of the Board of Education for Riverside Unified School District (RUSD).

After Farooq’s election to the NASWBC, United States Secretary of Labor Julie Su sent her congratulations.

“Congratulations to my friend, former colleague, and fellow Californian Angelo Farooq on his election today,” she said. “The National Association of State Workforce Board Chairs is in the hands of a committed and creative leader.”

“Angelo knows that the workforce system plays an important role in connecting employers with the diverse, skilled workforce they need and workers with the high-quality jobs they deserve, including workers from historically underserved communities or those facing significant barriers to employment,” she added.

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