Skip to Content

Forestry Management Careers: A Critical Need

On April 28, Valley Vision hosted a virtual Forestry Management Regional Advisory to bring stakeholders and industry partners together to discuss the field’s current state, future projections, and areas of growth. Critical land management challenges such as wildfires, droughts, and the impact of invasive species contribute to the high demand for forestry management job applicants. However, labor market data and research detail a prominent gap between this need and the availability of candidates in the field. 

This event featured labor market projections from Melissa Kovacs, Senior Project Analyst at the Center of Economic Development, CSU Chico, and Ebony Benzing, Research Manager at the North/Far North Centers of Excellence, and an industry panel that included:

  • Ann Anderson, Beale Mountain Forestry, Owner & Forester
  • Jeremy Dorsey, U.S. Forest Service, Hume Lake Ranger District & Sequoia National Forest, District Ranger
  • John McCarthy,  CAL FIRE, Forester & Wood Products/Bioenergy Program Administrator
  • Tony Ortiz, Mountain Enterprises, Field Safety Specialist
  • Craig Ostergaard, Sierra Pacific Industries, South Sierra Reforestation Manager

At the beginning of the event, Kovacs presented findings from the 2021 Forest Sector Workforce Needs Survey created in partnership with the Statewide Wildfire and Forest Resiliency Task Force. This survey yielded 113 responses from forestry management employers across the state and sought to identify key challenges and needs within the industry. The research revealed a sizable gap in the forestry industry’s workforce with the majority of respondents indicating their organization is currently hiring for 1-5 open positions with the majority looking to hire either immediately or within the next 12 months. Another important result was the indication of three major obstacles to filling these positions; high cost of living (45.59%), a small pool of candidates in the area (24.56%), and lack of available housing (12.81%). 

Benzing provided regional labor market information, demonstrating forestry management jobs are expected to grow by an average of 6% by 2025 in the Greater Sacramento region. The strongest occupational demand is in professional positions which include environmental scientists, soil & plant scientists, and foresters. Management positions are projected to have the highest percentage growth, with the second-largest increase slated to come from specialty positions (fallers, log graders/scalers, surveyors, tree trimmers, and mapping technicians).

Panelists encouraged students and educators to push for early exposure to forestry management careers and real-world, hands-on experience. Paid internships are a valuable way for prospective applicants to gain an understanding of the demands and nature of these jobs.  Although these positions are generally during the summer months, panelists indicated winter is the best time to begin the internship and job search process.  Anderson of Beale Mountain Forestry mentioned job shadowing as an alternative to internships, as they are a quicker, less-demanding method to show the daily responsibilities and expectations of someone who works in the industry.

Panelists agreed that interpersonal skills are of great importance and demand in the forest industry. Communication, time management, organization, and teamwork are integral skills across all occupations creating an opportunity for forestry management education programs to focus on expanding soft skill development. In addition to strengthening these necessary skills, Steven Casperite, Assistant Principal at the Placer School for Adults, discussed a pilot program developed in partnership with Mountain Enterprises to expand the talent pipeline by offering contextualized English Language education concurrent with on-the-job forestry management training to serve immigrants and refugees. Casperite also commented that the opportunity to extend training opportunities to incarcerated individuals prior to release can also funnel more candidates into the industry. As Casperite said, “There are a lot of opportunities and employees out there that we can be putting to work—that want to work—but we’ve got to remove the barriers.” 

Valley Vision’s employer and industry advisories are funded by Los Rios Community College District with Strong Workforce Program funds. Additionally, the Capital Region’s four workforce boards co-sponsor the advisories; SETA/Sacramento Works, Golden Sierra JTA, YoloWorks, and North Central Counties Consortium.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Danielle Susa is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Renee John is the Director of Workforce Development managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Leading with Compassion: The Future of Hospitality Careers

On April 22, Valley Vision hosted a virtual regional advisory centered on the adaptations of the Hospitality, Culinary, and Tourism industry through the pandemic. While the sector continues to represent employment below pre-pandemic employment levels, the Greater Sacramento region has recovered 40% of jobs originally lost in this sector.  Nationally, wages have increased by almost $3.00 per hour to an average of $19.68.

The event featured keynote speaker Marc Sapoznik, President and CEO of Rancho Cordova Travel & Tourism, labor market information from Aaron Wilcher, Research Director of the Center of Excellence, and an industry panel including:  

  • Shelly Moranville, General Manager, Residence Inn, Marriott
  • Jonathan Modrow, Owner, Bottle & Barlow
  • Brittany Claypool, Brand Strategist, Oak Park Brewing 
  • Andrew Moret, Director of Culinary, Oakmont Management Group
  • Marc Sapoznik, President and CEO, Rancho Cordova Travel & Tourism

During the event, panelists described changes and innovations within their companies including moving to fast-casual service with to-go options, producing canned beverages, advancing the adoption of technology, partnering to recruit for talent shortages, and turning a portion of their establishment into community rental space.  As Shelly Moranville from Residence Inn, Marriott put it, “We’ve changed the way we do everything.”

“We’ve changed the way we do everything.”

Shelly Moranville

The labor market information presented highlighted a need to fill management positions including General and Operations Managers, Food Service Managers, Personal Service Managers, Entertainment and Recreation Managers, Chefs, and Head Cooks.  These positions also offer the highest earnings potential within the industry.  The panel agreed on the need for training for management positions highlighting the burnout of their leadership teams from the toll of the pandemic. 

Several panelists acknowledged investing more in their current workforce than in the past, including establishing “paths to success” for entry-level employees to gain the skills and experience necessary to prepare them for higher roles.  Andrew Moret of Oakmont Management Group discussed their Executive Chef Training Program in development as an example of this upward mobility framework. The panel agreed that learning the career goals of individual team members and helping them achieve them was a best practice.  This was just one example of a change to a more employee-centered culture including increased flexibility and accommodation of individual employee needs and schedules.  Employers reported altering the availability requirements for existing workers and incoming hires to improve employee retention.  As Ms. Moranville stated, “[We] have to be much more flexible to the needs of the associates, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. As employers, [the pandemic] has forced us to shift and be more understanding of what’s going on in someone’s life.”

The panel agreed the need for high-quality soft skills or essential skills was desperately needed in employment candidates including communication, teamwork, leadership/initiative, cultural and self-awareness, and creativity/adaptability.  Jonathan Modrow of Bottle & Barlow stressed the need for an “instinct for care and collaboration”.   Mr. Moret closed us with critical words for today’s culture stating the need to lead with “compassion for guests, each other, and yourself” is greatly needed in today’s hospitality workforce.

Valley Vision’s employer and industry advisories are funded by Los Rios Community College District with Strong Workforce Program funds. Additionally, the Capital Region’s four workforce boards co-sponsor the advisories; SETA/Sacramento Works, Golden Sierra JTA, YoloWorks, and North Central Counties Consortium.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Danielle Susa is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Renee John is the Director of Workforce Development managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Highlighting Training Needs in Cybersecurity

Valley Vision serves a unique role as the workforce intermediary in the Capital Region’s training and development ecosystem. In this role, we work closely with the community colleges, workforce boards, community-based organizations, employers, industry partners, and local jurisdictions to improve our region’s responsiveness to the needs of both industry and the community. To that end, Valley Vision produces employer and industry advisories in occupational areas of growth and interest to inform education and training partners to address and respond to these needs to support our overall economy.

On March 31st, Valley Vision hosted an advisory on the growing demand for Cybersecurity occupations. The advisory included a keynote presentation by Nathaniel Le of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and labor market information including job posting and skills analysis by Ebony Benzing, Research Manager of the Center of Excellence, as well as an industry panel discussion with the following representatives:

  • Tania Webb, Managing Director of Deloitte
  • Benjamin Troglia, Associate Director of Accenture
  • Andrew Maroun, Director of Information Security of Golden 1 Credit Union
  • David Bitter, Cybersecurity Manager of SMUD

During the advisory, panelists described a need for both generalists and specialists to meet their staffing needs. While specific technical skills are needed, the highest demand traits these employers revealed were a passion for the work and interpersonal skills, including written and verbal communication, to work well within teams and with external customers. Webb indicated understanding the “why” of the services employees are providing is essential and pre-eminent to thinking through how the technology solution helps meet that need, while Bitter indicated applicants who demonstrate an interest in the field beyond classwork, through clubs or competitions, are highly valued. Additionally, he noted the challenge for educators to keep up with the training needs of the industry due to technology evolving exponentially. He indicated and other panelists agreed, that there is more tendency to recruit generalists who can learn specialties on the job. “I don’t think it’s realistic to expect these students coming out of educational institutions to have that (specific) knowledge,” Bitter said.

While panelists indicated recruiting individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) was common, most stated they are open to candidates who can demonstrate the experience, skills, and knowledge without a degree.

Panelists were asked about specific technical skills, degrees, and certifications to obtain entry-level employment in the field. While panelists indicated recruiting individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree (or higher) was common, most stated they are open to candidates who can demonstrate the experience, skills, and knowledge without a degree. Certifications were indicated as one way to differentiate while seeking employment, although practical real-world experience had as high or higher of a value. Specific certifications in demand include SAMs, CISP, and CompTIA Security+, which can elevate one candidate over another and demonstrate the candidate’s initiative to continue learning in their field. Specific technical skills in demand included Linux, Python, and Network Security.

When asked what advice would the panelists give to individuals trying to break into the Cyber Security field, networking, getting as much practical experience as possible, and staying up on the latest news in the security field were indicated as key. Maroun noted a particular challenge is the lack of diverse candidates entering the field which among other challenges limits the group’s creativity diverse backgrounds bring in developing solutions.

Join us for two additional upcoming advisories on the changing needs of Hospitality, Culinary, and Tourism on April 22nd and the expanding needs for Forestry Management Occupations on April 28th. Valley Vision’s full resource industry of advisories is available here.

Valley Vision’s employer and industry advisories are funded by Los Rios Community College District with Strong Workforce Program funds. Additionally, the Capital Region’s four workforce boards co-sponsor the advisories; SETA/Sacramento Works, Golden Sierra JTA, YoloWorks, and North Central Counties Consortium.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Nghia Nguyen is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Digital Inclusion Coalition Expands with New Platform

The last two years have proven the significance of digital inclusion to accessing opportunity and economic prosperity. Our nation is experiencing unprecedented investment, including the Affordable Connectivity Program through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – a $14.2 billion piece of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act, and the biggest investment in broadband this country has ever seen. The Greater Sacramento region is well poised to garner and maximize investments in digital inclusion due in no small part to the dedicated contributions of the steering committee, working groups, and members of the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion (Coalition).

This effort started in the fall of 2018, inspired by a Brookings Institution report on the strengths and weaknesses of the Sacramento Capital region, and culminated in the formation of the Coalition.  Over the years, the work of the Coalition has brought together partnerships, thought leaders, and collaborative investment to address the digital inclusion needs of our region especially during the heightened needs of the pandemic.

A Year of Impact

In the last year, the Coalition has hosted eight full Coalition meetings and over 25 working group meetings in three key areas; Broadband Access & Adoption, Hardware Devices, and Digital Literacy/Digital Skills to build a framework and key strategies including:

  • Renaming, redesigning and taking over management of the Coalition website to provide easy access to resources and information
  • Operationalizing a digital inclusion portal to provide easy access to free resources for community members and the organizations supporting them

New Name & Expanded Region

The Coalition recently changed its name to the Capital Region Coalition for Digital Inclusion, reflecting an expanded service area and regional approach to creating more opportunities for digital equity.  This name change represents the expansion to serve a 9 county region supported by investment from the Capital Region’s four workforce boards, SMUD, AT & T and Union Bank, and magnifies opportunities to address both rural and urban digital equity barriers, and convene organizations from across the region to better inform, connect, and partner to promote community success.

New Digital Inclusion Portal Serving Nine Counties

Valley Vision is pleased to partner with mohuman, a non-profit connecting low-income communities with digital resources, to create the Capital Region Digital Inclusion Portal. Through this partnership, a streamlined platform has been created for the Capital Region, allowing community members and those serving them to easily search for resources – including free and low cost computers, internet services, digital skill building tools and training. Among other resources, the Digital Inclusion Portal connects individuals with training on Microsoft Office and Google Suite, as well as career search skills and more! The platform also allows organizations with digital inclusion resources to add their information to the Portal (after a review process) and claim their listings to provide additional description and detail. 

Nishal Mohan, Founder of mohuman, describes the work of the Coalition and the impact of the Portal: “The Capital Region and their digital inclusion coalition have been doing a fantastic job of regional coordination to serve digitally un and underserved individuals and families. Now with a personalized and easy to use portal, all of their free or low-cost digital inclusion services and resources are available to the public in an easy to use, accessible, expandable, and sustainable platform so that more people can move towards equity faster, more effectively, and at scale. Congratulations to Valley Vision and partners on bringing a powerful tool with the people for the people of the Capital Region!”

The Coalition’s goal is for the Portal to serve as a centralized source for community members and organizations to find and upload resources for computing devices, internet connectivity, and digital skill building. We need your assistance to create an expansive and thorough network of listings and are calling digital inclusion advocates to aid us in the following ways:

  1. Share the portal with community members and organizations to utilize for easy access to digital resources
  2. Add listings through the portal or email nghia.nguyen@valleyvision.org with information on digital inclusion organizations, programs, or online services that need to be included
  3. If you work at or manage an organization that provides digital inclusion resources, claim your listing, and make it your own!

With your help and assistance, we will continue the momentum to improve digital inclusion for our Capital Region’s current and future digital citizens. To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Caitlin Blockus is a Valley Vision Project Manager supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Yolo County’s YoloWorks! Launches Virtual Employment Center

Job attainment and security are more important than ever, but unpredictable COVID-19 regulations and a turbulent economy have proved it difficult for applicants to access the employment specialists and career services they need. Prior to the pandemic, YoloWorks!, under the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency, was able to offer in-person career center support and counseling to Yolo County residents from its local offices. However, without a uniform method of providing real-time employment support virtually, the employment center needed to pivot to maintain the full extent of its workforce services.

To address this challenge, YoloWorks! Program Coordinator Erica Johnson developed and aided in the launch of the employment center’s first virtual career center platform. The Virtual Employment Center went live on November 16, enabling Yolo County residents to virtually receive career and vocational training services from employment specialists and case managers.

Making Career Help Available & Accessible

Open 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM Monday through Friday, the Virtual Employment Center (VEC) opens up a myriad of new connections between job seekers and employers. Offering these essential services virtually eliminates a multitude of barriers for new entries to the workforce, including maintaining personal health, reducing travel costs, and more. Training opportunities and the location of available jobs are just two examples of the many services offered by the VEC.

“This is exactly the type of support we want to provide the people of Yolo County.”

Erica Johnson, Yoloworks! Program Coordinator

“Supporting the needs of job seekers with our intelligent chatbot has revolutionized how citizens discover jobs in Yolo County,” said Erica Johnson, YoloWorks! Program Coordinator. “Job seekers can now schedule time with YoloWorks! employment specialists to locate relevant work anytime, anywhere, and have common questions answered quickly in their native language. This is exactly the type of support we want to provide the people of Yolo County.”

Digital Inclusion and the Community

The VEC is a platform that requires internet connectivity to fully utilize. Thus, this calls for adequate infrastructure in the community it serves. YoloWorks! has partnered with Google to provide the “Loan to Own” Chromebook Program for those who might not have access to the devices they need to be successful in this era of virtual integration. Successful completion of this program allows participants to permanently keep their Chromebooks, providing them with a computing device and the ability to earn a work-skills online certificate with digital badging. As of December of 2021, 180 of 250 Chromebooks have been distributed to Yolo County residents. 35 Yolo County residents have completed the program and now own these devices. And to ensure that the platform is accessible to as many communities as possible, Yolo County job seekers can utilize the portal’s chatbox in the region’s three most common languages—English, Spanish and Russian.

This partnership has also granted Yolo County’s YoloWorks! with 500 Google Career Certificates, which are available to Yolo County residents to apply for and receive for free. These certificates include credentials in areas like IT, Project Management, User Experience Design, and Data Analytics. They also provide interested participants with valuable skills such as interviewing tips and connections to 140+ companies that are a part of an employer consortium consisting of nationally-recognized organizations who are hiring for entry-level talent.

From Tragedy Comes Opportunity

With the rise of online outreach and virtual events comes a unique need for collaboration between employers and communities. The VEC constantly works with community partners to ensure that job opportunities are being announced with ample time for applicants to gain access to workstations or smartphones. Additionally, the portal itself promotes ease of access by giving patrons the ability to attach necessary documents (resumes, applications, etc.) and syncing with the account’s Google Calendar. From supplying required technology to providing a user-friendly interface, the VEC is already making waves in terms of reaching the people who would benefit the most from its services.

“The pandemic really shifted the way in which we think, work, and live,” Johnson said. “We wanted to put a service out there for folks that is always available, whether or not they want to come in person.”

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Danielle Susa is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Workers with Disabilities, Untapped Potential

The month of October is designated Disability Employment Awareness Month to recognize the contributions of individuals with disabilities to our workforce and economy. Originally established in 1945, the first week of October was designated as National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week. In 1962, the word “physically” was removed and 25 years later the week was expanded to one month and renamed National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This year’s theme is appropriately named “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.”


A significant milestone in the fight for disability employment rights occurred on September 27th of this year when Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill 639 into law. This bill prohibits employers from paying employees with disabilities below minimum wage. It also creates a path that transitions workers with disabilities from working in a segregated setting with solely people with disabilities to fully integrated settings. With the signing of this bill, California becomes the seventh state in the nation to outlaw paying workers with disabilities a subminimum wage. The bill sets forth the conditions for a phase-out strategy by January 1, 2025, and requires the involvement and input from people with disabilities.

How Did We Get Here?

In 1939, when President Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) into law, there was a fear people with disabilities, particularly returning World War I veterans, would have a disadvantage and experience high rates of unemployment if employers had to pay comparable wages. Therefore, a provision was created to allow workers with disabilities to receive lower wages. Despite the allowance of subminimum wage categories, unemployment rates for people with disabilities have consistently remained disproportionately high compared to the general public. The employment to population ratio for people with disabilities in December 2019 was 30.6, compared to 74.8 for non-disabled people. Additionally, the use of subminimum wage categories has had the unfortunate effect of limiting the potential and advancement of workers with disabilities and resulted in unfair pay compared with their non-disabled peers as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor. Working adults with disabilities are two times more likely to be living in poverty than their non-disabled peers.

WIOA Propelled the Cause

When the Workforce Investment Act was amended in 2016 to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), one of the many provisions was the creation of an Advisory Committee on increasing Competitive Integrated Employment (at least minimum wage and integrated setting) for individuals with disabilities. The work of the Committee was intended to address the pervasive unemployment and low workforce participation among individuals with significant disabilities in the United States. Another backdrop to the Committee’s work was the evolving federal disability employment policy which presumes that all individuals with disabilities are employable when opportunity and support are available.

The Time Has Come

With the signing of Senate Bill 639, Competitive Integrated Employment has the capacity to be a pathway out of poverty for thousands of individuals in our community. By and large, people with disabilities want to work. Changes in work structure, including remote work, have the ability to allow additional opportunities for individuals with disabilities to participate more fully in our economy. Often, accommodations can be the barrier to gainful employment. With the increased opportunity to work from home, many individuals have the opportunity to obtain and maintain employment in an environment equipped and conducive to their health. Many studies document employees with disabilities work harder, are more productive, more loyal, and show a lower absenteeism rate than their non-disabled peers. In the current environment of large-scale job openings and a shortage of workers, casting a wider net can yield immediate benefits.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Angelina Olweny is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Skills for a Ready Future Workforce

Valley Vision has been examining Future of Work trends for many years. Our latest research was made possible through funding from the City of Sacramento CARES COVID Relief and in partnership with Burning Glass Technologies.  This analysis sought to answer the question, where should resources be targeted to provide the most effective skills acquisition and training, especially to disproportionately impacted community members, to enhance and accelerate recovery from the pandemic.

Building on previous work, Automation Risk for Jobs in the Capital Region (March 2020) report looking at the potential impacts of automation in our nine county region, recovery from the pandemic and future workforce development strategies need to be responsive to multiple factors including: 

• Meeting current and projected job needs 

• Reducing future risk of automation/obsolescence 

• Improving job quality (higher wages, benefits and career advancement opportunities) 

• Improving equity for communities of color, women and underserved groups 

The following white paper highlights the result of these efforts:

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!”


Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Spring Advisories: Preparing our Regional Workforce for Success

April 2021 was a month filled with dynamic industry discussions for Valley Vision, as it hosted three Regional Industry Advisories funded by Los Rios Community College District Strong Workforce Program and in partnerships with Sierra College, Yuba Community College District, and the Capital Region workforce boards. The Advisories’ objectives included building strong relationships between employers, educators, and workforce partners that provided timely information on skills gaps and opportunities for more ongoing engagement. April’s advisories served to foster workforce pipelines into the Sacramento Region’s diverse sectors, some of which have been especially harmed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, as emphasized throughout the Advisories, the region’s workforce partners can play a strong role in meeting industry demand for a skilled workforce that helps industries pivot and thrive.

The month’s series of virtual Advisories began with Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism (RHT), an industry especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but in recovery. Keynote Speaker Mike Testa of Visit Sacramento shared an optimistic re-opening of Sacramento’s RHT industry and its benefits for the region, saying “This isn’t just about the City of Sacramento – it’s about everybody else“.  An Industry Insights Panel featuring employers followed, emphasizing how businesses pivoted with COVID-19 and their demand for a diverse RHT workforce that possesses critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and communication skills. Afterwards, Dr. Robert Eyler offered an engaging presentation on economic and policy conditions behind the RHT industry. For a more detailed look at the Advisory, take a look at our separate blog on the event here!

Mike Testa of Visit Sacramento presenting on the recovery of Sacramento’s tourism sector.

Next was a Regional Industry Advisory on Gerontology, Geriatrics and Business Services in the Field of Aging, which began with a presentation on shifting demographics and occupational data by North/Far North Center of Excellence Research Manager, Ebony Benzing. This data further informed industry insights provided by keynote speaker Leading Age California President and CEO, Jeannee Parker Martin, and the employer panel on arising issues in the field. Towards the end of the event, American River College’s Gerontology Department Chair and Career Education Program Coordinator, Laurinda Reynolds, presented on ageism and interventions that could promote careers in the field.

Ebony Benzing of Center of Excellence presenting on demographics and occupational data.

The month’s Advisories finished off with a cross-sector look at Automation & AI in Agriculture and Manufacturing. The event uniquely featured two industry panels, one focusing on current employer needs and the second focusing on the future of automation in food processing. “There’s a common theme when you walk into a processing plant… how can we keep the plant running, with limited supply of people who are available? That is the biggest challenge,” described Raf Peeters, CEO and Founder of Qcify, Inc. and one of the Advisory’s employer panelists. Employers went on to describe the need for workers who can operate this automation and AI technology, which workforce partners can assist with through course development and trainings

Industry panel featuring employers from Automation/AI in Manufacturing and Agriculture.

By the end of April, Valley Vision and its community college and workforce partners had successfully facilitated a wide range of opportunities for employer engagement to inform curriculum development. The ongoing pandemic’s toll on Sacramento Region industries has made it increasingly important for workforce pipelines to be responsive to employer and worker needs. These needs have been carefully documented by Valley Vision staff throughout its 2020-21 academic year advisories, which included data-driven presentations and employer discussions on the following sectors:

Additional information on advisories can be found via the links above. Valley Vision and the Sacramento Region’s workforce stakeholders greatly appreciate the attendees who have contributed their valuable insights into the curriculum development process.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Jesse Flores is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce and Clean Economy impact areas.

Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Headed Toward Recovery

While many different industries and sectors bore the brunt of the impacts of the past year’s pandemic, few were as impacted as Retail, Hospitality and Tourism (RHT). As we look forward to a post-pandemic world, what will the future of these industries look like in our region?

On April 16th, Valley Vision, in partnership with the Los Rios Community College District, and in collaboration with Sierra College, Yuba Community College District and the Capital Region workforce boards, held a Regional Advisory on Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism occupations and careers. Regional Advisories provide forums for industry and employer representatives to discuss their current and expected skill needs with educators and workforce system stakeholders.  These advisories, funded by Strong Workforce Program, ensure community college and workforce training programs are responding to industry needs, preparing students and community members for the continuously evolving world of work.

The advisory began with Mike Testa, President and CEO of Visit Sacramento, providing an encouraging forecast.  He discussed multiple events and campaigns scheduled to draw visitors back to our region including Farm-to-Fork Festival, Tower Bridge Dinner, Ironman Triathlon, Aftershock Music Festival, and Junior Olympics in 2022.  The anticipated reopening of the Safe Credit Union Convention Center will also be a huge draw for visitors and conference attendees.  Visit Sacramento looks beyond simply boosting the economy, and providing jobs as the city reopens according to Testa, “At Visit Sacramento, internally we say that tourism isn’t about the tourist – it’s about driving revenue for the residents that live here. The money that comes in improves the lives of our residents.

Next up, Dr. Robert Eyler, President of Economic Forensics and Analytics, Inc., provided a look at the changing dynamics in these industries over the last year and projections for recovery.  Examining from a macro lens, he described how the hospitality industry in California displayed the most dramatic job loss, at nearly 30% loss of employment since March of 2020. While a handful of sub-sectors within the Retail industry profited during the pandemic, including e-commerce, retailers selling building or gardening materials, and food or beverage retailers, the majority of the industry suffered job losses from 2.6% to 18.6%. Dr. Eyler remarked that while the past year for the RHT sector has been grim, Summer 2021 hints at the beginning of recovery for restaurants and retail with travel picking up in 2022 and 2023, and full recovery (pre-COVID levels) expected by 2024 or 2025.

Several regional employers participated in the panel discussion including: Tim Stallings – Sacramento Republic Football Club; Bahar Abullarade – Raley’s Supermarkets; Alycia Harshfield – California Restaurant Foundation; Bobbin Mulvaney – Mulvaney’s Building & Loan Restaurant; and Lynn Mohrfeld – California Hotel and Lodging Association.  They shared the ways COVID-19 affected their businesses and delved into the types of skills and knowledge students and individuals interested in joining the RHT sector will need. The panelists unanimously agreed that emotional intelligence skills – often known as “soft skills” – were crucial indicating candidates who possess critical thinking skills, interpersonal skills, and the ability to effectively communicate are highly sought after. In the digital age of the pandemic, panelists explained that most of their workers quickly adapted to technological changes, but struggled when it came to effectively connecting with their clientele and fellow staff members. The employer panel also stressed the importance of team-building, working collaboratively, and the ability to work with diverse groups.

While the pandemic has brought with it a continuous wave of uncertainty, the promising projections from Mike Testa and Dr. Eyler, along with accounts of resiliency and adaptability from industry representatives, provided an encouraging picture of a sector headed toward recovery.  Even within an increasingly technological age, this advisory has shown the way to be successful in RHT occupations and careers is to embody key parts of the industry itself – forming connections, working together, and serving your community.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Caitlin Blockus is a Valley Vision Project Associate supporting initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Capital Region Workforce Boards Champion Digital Inclusion

The Capital Region’s four workforce boards recognize the digital divide must be addressed in order to support inclusive job growth and social mobility for our region’s workers. In response, they have provided a  significant investment in the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion’s (Coalition) efforts to address digital skills, technology access, and broadband infrastructure and affordability needs. The Capital Region Workforce Boards include SETA/Sacramento Works, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, YoloWorks and North Central Counties Consortium. According to Roy Kim, Deputy Director of SETA/Sacramento Works, “Digital skills have become part of the basket of basic skills that job seekers need to obtain employment and advance along a career pathway.”  The funding provided will support the effort to sustain, implement and expand the Coalition’s work to ensure traditionally underserved community members receive access, devices and skill building resources to participate in our increasingly digital world. 

Valley Vision is actively working to close the digital divide in the Capital region. The Coalition, managed by Valley Vision, recently completed a 2021 Action Plan as a roadmap to advance and expand digital inclusion in three core areas: broadband access and adoption, hardware devices, and digital literacy and skills. Valley Vision also manages the Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium, connecting the region’s underserved households with high speed broadband infrastructure. By addressing needs in infrastructure, affordability, technology access, and digital skills, our region is taking a comprehensive approach to closing the digital divide – recognizing that these pillars are co-equal in addressing economic and educational inequity.

The Coalition was founded as a response to the 2018 Brookings Institution economic assessment, commissioned by Valley Vision and civic partners in the Sacramento Capital Region.  With the onset of COVID-19, the Coalition quickly mobilized and expanded vital digital equity efforts. The effort has expanded since that time and today consists of a steering committee of representatives from the City of Sacramento and the Sacramento Public Library, as founding SCDI members, and the Capital Region Workforce Boards, California State University Sacramento, Los Rios Community College District, and Clear Strategies with participation from over one hundred additional community leaders and stakeholders. Advancing digital skills and closing the digital divide are called out as major regional priorities in the Capital region’s inclusive economic development plan, Our Path Forward: The Prosperity Strategy

The Workforce Boards have been vital contributors to the region’s economic prosperity with prior initiatives that support entrepreneurship, high-growth industry sectors, and through advancing research on the Future of Work. This critical investment in digital inclusion will help to advance an inclusive, regional workforce and further equity efforts in our shared economy.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!


Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

Note: The Connected Capital Area Broadband Consortium is funded by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).

Building Resilient Skills in the Face of Uncertainty

“Think about it: The pace of change has never been this fast, yet it will never be this slow again.” Justin Trudeau made this statement at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2018.  In Valley Vision’s 21st Century Workforce impact area, we are seeing the truth of this statement over and over again.  The joint pressures of coming out of one of the largest dislocations of workers in our history, the accelerated adoption of automation, and the necessity of determining a recovery strategy inclusive of our region’s diverse workforce combine to require a novel, aligned strategy to prepare our entire population for the Future of Work.  

Valley Vision has been working on Future of Work strategies for several years.  With funding from the Capital Region’s four workforce boards; Sacramento Employment and Training Agency, Golden Sierra Job Training Agency, North Central Counties Consortium and YoloWorks, Valley Vision has conducted research to anticipate the skills and knowledge needed for the workplace of tomorrow to ensure a ready, regional workforce including producing Automation Risk for Jobs in the Capital Region report.  Through funding from the Los Rios Community College District, Valley Vision has convened advisories in specific industry and occupational sectors to identify emerging trends and ensure a workforce that meets employers’ evolving needs.  

Recently, through an award from the City of Sacramento CARES funds, Valley Vision was able to embark on a research partnership with Burning Glass Technologies to analyze job posting data to identify transferable, destination occupations for community members laid off from COVID-19.  This work builds off the Automation Risk for Jobs in the Capital Region report which looked at the proportion of high risk jobs within the nine county capital region and the demographics breakdown within those jobs. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we saw the jobs identified at highest risk of automation experience the highest layoffs.  The correlation of dislocated workers to high automation risk occupations points to the uncertainty of how many original jobs will return and the increasing need to prepare our region’s workforce for more resilient careers, able to withstand advances in automation and other market disruptions.  This new research from Burning Glass Technologies identifies the specific skills needed to move job seekers from high risk positions to more stable occupations at similar or higher wages.

This information will be highlighted in a joint webinar with the City of Sacramento as we review the initial research findings. Additional information will be forthcoming, identifying the highest in demand skills for employers in our region.  We invite you to stay connected to Valley Vision as we explore the Future of Work together and create pathways for all community members to benefit from our region’s shared prosperity.

To keep up with Valley Vision’s work to advance a future-ready workforce in the Sacramento region, subscribe to our 21st Century Workforce email newsletter!”


Renee John is a Valley Vision Project Leader managing initiatives within the 21st Century Workforce impact area.

The First 90 Days

As of this week, I’ve been in the position of CEO of Valley Vision for 90 days – which is often counted as a milestone for a new job. During these 90 days I’ve focused on learning the job; engaging with community partners, stakeholders, Board, and staff; and developing a set of priorities for Valley Vision into 2021. What is my vision for Valley Vision?

1. Deepening Our Commitment to Social and Racial Equity

My career focus has always been on strengthening equity in communities – from early in my career working on gender equity to the many projects I’ve advanced at Valley Vision that create equitable opportunities. As CEO, it is important to me that Valley Vision’s commitment to social and racial equity be authentic and apparent through our actions. In July, the Valley Vision staff team participated in a Whiteness at Work web series to examine how dominant white culture and anti-Black culture impacts our staff, teams, and work in and for the community. We ended the series with new resources, a new staff-led Equity Subcommittee, and an identified set of actions to cultivate inclusion and equity within our staff and through our work. We are starting with ourselves – building trust, team cohesion, and a common set of values that are foundational to our work. Our goal is to develop our own framework to advance operationalizing equity in our organization and throughout our work.

2. Visionary Planning and Investment Strategies

Valley Vision’s role in the region is to set our eyes on long-term solutions to create economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability in the region. To do this, Valley Vision is known for advancing research, fostering collaboration, and catalyzing action. We also need an engine to achieve needed investment to solve our region’s larger challenges. Therefore, Valley Vision is engaging in more intentional investment planning including working with community leaders and partners to create comprehensive, co-designed strategies which will create project and investment-ready coalitions to advance bold solutions. We have an opportunity to meet our region’s greatest challenges together through ambitious, co-owned solutions that will position our region as one of the most livable in the nation.

Our first focus is on developing an investment strategy to advance digital inclusion in the region by expanding broadband infrastructure and connectivity, supporting access to needed technology for all, and advancing digital skills for the workforce. We are already co-leading the Sacramento Coalition for Digital Inclusion with other partners to create the systems, tools, and skills needed for all to fully participate in civic life, education, and work. Reaching our long-term solution to truly create digital equity in the region will require a big-umbrella vision to inspire investment — because if we don’t know where we are going, how will we get there?

3. Creating Actionable Research and Sharing Our Insights 

Our region and communities are transforming more rapidly than in generations. Between coronavirus, effects of climate change, upcoming elections, the pace of technology change and adaptation, and more – life has never been so complex. That is why it is more essential than ever to have the data and information needed to adapt, recover, and reimagine our future. There are a few main areas where we will grow our research capacity by focusing on actionable research and advancing a commitment to sharing best practices.

  • Actionable Research: We believe that decisions should be informed with data and we are expanding our capacity to create actionable research. We have already built two new partnerships in the last six months to be able to do just that – Capital Public Radio for our polling initiative and Burning Glass Technologies to analyze rapidly changing workforce needs. We’ve also hired Dr. David Espinoza to manage the Connected Capital Broadband Consortium – bringing his GIS and other analytical expertise to our team.
  • Sharing Lessons Learned: Valley Vision’s ability to collect and analyze unique data for the region is one of our key strengths. We generate a tremendous amount of data and lessons learned at Valley Vision, but it has not always been our regular practice to slow down in order to share the unique data and the stories from the field that we have collected. I’m very committed to reporting out regularly as well as connecting with other publications and networks to share our work, insights, and recommendations. 

The Valley Vision I envision is an inclusive organization with clear values around equity; is action-oriented, collaborative, and poised to do big things; and is always pushing forward to find new information, connect the dots, and support data-driven decision-making in our region. Let’s get to work.

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 Valley Vision’s Chief Executive Officer.