“Building Ladders to Good Jobs” Panel Featured Leaders in Education, Agriculture, Healthcare, and Other Industries Crucial to San Joaquin County Economy

Stockton, CA [12/16/20] – Recently, leaders from San Joaquin County’s university, business, healthcare, and agriculture communities joined Don Shalvey, Executive Director of San Joaquin A+, for a discussion about the future of the region’s economy.

Panelists included Donald J. Wiley, President and CEO of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center; Jeff Manassero, Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Rivet School; Kevin Phillips, Vice President of Operations at Phillips Farms and Michael David Winery; Thomas Pogue of the University of the Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research; Jeff Michael, Executive Director of the University of Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research; and Jessica Kaczmarek, Senior Program Officer at the James Irvine Foundation.

“We were grateful for the active participation of our panelists, and feel lucky to bring this great group of industry leaders together to discuss the future of San Joaquin County’s economy,” Don Shalvey said. “It’s critical that we align Stockton’s education programming with the good jobs that not only can serve as an anchor for our economy going forward, but also will provide meaningful work and a family sustaining income for young people growing up across our region.”

The panelists discussed a new report by researchers at the University of Pacific – titled Middle-Skill Jobs Analysis: Building Ladders to the Future in Stockton, California –  which paints a troubling picture of economic trends in Stockton. It finds that wages are plummeting, job growth is clustered in low-paying jobs, and Stockton’s economy is becoming less and less competitive compared to its neighbors. To remedy this, it recommends that the community develop new learning and training pipelines in partnership with local schools, and expand apprenticeship programs by engaging local employers and unions. It also highlights certain job fields that are ripe with opportunity, like the healthcare and education sectors.

“The needs of the local employers and the regional training programs have to be aligned to create the right opportunities for our residents to move from lower wage to middle-skill jobs,” shared Thomas Pogue, one of the authors of the University of Pacific report. “The most important indicator of success in the coming years will be if our region has brought together leaders from different sectors and organizations to create programs that provide credentials valued by employers with clear pathways to higher paying work – and has made sure that community members, students, and their parents are aware of the opportunities available.”

Agriculture is one of the sectors that has and will continue to anchor San Joaquin County’s economy. San Joaquin County ranks seventh in agricultural producing counties in the United States and employs approximately 20,000 workers – generating $5.7 billion in economic output each year.

Panelist Kevin Phillips shared some insight about what is needed in this field: “If you can come in with a few core credentials – things as basic as skill with Microsoft Office, a forklift operating certificate, or CPR certifications – we look at you as a rockstar candidate coming in the door,” noted Phillips. “We are starting to see an aging workforce on many of our farms or agricultural businesses in the great Stockton and Lodi areas. So if there was an active school or pathway to try to bring these kids in – and give them training and some basic credentials related to the skills required across the agricultural industry – it would be a great opportunity for both the students and our businesses.”

Education and healthcare are two other growth industries for Stockton’s economy, according to the University of Pacific report. Healthcare in particular was highlighted as a field with major growth potential.

Don Wiley shared how Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Medical Center is already collaborating with schools to create opportunities: “We currently have programs working with organizations like Healthforce Partners, as well as Delta College and Health Careers Academy, that get students college-level credit in high school and put them on a pathway to a nursing degree before they graduate from 12th grade,” Wiley shared. “We’d love to expand these programs beyond just nursing to include other areas of expertise like radiology or physical therapy, for example.” He concluded, “I believe that if we could create more of these programs and pathways across our region it would not only benefit students interested in these fields, but supply our local hospitals with more of the qualified applicants we need.”

The full webinar and a summary of the University of Pacific report can also be found here.