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AgHiRE: Professional Development for the Spanish-Speaking Farm Workforce

Agriculture is vital to our national and global economy, and the agricultural workforce is essential to sustaining the industry and a resilient food system. Today, farm employers encounter numerous obstacles in maintaining and expanding this evolving workforce to meet current and future demands. Specifically, the language barrier exists as a roadblock for both Spanish-speaking farmworkers who want to move into positions with more responsibility and farm employers who are seeking to fill vacant management positions. How can farm employers assist talented farm workers and employees in moving up the career ladder, which will also help to increase the productivity and competitiveness of their farming and business operations?

There have been many groups who have provided and are continuing to offer the necessary training and tools for current and aspiring farm employees to advance in their careers. The Center for Land-Based Learning, founded in Winters, California, in 1993, is a nonprofit that provides training, direction and resources to farmers, entrepreneurs and high school students through youth and adult programs across agricultural regions in California. Currently, the Center for Land-Based Learning is in the early stages of designing a leadership and development program for the Spanish-speaking agricultural workforce called AgHiRE, which is a program funded through the California Workforce Development Board High Road Training Partnership (HRTP) initiative.

The Center for Land-Based Learning, in partnership with Valley Vision, hosted an in-person luncheon with local farm employers and education partners on March 19th at the Yolo County Farm Bureau. At this event, results were shared from a survey of farm employers across California to learn more about their Spanish-speaking employee development needs. Local farm employers joined education partners in providing valuable insights and feedback for the initial proposed design of the AgHiRE program. More specifically, farm employers discussed what would work best for them and their workers, and what might be less feasible when considering topics like leadership and communications, English learning, digital skills, math skills and regulatory awareness. These were some of the key takeaways from farm employers at the luncheon:

  • Leadership & Communication skills are key for farm leaders, and relatively few resources exist to meet this need in Spanish
  • Professional development of the farm workforce will mutually require employees and employers to contribute a great deal of effort and some time to successfully develop talented individuals
  • Running a farm can be isolating– farm employers expressed optimism at discovering a sense of community and support for employee development and in the meeting, and looked forward to future collaboration

In the survey, farm employers expressed that the following sets of skills (see below image) were necessary for success in management positions. They also agreed that these skills must be taught in the context of their line of work and must be taught in combination with each other in order to be successful within a three month training program. For instance, leadership and communication skills should be taught in combination with the English language as well as regulatory awareness. 

By the end of the event, many farm employers were interested in serving on the advisory committee to help further develop the training program. Through the AgHiRE: Spanish-Language Leadership Program, the objective at the Center for Land-Based Learning is to help farm workers with high potential move up into more skilled positions, providing benefits to everyone.

To learn more about the Center for Land-Based Learning and their programs, visit their webpage here. To get involved with their AgHiRE: Spanish-Language Leadership Program, contact their California Farm Academy staff here.

Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Coordinator staffing the Clean Air & Climate and 21st Century Workforce Impact Areas.

Hilary Tellesen is a Valley Vision Senior Project Manager leading the 21st Century Workforce Impact Area.

Transforming Apprenticeships: Exploring Innovative Strategies in the Capital Region

California has an ambitious goal of expanding apprenticeships to serve half a million people by 2029. To achieve this, the state needs to create more opportunities and pathways for non-traditional and youth apprentices, especially those from historically underrepresented groups. This was the main theme of the “Nurturing Talent, Building Futures” event, hosted by Valley Vision, SETA and SMUD on February 6, 2024 at the SMUD Customer Service Center. 

The event brought together workforce advocates, program experts, and industry leaders to exchange ideas and resources on how to develop and implement effective apprenticeship programs in the region. Evan Schmidt, CEO of Valley Vision, opened the event by highlighting the importance of collaborative efforts to support inclusive economic development in Sacramento and surrounding counties. Schmidt also pointed out the role of apprenticeships in advancing the California Jobs First initiative, which aims to foster a more equitable and resilient economy. 

Dave Tamayo, SMUD Director from Ward 6, welcomed the participants and urged them to find new ways to connect with diverse groups of people and offer them access to emerging career opportunities in the clean energy sector. He also stressed that SMUD is committed to supporting inclusive workforce efforts as part of its 2030 Zero Carbon Plan

The keynote speaker, Amie Bergen, Chief of the Apprenticeship and Workforce Innovation Unit at the Department of Apprenticeship Standards, gave an overview of the benefits and features of registered apprenticeships, which are industry-approved programs that provide nationally recognized credentials, on-the-job training, and progressive wages. She also introduced the California Opportunity Youth Apprenticeship Grant, a new funding source currently accepting applications that aims to increase the participation of opportunity youth in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. 

Following the keynote address, Renee John, Managing Director at Valley Vision, moderated a panel discussion with regional program experts, who shared their insights and best practices on designing and delivering innovative apprenticeship programs. Throughout these discussions, apprenticeships were acknowledged as being one of the most effective workforce development tools. Panelists agreed building a pipeline of skilled workers for high-paying careers was crucial, and that  should start as early as possible for young people. 

Panelists discussed challenges faced in developing apprenticeships including employer engagement, students’ needs for wraparound support, and working with unions.  Additionally, meeting folks where they are was a recurring theme. This referred to the location and modality of instruction, as well as the need to provide wraparound support to help individuals succeed through the phases of apprenticeship training. Whether English and math competency, reliable transportation, or specific schedule needs, panelists reflected on how implementing innovative strategies to address these is critical to expanding access to youth and traditionally underserved populations. 

Specific to youth apprenticeships, panelists indicated that while many employers are interested in them, their focus is mainly on college-age individuals between the ages of 18-24, and they seldom open their doors to youth under 18. Some of the challenges shared were employers are less accommodating to high school schedules, they would rather not deal with child labor laws, and have preconceived notions on youths’ abilities to consistently perform in a work environment. 

Following the presentations and panel discussion, guests were invited to join breakout sessions to network and form connections to strategize and advance career pipeline efforts. The breakout sessions were in the industry sectors of green jobs, public sector, mental and behavioral health, and education/early childhood education. Participants shared challenges including finding experienced instructors, the need for wraparound support services within funding mechanisms, challenges with employer engagement, and integrating trauma-informed practices. 

The event wrapped up with a call to action with attendees urged to take advantage of the resources and opportunities available, and continue collaboration.  Investing in the talent and potential of our diverse community members and next generation is key to achieving California’s goal of expanding apprenticeships to serve half a million people by 2029, ultimately building a brighter future for everyone.

If you missed the event on non-traditional and youth apprenticeships, don’t worry! Catch the recap on Valley Vision’s YouTube page.

21st Century Workforce – A Year in Review

Valley Vision’s 21st Century Workforce impact area provides relevant, data-driven research to advance responsive and equitable career pathways. To that end, we regularly hold regional industry advisories to examine skill gaps and labor demand to inform workforce development partners. The events throughout the year offer insights into skills gaps and labor demand in varied industry clusters. The advisories are conducted in collaboration with the Los Rios Community College District and supported by the Capital Region workforce boards.

In 2023 we hosted a total of 6 avdisories with almost 450 registrants. As we enter 2024, we want to reflect on a few of these memorable sessions that showcased how employers and workforce stakeholders are working to build connections for equitable pathways to growth.

Advanced Manufacturing

The first advisory of 2023 was our most attended of the year with over 115 registrants.

The Advanced Manufacturing Advisory was held on February 9th with an employer panel that included Siemens, TSI Semiconductors, DMG Mori USA, Origin Materials, and Tomra. The event showcased the breadth of career pathways available in the manufacturing sector and the higher-than-average earnings potential. The Sacramento region’s manufacturing jobs are projected to continue to grow, with many positions not requiring a Bachelor’s Degree. Additionally, the advisory showcased initiatives designed to increase equity and inclusion in the manufacturing workforce with a highlight on the Industry and Inclusion Cohort Program, in which Sierra College is participating.

Mental and Behavioral Health

Our advisories feature presentations and panels from experts in the focus industry. From left to right: Jessie Armenta, Clincal Director at La Familia Counseling Center; Shanine Coats, Director of Strategic Iniitiatives at the Sacramento County Office of Education; Christie Gonzales, Chief Program Officer at WellSpace Health; Jeneba Lahai, Execeutive Director at Yolo County Children’s Alliance.

The Mental and Behavioral Health Advisory on September 21st featured two keynote addresses, one from California’s Department of Health Care Access and Information, providing insights into newly available state funding. The second address was from WellSpace Health on the organization’s extensive work in the Sacramento region and the need to bolster and diversify the mental and behavioral health workforce. Employers from Yolo County Children’s Alliance, La Familia Counseling Center, Sacramento County Office of Education, and Kaiser described the local labor demand and significant hiring opportunities. Job postings in the Greater Sacramento subregion have increased by 22% in the 12-month period spanning September 2022 to August 2023.

Information and Communication Technologies

Since the pandemic all of our advisories are hybrid events. Project Associate Liz Kilkenny (center left) and Project Coordinator Gustavo Garcia (center right) take the lead on tech to ensure both virtual and in-person attendees have a smooth experience.

The Information and Communication Technologies advisory on October 12th emphasized the importance of stackable credentials, promoting collaborative efforts and post-event networking. Notable panelists included representatives from Placer County, Microsoft, the City of Roseville, and Swinerton. These employers engaged in insightful discussions about the regional job market and effective recruitment strategies. The Greater Sacramento region’s Information and Communication Technologies workforce anticipates a 6% job growth over the next five years, translating to 2,741 annual job openings from 2022 to 2027. This thriving sector boasts a median annual wage of $102,497.

Water Careers

Senior Project Manager Hilary Tellesen (center) introduces the keynote speakers for the Water Careers Advisory.

During the Water Careers Advisory on October 27th, employers discussed upcoming career opportunities in the Greater Sacramento region due to the retiring workforce. The Office of Water Programs at Sacramento State and Valley Water were the keynote speakers who emphasized the need to diversify the talent pool and develop additional skills. Employer panelists included the California Department of Water Resources, the City of Sacramento Water Department, the State Water Resources Control Board, and Stantec. The demand for water-related jobs is projected to increase, especially for Electrical and Instrumentation and Maintenance/Repair Workers. The trajectory indicates a substantial 12% growth in water careers from 2022 to 2027.


Valley Vision regularly conducts post-event surveys to gather participant feedback and gauge the advisories’ impact. The results reflect an overall positive impression of the advisories with 100% indicating satisfaction with the information and materials provided.

These testimonies underscore the importance of collaboration through mechanisms like this, providing valuable information and connections for future planning and continuous improvement of educational and workforce pathways.

Looking Ahead

A huge thanks to our workforce team for their efforts planning these advisories. From left to right: Diangelo Andrews, Project Associate; Gustavo Garcia, Project Coordinator; Hilary Tellesen, Sr. Project manager; Liz Kilkenny, Project Associate.

Looking ahead, Valley Vision remains committed to creating opportunities for information sharing, collaboration, and innovation. Thank you to the employers, educators, and partners who contributed to these convenings. We invite all partners to join in building a resilient, inclusive workforce that reflects the collective strength and diversity of our shared region by attending upcoming advisories that can be found on our events page here. Your participation is vital as we strive to meet the region’s evolving workforce needs.

What Matters Most in 2024

Taking action together on the issues that most impact our region’s quality of life is critical to enabling the well-being of all. In 2024 we will face key decision points and need to address critical social, economic, and environmental challenges. The following recommendations were identified as part of our recent Livability Poll as the issues that matter most, while highlighting promising practices for our region.

Develop a collaborative and healthy civic culture to increase potential for transformation: In order to change systems and achieve different solutions, we must do things differently. This means that we must build trust, support aligned actions, stay open to new learnings, and advance connected, collaborative relationships. The Livability Summit hosted by Valley Vision is one example of civic space that is designed to catalyze collaborative solutions.

Accelerate housing development, especially infill and transit oriented: Addressing housing undersupply, advocating for efficient infrastructure investments, supporting innovative and adaptive practices, accepting new housing projects, and supporting initiatives like Green Means Go will help long term goals around housing affordability and accessibility. Immediate term initiatives that support pathways to homeownership, reduce displacement, and create responsive housing for those who are unhoused will support communities where they need it now.

Address persistent gaps in the social safety net: Accessible services for mental health, medical healthcare, food security, digital accessibility, and other basic needs are critical. Effective collaboration across nonprofits and jurisdictions is needed to invest adequate resources and reach the communities who need it most. Promising practices like guaranteed income programs as implemented by United Way California Capital Region and Yolo County offer potential solutions to help families close affordability gaps. Additionally, conducting outreach and education to expand participation in programs like CalFresh and affordable internet programs also bring millions of dollars into impacted communities.

Address workforce challenges and other challenges in the care economy to increase regional capacity: Addressing senior care and childcare as a workforce challenge will involve a multifaceted approach to the way we implement solutions from multiple stakeholders. To increase childcare capacity, some possible strategies include: advance multiple-subject teaching credentials, expand workforce pathway support for entry-level teachers, expand work-based learning and credit for prior learning, provide specific support for underrepresented groups, and accelerate awards production for our region to remedy existing staffing shortages and meet demand. See the Shortages in Early Childhood Education study for more information.

Build a pipeline of good jobs that support a clean economy: Our region is engaging in an intensive effort to identify our potential for high quality job growth and working with communities across the region to build out a pipeline of supportive infrastructure and initiatives to support an inclusive and thriving economy through the Capital Region California Jobs First (CERF) program. Fully integrate climate resilience with inclusive economic development actions: We are facing a systemwide transition to a lower carbon economy. This will require an all hands-on-deck effort to envision and implement an inclusive and equitable low carbon future. The level of systems integration between economy, environment, and community is significantly different and more complex than conditions of the past. We need to see all jobs as climate jobs and all economic growth as climate resilience to create a thriving economy for the future.

Achieving a more livable region requires addressing disparities in access to essential needs, fostering opportunity across all demographics, and nurturing a sense of belonging within the community. It is through collective effort and a commitment to these principles that the Sacramento Region can work towards a brighter, more inclusive, and truly livable future for all its residents. We look forward to working with you this year on collaborative solutions to the things that matter most for the people and places in our region.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter.


Evan Schmidt is CEO of Valley Vision.

Navigating the Waves: Insights from the Water Careers Event

The Energy, Construction, and Utilities (ECU) Advisory event offered a view of water-related career opportunities within the region, delivering valuable perspectives for program development in the field. The event highlighted the opportunities and the challenges of an imminent skill shortage.

Ramzi Mahmood, Director of the Office of Water Programs (OWP) at Sacramento State, and Patrice McElroy, Deputy Administrative Officer from Valley Water, were keynote speakers and shared impactful presentations on the landscape of workforce development in the region, the Labor Market Data presented by the Center of Excellence showed signs of growth, with estimates of an increase from 7,150 positions in 2022 to an anticipated 8,003 by 2027, marking a notable 12% expansion in the region.

However, amidst this positive outlook of job growth, tackling the worker shortage was a predominant theme. Mahmood spoke on the forthcoming wave of retirements over the next 5-10 years, compounded by a nationwide hiring squeeze, presenting challenges in filling critical positions. The keynote stressed the inadequacy of relying solely on chance to attract students to water-related careers. Instead, Mahmood advocated for a comprehensive strategy encompassing early education, specialized training programs, hands-on experiences, recognized certifications, and pathways to successful career attainment. The employer panel echoed similar sentiments. Specifically, Samantha Blackwood from the Department of Water Resources (DWR) explained that one in ten DWR employees are currently eligible for retirement, and in five years the numbers will jump to 20 percent, or one in five, and in 10 years roughly one of three DWR employees are eligible for retirement.

In response to this anticipated shortage, panelists advocated for strategic investments in internships and grant programs. Additionally, training institutions and employer agencies can collaborate to provide practical experience and financial support to prospective employment candidates, laying the groundwork for a skilled future workforce.

As the dynamics of the regional water job market evolve, a focus on planning, education, and investment becomes imperative. Insights gathered from events like this advisory serve as an opportunity to share strategies and networks to navigate this shifting industry landscape. Additional information including the full event recording and presentation materials can be found here.

Air Quality and “Exceptional Events” – A Primer

For more than 35 years, the Cleaner Air Partnership (CAP) has been the Sacramento region’s most prominent voice focused on advancing partnerships between local government, industry, and environmental groups to improve air quality. Key to our mission is the identification of win-win-win opportunities for collaboration between these sectors.

Some of our coalition “wins” have included successful advocacy for legislation in 1997 to require the Bay Area to implement NOx reduction in their smog check program (which was disproportionately impacting our region), establishing a permanent CARB Board seat for a Sacramento region representative in 2012, and the designation of South Sacramento-Florin as a first-round AB 617 environmental justice community in 2018.

Public education is particularly important as we think about issues that impact public health – simplifying complex air quality topics is a core Cleaner Air Partnership activity as part of our quarterly Luncheons, Technical Advisory Committee meetings, and related efforts.

Last month, our region’s largest public radio station, Capital Public Radio, published several pieces related to the “exceptional events rule” utilized by air quality regulators across the nation:

The best definition of “exceptional events” comes from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD): “Exceptional events are unusual or naturally occurring events that can affect air quality but are not reasonably controllable using techniques that tribal, state or local air agencies may implement in order to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). Exceptional events may include wildfires, high wind dust events, fireworks, prescribed fires, stratospheric ozone intrusions, and volcanic and seismic activities.”

All of the news articles question the value of the exceptional events rule to public health, purporting that the rule “wipes air pollution from the record.” Put simply, this is inaccurate information that mixes up different air agency activities, resulting in a false characterization of what the rule actually does. These processes are described below:

  • Activity #1: Air Quality Management: At its core, air quality management in the United States means implementation of the Clean Air Act, “the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources.” The Act sets policy interventions such as emission standards for anticipated and controllable sources of pollution. By definition, an “exceptional” event is unanticipated and not amenable to policy controls.
  • Activity #2: Federal Air Quality Monitoring: The purpose of air agencies conducting Federal air quality monitoring is to track the progress of regulatory actions and pollution reduction measures taken by federal, state, or local authorities for emission sources under their control (such as permitted facilities). However, “exceptional events” are outside the control of air agencies. For example, when there’s a wildfire in Paradise that creates toxic air pollution in Sacramento, there isn’t a policy mechanism at the local government level to do anything about it beyond exposure reduction. To say that pollution from wildfires is being “erased from regulatory consideration” isn’t accurate, considering the jurisdictional ownership over the issue.
  • Activity #3: Data Management: All Federal air quality monitoring data, whether it is collected during an exceptional event or not, is always available to the public and is never deleted. It is critical that the air monitoring results, which are collected and reported by air agencies on an hourly basis, are made available in a transparent and easily accessible manner.
  • Activity #4: Public Health Communications: Air agencies are also tasked with communicating air quality conditions to the public, via tools like our local Spare The Air. These important tools help communities decide how and when to protect themselves from exposure to any air pollution throughout their day. Contrary to the reporting cited above, air quality data from exceptional events *is* indeed included in all public health-related communications from air agencies, including Spare The Air, and public health agency records.

As you can see, it’s important to understand the role of federal, state, and local air agencies under the Clean Air Act. Data is not gathered for one single purpose, as agencies have multiple obligations to serve the public. While the exceptional events rule is rather technical, it is important for media outlets to understand the nuances of the issue before broadcasting misleading information to the public.

In partnership with regulatory agencies, environmental health organizations and the public, we have been steadily improving the region’s air quality over the past five decades,” said Jennifer Finton, CEO of Breathe California Sacramento Region. “Exceptional events are merely a designation to account for unforeseen concentrated increases in air pollutants. During these exceptional events and throughout the year, the public can take steps to protect their lung health by following the guidance provided by local health departments and air districts. Individuals can play a critical role in minimizing climate change’s effects on these exceptional events by using active and clean transportation modes, among other behavior changes.”

In a world without the exceptional events rule, our region would have a lot of problems: (1) legally-binding air quality attainment (whether we meet specific air quality goals set by the Clean Air Act) by air agencies would not be possible,  (2) As a consequence, we would lose out on funding for transportation and land use projects, and (3) air agencies would not be able to actually do anything to address the sources of the exceptional events, because they lack the regulatory authority.

The exceptional events rule is a critical tool in understanding the progress the region is making in continuing to reduce emissions from our local sources,” said Erik White, Director of the Placer County Air Pollution Control District. “Without it, we would not be able to craft effective local strategies to continue reducing emissions, especially for our most vulnerable citizens.”

The Cleaner Air Partnership is committed to simplifying and successfully communicating these complex topics to our communities. As with the “exceptional events rule,” we will continue to ensure that accurate information about air quality is disseminated as a resource for the public. To keep up with the Cleaner Air Partnership, sign up for our “Cleaner Air News” email newsletter here (select ‘Clean Economy’).

Fixing Our Roofs and Tending Our Gardens: The Livability Summit

On October 30th, our region came together for Valley Vision’s second Livability Summit. The event provided a wellness check on livability for our region and explored how we can work together to make our communities more livable for all. The purpose of the Livability Summit is to provide data, thought leadership, and collaborative opportunities to inspire and drive change. In a time where divisions and entrenched social problems plague our civic life and harm our communities, we believe that having civic space that brings diverse people together, enables candid conversations, and encourages new ways of thinking about old problems is foundational to community building and contributes to livability for people in our region.

Some of what we learned was through data, including The Livability Poll – a public opinion poll created by Valley Vision and our partners at the Institute for Social Research at Sacramento State. Findings showed that our natural spaces, parks, trails, and open space remain our most valued regional quality of life asset, that housing prices are unaffordable especially for renters, that unaffordable and inaccessible childcare is a significant barrier for parents, and that inequities result in more challenges for communities of color and lower income individuals when it comes to access, affordability, and levels of satisfaction across a number of factors.

And then some of what we learned was from the information and accounts provided by guest speakers and event participants. In our first segment, we invited participants up to the stage in a “Lead from Any Seat” reverse panel exercise – where our elected officials and other civic leaders were  asked to stay seated and listen while audience members who might otherwise not have an opportunity to share were asked to join the stage to share brief remarks. One of my favorite quotes was from Kevin Daniel who reminded us that we “should not be tending to our garden while our roof is leaking” and that we must take action where it is needed most – ensuring housing, basic needs, and opportunities for those who need it most. In a video that captured the beauty and challenges of the region, “Shared Prosperity” showed us both where the region’s gardens are flourishing and where our roof is leaking – check it out here.

In the segments that followed, we looked at different aspects of what it takes to build an inclusive economy that improves livability for all. These segments included a SACOG-hosted session on the importance of commercial corridors, our keynote speaker, Judith Taylor, who spoke about her experiences across the nation in building community-centered economic initiatives and how to create “transformation without displacement,” a deep dive into Valley Vision’s inclusive economy initiative related to California Jobs First (CERF), and a look at how neighborhood leaders in Del Paso Heights are working with Golden One Credit Union to create long-term transformation that lifts up the community in Del Paso. 

Finally, some of what we learned was through talking with each other. In between stage segments, a facilitator sat at each table to introduce discussion questions, document responses, and facilitate discussion among audience members. Additionally, audience members were deliberately mixed up to create diverse tables where attendees were likely to hear a different point of view or meet someone they didn’t know. These sessions brought about robust discussion, created new connections for participants, and helped provide catalytic collaboration that will inform Valley Vision’s work over the next year and fuel actions for others as we work collectively to solve the challenges for our communities.

For Valley Vision, we know that a one-day event like the Livability Summit won’t solve all the problems. But, we think of it as our love note to the region – bringing the best of what we can do (collaboration, research, network building, system change action) to the people and the region we love. Thank you to those who supported the effort and those who attended – you will continue to hear from us about how we will enact the changes and advance ideas learned at the event.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance livability in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our Vantage Point email newsletter!

Evan Schmidt is CEO of Valley Vision.

Promoting Public Sector Pathways

Valley Vision partnered with Los Rios Community College District and the Institute of Local Government’s Innovative Pathways to Public Sector initiative to host a regional Public Sector Workforce Forum at Sacramento State’s University’s downtown campus.
The Innovative Pathways to Public Sector (IPPS) initiative seeks to raise awareness of career opportunities and tackle workforce inequities to ensure the public sector workforce reflects the diversity of the community it serves. The forum was specifically designed to tackle the pressing challenge of expanding the public sector workforce by aligning, expanding, and diversifying the pipeline to public sector careers.

The Sacramento region has a significant concentration of public sector jobs, accounting for 24% of the jobs in the area and 14.5% of all jobs in California. The event shed light on the critical issues surrounding the labor market, including the shortage of skilled workers, the decrease in female workforce participation, and the difficulty of public sector compensation keeping up with the impact of inflation and housing costs. The current job market is increasingly favorable to job seekers with employees having higher expectations on competitive wages, increased benefits options, flexible work arrangements, work-life balance, and a workplace culture that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion. The public sector is not always able to offer the compensation and flexibility that has become increasingly in demand, especially for Millennial and Gen Z populations.

The event began with Erica Manuel, CEO and Executive Director at the Institute for Local Government, sharing Labor market information detailing challenges in meeting talent demands in the public sector within the Sacramento region. The data showed that nearly 70% of these entities are facing challenges such as limited hiring pools, high turnover rates, and the need to train the next generation of leaders. One of the major concerns from these challenges is a shortage of workers with the abilities and knowledge to perform their jobs effectively, a result that has been exacerbated by the retirement of Baby Boomers and ever-increasing turnover rates. The impact is agencies are facing significant skill gaps within the workforce, requiring organizations to adapt and find innovative solutions to address these skill shortages.

CalHR’s Statewide Career Strategy Manager, Lanya Trejo, shared efforts currently underway to revise previous restrictions to employment like having a justice-involved record, education qualifications, and complicated steps to apply for a state job. Trejo stated that a comprehensive review of all job positions in the state of California has been prompted by directives from the Governor’s office, aiming to identify and eliminate obstacles to employment. This initiative is driven by the need to address a 20% vacancy rate and effectively compete with the private sector for talent. Currently, 75% of state jobs mandate a Bachelor’s degree, while only 45% of applicants possess one, resulting in what experts refer to as the “paper ceiling.” To tackle this challenge, approximately 40 state departments are actively participating in the effort to reduce the barriers to employment. Progress is already underway with the elimination of employment check boxes indicating justice-involved backgrounds and unnecessary education requirements from 169 job classifications. In addition, CalHR is in the process of establishing a Community of Practice to foster collaboration and knowledge sharing to further advance barrier removal.

Local efforts to prepare students for these jobs was presented by Josef Preciado, Director at American River College, who shared Los Rios Community College’s efforts in a Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grant Program designed to align educational outcomes with the public workforce sector skill demand. As one of only 11 grantees nationwide, Los Rios stands out for its unique focus on public-sector job partnerships. By extending the initiative across all four colleges within the Los Rios Community College District, the program’s impact will benefit the entire region. Valley Vision has supported these efforts by surveying public sector employers and facilitating regional advisory board meetings focused specifically on public sector pathways.

The forum also featured details on the capital region’s California Jobs First (previously CERF) efforts designed to create sustainable, inclusive economic development. SMUD shared their initiative on building community partnerships and regional skill alignment through a structured four step approach: awareness, entry-level skill building, advanced learning, and employment. ILG explained the Earn and Learn apprenticeships programs designed to create access to public sector jobs in the region, and discussed the creative solutions local governments are open to exploring to bridge the growing skills gap.

The Public Sector Workforce Forum in Sacramento was designed to highlight the significant opportunities available in public sector careers and the challenge of filling these positions. Collaboration across partners was a consistent theme to meet the moment and ensure the next generation of public sector employees is more representative of our population at large. IPPS and collaborative efforts demonstrate promise in how this region can work together to grow a more diverse, representative talent pool for these high-quality jobs.

For more information, or to get involved, contact DiAngelo at

Building the Full Stack: Stackable Credentials in ICT

Valley Vision held a regional Information and Communication Technologies careers advisory on October 12. The event showcased strong demand across all occupations and the need for a collaborative and concerted effort to address the expansive gap. According to data shared by the Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research, the ICT industry is set to have a projected 6% job growth over the next five years, accounting for 2,741 annual job openings in the Greater Sacramento six county region. With the median annual wage across the industry at $102,497, it presents a significant opportunity to align community members and priority populations to these lucrative pathways.

Diversity and inclusion were a hallmark of the event. With a current significant gap of 1,371 skilled workers required to meet the demand for ICT careers, the data from Center of Excellence illustrated an underrepresentation of significant portions of our populace. For instance, despite constituting 28% of the total workforce in the Greater Sacramento region, Hispanics and Latinos account for only 15% of the ICT workforce. Moreover, the disparity is pronounced in gender representation, with 71% of ICT workers identifying as male. This significant underrepresentation highlights an untapped potential within communities. By actively engaging and recruiting from underrepresented groups, the industry can not only create a more diverse and inclusive workforce but also benefit from a broader talent pool that better reflects the overall demographics of the region.

Employer representatives shared how ICT positions have become essential in a wide range of companies. The employer panel included representatives from Placer County, Microsoft Philanthropies, City of Roseville, and Swinerton, a national construction company. The discussion covered several key themes, including the most sought-after skills, the importance of recruiting from underrepresented communities, and the goal of providing more internships. In sharing insights about their respective organizations, the panelists showcased their commitment to fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities for individuals by working more closely with the community colleges.

One specific example showcased specific alignment between a college and employer partner. Swinerton gave details on a partnership with Sierra Community College that demonstrated collaboration between industry and CTE programs. Sierra College created a series of courses matched to the ICT needs of Swinerton construction help desk positions. The college also worked with Swinerton to update job descriptions with matching course numbers in their listed qualifications. This alignment allows students to not only have the opportunity to participate in an internship but also makes explicit the relevance of their education to immediate employment.

The advisory showcased various pathways available for individuals to develop entry-level, ICT-related skills. The Sacramento Public Library shared information on free Adult Education Career Development classes in basic digital literacy and career readiness, including free certifications from Coursera and Gale, in cyber security and data analysis. Byte Back, a community based organization whose mission is to close the digital divide by providing under-resourced communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy, detailed their free 360 Digital Navigators program designed to help people gain technical digital skills. Their community-2-community approach supports digital navigators with the skills, resources, and knowledge necessary to assist fellow community members with gaining internet access and navigating everyday digital tasks imperative to work, health, education, and life. These two programs are examples of accessible building blocks in under-resourced communities that can be essential components of developing inclusive ICT career pathways.

All participants emphasized the need for continuous education and training in the field and illustrated how stackable skills and certifications, from community organizations to community colleges and industry partners, can collaborate to meet the current and projected demand. Additionally, continuous learning enables workers to stay updated with the necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven workplace. Employer and workforce system partners working in collaboration can design effective pathways from neighborhoods to these promising careers.

Alarming Workforce Gap in Mental and Behavioral Health Careers

Valley Vision held our anticipated advisory on Mental and Behavioral Health careers on September 21st. The purpose was to convene employers, industry representatives, and partners to dive into the hiring needs and trends within the industry. Most significant from the advisory was the challenging gap in meeting the increasing demand for professionals. A workforce gap existed pre-pandemic, however, with its onset the need for qualified personnel has surged. Recognizing the urgency of the situation, an industry expert expressed, “There aren’t enough in the world. Demand has skyrocketed since the pandemic. I wish we had a gigantic army that could meet the need.”

The event featured Ebony Benzing, Interim Director of the North (Greater Sacramento) Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research, presenting labor market information that revealed a striking demand for Mental and Behavioral Health Jobs (MBH) professionals in various job categories. In 2022, the Greater Sacramento region boasted over 25,000 jobs, with projections indicating a 14% growth rate by 2027. Job postings in the Greater Sacramento region have risen by 22% in the last 12 months, with more than 6,954 job postings. The growth is particularly pronounced in entry-level and paraprofessional roles, and psychiatric technicians. There is a significant gap between the number of jobs available and the number of students receiving related certifications and degrees (1,452) indicating a pressing need for educational and training programs to address this shortage of skilled professionals.

The event included two keynote speakers; Christie Gonzales, Chief Program Officer at WellSpace Health, and Anne Powell from Health Care Access & Information (HCAI). Gonzales emphasized the importance of hiring individuals with lived experiences from the community to provide equitable healthcare. She stated personal disclosure is valued in this field and allows practitioners to bring a unique perspective and understanding to their work.

Powell’s keynote on Behavioral Health Workforce Opportunities detailed initiatives that include expanding educational capacity, providing scholarships and loan repayment for aspiring health professionals, and supporting institutions dedicated to strengthening the mental healthcare workforce pipeline. HCAI, which supports diverse health workforce initiatives that serve underserved areas, is also launching a certified wellness coach position to provide behavioral health support to children and youth.
To dive deeper into the hiring needs of the MBH workforce, Valley Vision convened an employer panel of industry professionals, which included

Jessie Armenta, Clinical Director, La Familia Counseling Center
Christie Gonzales, Chief Program Officer, WellSpace Health
Shanine Coats, Director, Sacramento County Office of Education
Emilio Licea III, Behavioral Health Manager l Consortium Director, Kaiser
Jeneba Lahai, Executive Director, Yolo County Children’s Alliance

Throughout the panel discussion, one theme became clear: valuing individuals with lived experiences from their respective communities should be at the forefront of mental behavioral workforce initiatives. To develop a skilled workforce from within the local community, panelists emphasized the need to expand MBH careers beyond traditional roles like psychiatrists. The panelists highlighted the significance of early engagement and talent cultivation, describing volunteer and internship opportunities for individuals in high school and beyond, to foster interest and develop a skilled workforce from within the local community.

Along with this, panelists emphasized the significance of relationship-building and practical communication skills, particularly in multidisciplinary and community-based settings. The employers also described the need to meet administrative demands and emphasized the importance of organization, basic accounting, and notetaking skills. Additionally, they shared common challenges in the field such as burnout, and the need for creating healthy boundaries and utilizing effective time management.

The advisory concluded with a discussion about the importance of career exposure and highlighted various local onramp, career education programs focusing on mental and behavioral health careers. Free, short-term career education programs offered by the Yolo County Office of Education provide introductory training in areas such as Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions, Community Health Worker, Social Work, and Human Service Skills. Additionally, Sacramento Employment Training Agency (SETA) offers paid training programs for adults with lived experiences, preparing them for entry-level positions in the field. Kaiser Permanente also offers training programs and paid internships for college and high school students interested in pursuing a career in mental health.

In addition to the advisory bringing to light specific information about the significant workforce challenges, the event served as a collaborative space for state officials, employers, educators, and partners to discuss existing opportunities to help bridge the gap. By working together to support and invest in these programs, individuals, organizations, and local employers can develop the diverse and skilled workforce needed to meet the growing demand, ensuring accessible and quality mental and behavioral health services for us all.

Agricultural Biomass: Putting the Pieces Together

California’s progress on biomass utilization is like putting together a puzzle – we have the edges in place, but we are still figuring out how everything connects in the middle. Biomass is an enormous opportunity to address our energy and agricultural/forest management needs, but there are significant barriers to scalable use of the abundant resource – or waste stream, depending on how you view it.

Source: Fruit tree orchard in Winters, CA (Yolo County)

On October 5th, 2023, Valley Vision staff had the opportunity to visit the City of Winters in Yolo County for a two-day conference on the opportunities and challenges of agricultural biomass. The conference was hosted by the Sacramento Valley Basinwide Air Pollution Control Council, who brought together a group of local and state stakeholders including agricultural businesses, regulators, policymakers and researchers. At the conference, stakeholders zeroed in on the current landscape of agricultural biomass, and fueled discussions around opportunities for agricultural biomass utilization. 

We were able to hear from business and research experts in the biomass space, discuss benefits of alternative uses of agricultural biomass, and learn from agricultural producers about their experiences with agricultural biomass applications.

The Current Landscape of Agricultural Biomass

Source: Sacramento Area Council of Governments (SACOG) Rural-Urban Connections Strategy (2014)

There are three primary sources of biomass – biomass derived from municipal waste, biomass derived from agriculture, and biomass derived from forests. Agricultural biomass is agricultural waste, comprising food scraps, orchard trimmings, nut shells, and livestock waste. In the Central Valley, the agricultural industry is a leading economic driver, resulting in abundant and renewable agricultural biomass from farming operations as a continuously-generated resource. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture in 2022, agriculture accounted for $55 Billion in economic activity, equating to tons of agricultural waste that either ends up in landfills or is discarded in open burning.

Why Ag Biomass?

Adding to the abundance of agricultural biomass present in our local and regional economy, there is an increasing need to sustainably, economically and equitably manage this resource. At the conference in Winters, diverting agricultural biomass for alternative uses and associated benefits was discussed. Below are some key takeaways from the conference:

  • Climate change impacts – the largest source of methane gas is from the agricultural sector, followed by landfills and the energy sector
  • Open burning of agricultural biomass contributes to poor air quality through increased emissions and prevents our region from meeting state and federal air quality standards
  • There is an increasing need for clean, renewable energy and fuel sources 
  • Open burn piles endangers residents and wildlife
  • Benefits to agriculture include improved soil, plant health and water efficiency from compost and mulching applications

Envisioning a Future for Ag Biomass:

Source: Agricultural Biomass Conference in Winters, CA (Oct. 2023).

Notably, we are in the middle of a clean energy transition and biomass utilization plays a key role in this transition. Agricultural biomass utilization is a multi-benefit approach to managing agricultural waste and mitigating climate change impacts. It is a viable strategy that strengthens rural-urban connections and public-private partnerships, which is what we need in order to solve our region’s most pressing issues. Agricultural biomass should be branded as a value-added resource and not just waste that ends up in landfills or burned in open piles. 

Currently, there is a high demand for renewable fuel sources as our state moves towards carbon neutrality and more modernized biomass facilities are much needed in our region. Modernized facilities are an opportunity for the agricultural industry, including local and regional governments and private sector interests to manage agricultural waste efficiently and sustainably, as well as provide valuable and marketable resources that support other sectors, too. The time to act is now as massive federal funding from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are coming our way. If we envision a more sustainable and resilient future, we must collectively get behind a solution and the opportunities for agricultural biomass must be put on the table. 

Kathy Saechou is a Valley Vision Project Coordinator staffing the Clean Economy and Food & Agriculture Impact Areas.

The Second Annual Livability Summit

Valley Vision is gearing up for our second annual Livability Summit to be held October 30th at the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center. We are truly excited for another year of bringing our region together to focus on the key issues that matter for quality of life and the health and well-being of the people, communities, and our environment. The Livability Summit is two-fold for us: it is a wellness check for the region centered in data and lived experience and it is a collaboration conference that builds bridges across diverse groups and individuals and provides a time for connection and exchange – catalyzing action for Valley Vision and for others across the region. Together – these elements speak exactly to Valley Vision’s DNA: we build bridges across diverse groups to collaboratively bring about solutions to pressing challenges in the region. 

We are particularly excited about the program this year with a dual focus on transformation and building economic equity in the region. We believe that transformation starts with a welcoming, diverse, inclusive, interactive environment. We create that space by setting a diverse table, creating an expectation of respect and safety, and inviting a wide array of views to be shared. In this context, there are some key program content areas that I want to highlight.

  • We will unveil the findings of the 2023 Livability Poll – an annual public opinion poll that Valley Vision conducts in partnership with Sacramento State’s Institute for Social Research. This will ground the event with data straight from residents in our region about their experiences and perceptions of quality of life. Check out last year’s Livability Poll Report.
  • We will have sessions looking at examples of transformation when it comes to both commercial corridors and neighborhoods – this will provide on the ground looks at what it takes to transform our built environment and mobilize community action for change.
  • We will feature Judith Taylor, HR&A Advisors, as our keynote speaker. Judith will bring her extensive experience in inclusive economic development to provide a values-driven and practical approach to implementing transformational, yet achievable change. 
  • The focus on building economic equity will be centered on a transformative opportunity for our region – the Community Economic Resilience Fund (CERF) Program. We will dive in together to imagine an economy that works for all. 
  • Finally, we have a new program element that I am excited about – a Lead from Any Seat panel. As our tagline says, “Your voice belongs, your voice makes change.” We will bring this to life by asking you, the audience members, to join the stage and share your lived experiences on key topics that matter in your life and community.

This event rests on the belief that a healthy civic culture requires care and feeding – we must create experiences that bring diverse people and perspectives together. Every person has a valuable contribution to bring and every voice matters when it comes to building livable communities. For this reason – we can’t wait to come together on October 30th to work together to advance transformative change that supports livable, equitable, and prosperous communities.

We can’t wait for the event, and we hope to see you there! Click here to register.