Business and Entrepreneurship Sector, powered by California Community Colleges

Employer Engagement Summit Tackles Disruptive Economy


Earlier this fall, Dr. Cathleen Greiner disrupted the traditional advisory board meeting to create an employer engagement summit focused on creating a deeper conversation about preparing students for a job market that is continuously transitioning and connecting employers, community college faculty and students and key regional partners.

The event was held on September 27 at Urban Workshop, an entrepreneurial makerspace in Costa Mesa. Dr. Greiner, Business and Entrepreneurship Regional Director in Orange County, said she wanted to move away from the traditional advisory board meeting and create something that would be more meaningful to faculty and employers and relevant to students, many of whom both attend school and are part of the workforce. With 300,000 students, nine (9) colleges and a contribution to the local economy nearing 6.5 billion dollars, OC community college students are a significant factor in the growth and changing nature of the region.

“I was looking for a way to make curriculum content relevant and build networks and connections,” Greiner said. “Students and faculty had a chance to network with employers to ask them what they were working on and what their next project would be.”

Students also had the opportunity to talk about their entrepreneurial journeys and how community college prepared them for a new way of thinking about business.

“We need to shake ourselves up to new ways of thinking,” Greiner said.  “Things don’t happen sequentially; they happen exponentially and at an accelerated pace…hearing about how students harness that mentality really excited people.”

Dr. Wallace Walrod, Lead economist and Chief Economic Advisor of the Orange County Business Council discussed the future of work, the impact of automation, and dimensions of defensibility with special emphasis on work values that include achievement, recognition, working conditions, and independence. Walrod said the skills most needed for today’s workforce include thinking skills, social skills, mindset/values and creativity.

The industry panel portion of the summit focused a discussion on the here and now reality of the disruptive economy. The panelists spoke on a variety of topics which included recent innovations in their respective industries, the various causes of disruption and its benefits, as well as the skills gap facing today’s incoming workforce. The panel was moderated by Todd Gasparick of Smart Planet Technologies and featured Ladan Davia, founder and CEO of job search engine Beeya; Cara Rafelle, vice president of marketing at cannabis company ManifestSeven; and TJ Kinion, program manager at coding boot camp Learningfuze.

“We’re looking at how we can tighten up the content on our pathways to make them more streamlined and relevant, while also aligning curriculum across the region and ensuring a sustainable inter-segmental framework with CSUF and UCI,” Greiner said.

Since the summit, Dr. Greiner and her team have had follow-up meetings with employers who are interested in continuing the entrepreneurship conversation and finding new ways to engage with students. She is planning to host a power breakfast in early December and another employer engagement event in the spring.

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