WIOA Trailblazer Award

Recognizing Excellence in our Industry

The WIOA Trailblazer Award honors the board that has made the most progress in adopting the changes envisioned in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and in expanding its ability to develop comprehensive workforce solutions for its community.

San Diego Workforce Partnership

San Diego Workforce Partnership

San Diego County is home to over 3 million residents. Unemployment is under 4 percent and economic growth is driven by innovation and expansion in the life sciences, technology, manufacturing, defense, and tourism industries, generating historical levels of wealth and prosperity. But not all residents have had equal opportunities to benefit. Talent and housing shortages have hampered a regional shared prosperity. Deep ties with the Mexican economy are under threat. 43,000 (or 10%) of young adults aged 16-24 are disconnected from work and school. Now more than ever, we must lead in the growing space between economic development and workforce equity.

Strategic Planning

For the last 24 months, San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) has worked with our newly established WIOA Workforce Development Board to outline our organization's 10 core workforce tenets. Using these tenets and beginning in July of 2016, SDWP partnered with the San Diego Imperial County Community College Association (SDICCA), which represents six community college districts and 11 campuses in San Diego and Imperial County, as well as the Imperial County WDB to work with the leaders of the core partners, 11 community colleges, County of San Diego leaders, K-12, economic development, non-profits and other partners through three strategic planning sessions.

These interactive sessions included voting, input, and feedback from over 600 San Diego leaders and stakeholders. As a result of this joint strategic planning, core and implementing partners have agreed on eight core tenets, which will be included in each of their respective plans and strategic documents over the next four years, including SDWP's WIOA regional and local plan, the Imperial County's WIOA regional and local plan, and the SDICCA Strong Workforce plan that will guide $45M in annual workforce development investments in San Diego and Imperial Counties from the two WDBs and the 11 community college campuses.

Integrated Planning

SDWP leadership regularly leads all WIOA consortium meetings to discuss further alignment between these partners, with a particularly focus in the topic areas of

  • Strengthening infrastructure and co-location,
  • Aligning performance metrics and data sharing, and
  • Creating a unified single career-readiness / skills assessment tool.

On June 30, 2016, SDWP executed the WIOA Partners MOU Phase I between the local workforce development board, our six California American Job Centers (AJCCs), and the 17 other required WIOA partners to work together to provide seamless and integrated employment, and educational and human services for all San Diegans.

The MOU established a cooperative working relationship between the parties and defined the respective roles and responsibilities to ensure that every one-stop customer has access to each partner's resources. The overarching goals of partner alignment include:

  • Fostering demand-driven skills attainment,
  • Enabling upward mobility for all Californians, and
  • Aligning, coordinating, and integrating programs and services (e.g. employment, basic educational or occupational skills, post-secondary certificate or degree, employer hiring, etc.)

Sector Strategies

SDWP is actively coordinating industry engagement and developing a single-entry point for business customers. We have begun establishment of a strong, diverse advisory council model for each sector, starting with information and communications technology (ICT), retail, and healthcare, made up of employers and educators from San Diego and Imperial counties. Each council will inform the development of a skills-based competency model that maps career paths, highlighting key credentials and further defining the specific skills needed to excel. This includes defining acceptable alternatives to college degrees to lower real or perceived barriers to entry.

This work will be infused into the Americas Job Center (AJC) system to help AJCs better prepare workers and ensure training job seekers receive is aligned with local industry needs. Our research demonstrates that soft-skill development is critical and thus have begun to launch a learning and development toolkit to build capacity within the workforce through the use of LinkedIn learning and mentoring opportunities. This includes a plan to build out sector-specific training pathways within the LinkedIn tool to bring a level of standardization to the region and aid in the transferability of skills if/when workers move between organizations or counties.


SDWP began WIOA implementation by doing a comprehensive review and complete restructuring of our governance model. Until WIOA, the SDWP had a three-board structure:

  • Policy Board: 5 members; two county supervisors, two city councilmembers and one community member seat (United Way CEO)
  • Workforce Investment Board (WIB): 49 members
  • Nonprofit (501c3) Board: 15 members

Under WIOA, we now have a two-board structure:

  • Policy Board: same membership. New members and great engagement.
  • Workforce Development Board – merged with the 501c3: 25 total members – business led with key C-level influential members throughout the region.

These changes have created a strategic board engaged in key decision making during and between meetings and driving significant changes to our ETPL policy, AJCC operations, and youth contracting structure. The board also has focused on diversifying revenue with local and philanthropic opportunities – SDWP now oversees 49 different funding streams, up from 29 last fiscal year.

Youth Services

San Diego faces a crisis in that more than 43,000 young adults living in the county ages 16-24 are not working or in school. SDWP serves thousands of young people in San Diego County through our WIOA-funded providers and locally funded CONNECT2Careers programs. Our system helps match each young person’s strengths, interests, and values with needs of San Diego’s fastest growing sectors, promoting both income mobility and economic prosperity in our region. Last year, SDWP exceeded goals and served 9,631 youth and placed 2,111 in paid work experience.

SDWP shifted how we procured our youth system into two categories. The first category focuses on allocating more than 80 percent of our WIOA funding to serve out-of-school youth. The second category, conducted with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, serves all in-school and out-of-school foster youth. With this new blended funding SDWP released a systems-change initiative with our first youth summit named "Flip the Script." Over 500 San Diego youth, parents, educators, providers, funders, businesses, government leaders, elected officials, and others met to promote awareness of San Diego's opportunity youth and outline an action plan that would ‘cut the rate’ and ‘halve the gap’ by 2020.

Business Services

SDWP is exploring a streamlined approach to business services not based on programs (AJCCs, CONNECT2Careers, etc.), but rather focused on meeting the needs of the business customer quickly and effectively through rapid employer assessment.

We are piloting an innovative training model with the community college system called Tech Hire that aims to level the playing field for tech jobs. In collaboration with the City of San Diego, the San Diego Workforce Partnership is leading TechHire San Diego to match participants from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) fields with training and employment. We are also using customized training (CT) as a powerful tool to provide hands-on learning and are implementing multi-company CT programs to target needs within small and mid-sized business.

Finally, we believe co-funding models are critical to the sustainability of sector strategies and all business services efforts; as such, we aim to create an outcomes-focused funding structure which will serve both apprenticeship and other work-based learning such as pre-apprenticeship, customized training, or on-the-job training. This builds on our outcomes-focused work in the youth space where we were the first WDB in California to move a contract to a pay-for-performance model.

Career Pathways

SDWP has a priority sector strategy and has leveraged our deep relationships with community colleges, state colleges, and universities to identify existing courses and programs that provide low barrier to entry and high level of growth in the field through stackable credentials and certifications. Our commitment to higher education partnerships provides us with working relationships through advisory groups, boards, and consortiums to identify and map these pathways, and influence the development of new programs and courses based on our business community needs and requests.

One example is in the technology field. Working with a local community college and CompTIA a program is being launched in 2018 from existing and new courses to provide entry level A+ certifications with embedded English language learning for our refugee and immigrant populations. The expectation is a first cohort of 15 completing the course in eight weeks. Completion of this certification allows the participants to begin a career in the IT sector and is the foundation for multiple career paths.

Integrated Program Delivery

One of SDWP's key responsibilities is to make sure our AJCCs are meeting the employment needs of employers and job seekers and that our system is progressing in the quality of our service delivery. SDWP ensures continuous improvement through a multi-pronged approach that includes in-person reviews, twice yearly external monitoring for both programmatic and fiscal outcomes, regular customer satisfaction surveys, and monthly collaboration meetings between providers and partners focused on information sharing and process improvement. It also includes special projects that target specific improvements, such as the deployment of an innovative technology solution for training funds, engaging in human-centered design projects, or transformation of customer communications through partnership with Code for America.

SDWP is committed to continuously making monitoring more holistic, leveraging synergies across programs, and increasing the feedback loops from customers into the process to drive improvements. SDWP was honored to have our VP of Operations, Andrew Picard, selected by the Department of Labor to join Virginia Hamilton on the WIOA National Convening speaking tour to share our local area's work in human-centered design and integrating services at our one-stop center. We share our practices in continuous improvement both locally with system partners and nationally with other local boards.

Program Data

In recognition of the successful implementation of program outcomes, the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) named SDWP a High-Performance Local Board in 2015, 2016, and 2017. A certification of “High-Performance” recognizes SDWP as exceeding the minimum performance requirements set for all California workforce development boards and successful implementation of the governor’s workforce development plan.

In FY 15/16, SDWP’s annual budget was $35M, with approximately $23M coming from WIOA Adult, Dislocated Workers, and Youth funding. The remaining $12M came from competitive federal, state, local, and private grants. Over the last three years, SDWP has diversified our funding (we had 29 unique funding streams in FY 15/16, up from 22 in FY 14/15) while continuing to drive down our federally approved indirect cost rate, now at 8.8 percent. SDWP has embraced and actively pursued opportunities to fulfil the spirit of WIOA by thinking beyond our programs, diversify funding, and increasing operational efficiency.

The financial milestones above have let us serve more customers in new and innovative ways. In FY 15/16, we saw 159,018 customers in our American Job Centers and provided 1-1 support to 4,255 youth and 20,356 adults across all our programs. We also served 4,445 workers impacted by layoffs in San Diego County, and directly supported 5,339 customers that completed training and/or received credentials.

SDWP’s WIOA Adult and Dislocated Worker program exceeded all annual targets for new enrollments, job placements, average wages and training completions. For new enrollments, 1,210 new Adults and 1,350 new Dislocated Workers enrolled in PY15/16. Of those exiting, 766 Adults were placed in jobs (83.6% actual entered employment rate – above the 60.5% target negotiated with the state) and 1,020 Dislocated Workers were placed in jobs (87.3% actual entered employment rate – above the 73.5% target negotiated with the state).

The American Job Center system saw an overall average wage of $18.55/hour and 1,025 individuals complete a training program.

Our business services team offset over $2.4M in wages/training through TANF and WIOA funds and saved an estimated $2.3M for local businesses through our employee retention and business process improvement program.

Through our CONNECT2Careers program, we are able to serve all 16-24 year olds through a combination of WIOA Youth, City, County, and private funds. Collectively, we have enrolled and trained over 5,500 youth and young adults in 2016 and verified placements with over 3,200 in calendar year 2016, exceeding local and state goals and performance targets.

San Diego Workforce Partnership
Peter Callstrom
President and CEO
3910 University Avenue, Suite 400
San Diego, CA 92105

Phil Blair
Board Chair, San Diego Workforce Partnership
Executive Officer, Manpower of San Diego
1855 First Ave. Suite 300
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619.237.9900
Fax: 619.237.9981

WIOA Trailblazer Award Nominees

NAWB wishes to thank all Workforce Development Boards that submitted nominations for the WIOA Trailblazer award.  Click here for full nomination descriptions.

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