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The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

  ·   By Silvia Vallejo
The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

NSC Board Member, Alma Salazar is the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how you came to focus on workforce development?

I've been working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. Within this role I oversee education and workforce development programs and also direct the Chamber’s higher education and workforce development policy priorities. My path into workforce development came about serendipitously. While employed at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, I was responsible for overseeing regional implementation of the Federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.  The National School-to-Work Act was the response to the Nation at Risk report which detailed business leaders’ concern that when students graduated from high school and/or college they lacked the necessary skills to compete in the workforce. We looked to partnerships between businesses and education as a way to improve the skills they were lacking. We found opportunities for students to learn beyond the four walls of the classroom.  By giving them access to critical work-based learning opportunities such as internships, job shadowing and apprenticeships we helped students bring learning to life. I found my niche in making employer partnerships work and making sure that, as essential stakeholders, business has a strong voice in workforce development policy creation.

When did you first get involved with NSC and why?

I became involved with NSC after attending the 2011 Skills Summit. That allowed me to become aware of NSCs in-depth policy expertise and to meet other incredible thought-leaders across the country who shared my passion for providing opportunities for individuals to compete and prosper.   After the summit, I made an effort to forge a good relationship with the staff and to participate in as many events as I could. I've been involved and a huge fan ever since. 

How has your partnership with NSC helped to advance your work in California, and how has your work helped to inform and progress NSC’s efforts?

NSC has been an invaluable resource and has provided many of us with the in-depth policy analysis needed to engage policy makers in thoughtful conversations about WIOA Reauthorization and implementation and has helped guide California’s workforce development policy priorities. The policy content NSC has published has truly helped the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and other regional chambers of commerce throughout the country engage meaningfully in these policy discussions.

Can you tell us a little about your efforts with SWEAP in California?

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) provides California the unprecedented opportunity to connect cross program data to better align education and workforce development programs to labor market demand.  It’s important that we have broad stakeholder support, including the business community, to move this initiative forward.  The Chamber is committed to engaging our business leaders and other chambers of commerce throughout the state to champion these efforts and see them through to fruition.

You’ve been appointed to the California Workforce Investment Board by Governor Jerry Brown. What is the most pressing issue/biggest challenge in that role?

My most immediate priority is making sure that we are working with and supporting the regions in the implementation of WIOA.  If done well, WIOA implementation can be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way workforce development systems work together to create career pathways for underserved populations to achieve economic mobility while helping businesses have the workforce they need to grow and prosper.  

In your position at the LA Chamber of Commerce, what do you think has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

I am incredibly proud to work for a business organization that cares deeply about the underserved and works daily to ensure that individuals have equal access to a quality education and high level job training — resulting in a thriving local economy.  

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Sector Partnerships, California