Historically, solving the formula of closing the gap between workforce development and workforce needs has never been simple. But it’s always been extremely important.

That importance was exactly why a company called Tomorrow’s Talent teamed up with San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC) on April 22 for the first-ever “Our Students / Your Talent” Industry Summit.

The Our Students / Your Talent Industry Summit was a seminar held at SBVC for local trade groups to learn how to improve their methods of connecting with college-age students. It brought together business leaders and educators from all over the region for the sole purpose of expanding opportunities for SBVC students.

Dr. Dina Humble, SBVC’s Vice President of Instruction, was one of the featured speakers at the event. Humble felt the event was the perfect combination of positive energy by area workforce leaders and ambition of SBVC students and leaders to create sustainable, solid ways to fill those gaps.

“Industry relationships and partnerships with San Bernardino Valley College are critical in the education, training, and upskilling of our community workforce,” said Humble. industrysummit“The one-of-a-kind event brought together educators, businesses in the region, and community members whose focus is on uplifting the community and providing pathways for students and employees to earn a living wage. “It’s crucial that businesses know who our students are, what’s important to them, and how to attract and retain them as employees.”

During the event, seating was mixed to encourage networking and time was set aside to let participants talk about their programs and pitch ideas to one another. Toward the end of the event, various employers met with college representatives for an impromptu tour of SBVC’s training labs.

According to Jennifer McDaniel, Director of Operations and Workforce Development for Tomorrow’s Talent, multiple employers reached out to her demonstrating interest in developing on-site work-based learning opportunities in paid internships and registered apprenticeships.

“San Bernardino Valley College has shown incredible foresight and leadership in their efforts to close this gap and bridge their students to the world of work ready to impress and go beyond what is asked of them,” McDaniel said. “This first Industry Summit brought industry professionals and business leaders from across the region to work collaboratively with SBVC and form a shared vision of workforce development.”

According to SBVC leadership, event outcomes included nurturing of relationships, forming partnerships, internships and apprenticeships, and finally, collaborating on curriculum content to ensure that students are learning what the industries in the region require.

In light of that, McDaniel mentioned a sobering detail about the oftentimes conflicting perceptions between higher ed’s take on the quality of their workforce preparation programs versus industry perceptions.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world and upended the entire workforce, McDaniel cited a Gallup poll of Educational Leaders, (such as principals, superintendents, deans and college presidents) that asked how well they thought the education system did at preparing students for the world of work. According to the poll, 96 percent of those educational leaders said they thought their systems did a great job.

However, when Gallup asked business leaders how well they felt the education system did at preparing entry level employees, only 11 percent answered favorably.

“This is the gap that must be bridged for students to find success after graduation and it has only gotten worse during the last few years of tumult and change,” added McDaniel. “And that’s why this event was so important. And why it had to be successful. And we feel it absolutely was. On both sides.”