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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