By Tiffany Rider - Senior Writer
February 12, 2013 - As the economy remains in recovery, a national program continues assisting businesses and job seekers in Long Beach and surrounding cities. Established under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, this program is part of a workforce investment system managed by a board in each state. That board oversees leaders in designated workforce investment areas, of which there are 49 in California. The area including Long Beach – along with Signal Hill, Lomita and Torrance – is called the Pacific Gateway.
The Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Board (WIB) is the local board for the area, comprised of 43 members. A majority of those members represent businesses in the community; others represent local educational institutions, labor groups, community-based organizations and economic development agencies. Leading the Pacific Gateway WIB since last spring is David Gonzalez, a 25-year employee of the City of Long Beach. He has spent 23 of those years working in management positions, developing a managing style he describes as “participatory.”
In his role, Gonzalez is accountable to the WIB, its youth council and elected officials for process oversight, the work of employees and the success of programs and services offered to businesses and job seekers in the four-city region.
“I’ve been privileged to say that I have been able to go into other positions after three to five years, which is really nice because I’ve gotten to know the city really well,” Gonzalez said. “I’ve done administrative positions and program positions, so it’s been a great learning experience and this is, of course, a new one. The purpose here is great.”
Under Pacific Gateway are several areas of focus – from its Hire-A-Youth program that provides job training, internships and job placement for teens and young adults, to its bevy of business solutions programs, including tax credit programs, jobs training, recruitment services, small business assistance, business retention and more. Most of these programs have been in place since the “reconfiguration” of community development and economic development programs within the City of Long Beach, Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez came on board at a time when there were approximately 95 people working for the Pacific Gateway programs, 35 of whom were assigned to special projects. Because funds were dwindling, Gonzalez said he was forced to cut the special projects folks and five positions.
Funding challenges have forced Pacific Gateway WIB to explore other possible revenue streams. Over the past several years, Pacific Gateway has been working to establish a non-profit arm from the network through which employees could apply for grants to fund existing and future projects. Gonzalez said they finally received 501(c)3 non-profit status last November.
“Now that we’ve become a 501(c)3, I’m really excited because that gives us more opportunities to partner with other non-profits and collectively put together our strengths and hopefully get bigger dollars for the both of us to provide for our communities,” Gonzalez said.
Pacific Gateway’s mainstay funding source remains dollars allocated from Capitol Hill through the Workforce Investment Act, but Gonzalez admitted it is a small portion of what is needed to fund Pacific Gateway’s programs and services. Funding dictates adjustments to programs, he said. Pacific Gateway is currently developing its 2013-2014 Local Plan, which designates where funding should be applied based on need (see end of this story for details).
Through Pacific Gateway, businesses may apply for various state and federal tax credits and incentives – from the California Enterprise Zone (EZ) hiring tax credit for businesses operating within a designated EZ to the U.S. Work Opportunity Tax Credit for hiring candidates who qualify in designated target groups. City-sponsored loan programs, retail sales tax incentives and start-up grants are also available for qualified businesses.
The network also supports small businesses through a partnership with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative, a program operated by workforce investment board chair, Vivian Shimoyama. “It’s a nice partnership that we’ve created there,” Gonzalez said.
“Through Vivian’s assistance, they were able to identify the businesses that had gone through the Goldman Sachs program that were supportive of our digital commercial academy,” a youth program Pacific Gateway will begin this March, he said. The academy is two 14-week courses for students to be educated on how to develop digital media marketing products (think online commercials) for businesses.
Pacific Gateway's recruitment services help businesses find qualified applicants for individual hiring or mass hiring for five or more positions, selecting individuals at Pacific Gateway-coordinated hiring events or from its own pool of job seekers. Applicant pre-screenings – skill assessments and background checks – are also available. Businesses in Long Beach may post jobs through Pacific Gateway on HireLB.com, or look for qualified job candidates through a customized search option available on LongBeachVOS.org.
Job training services typically involve taking an employee out of a position at a company and having that person learn how to train future employees in collaboration with Pacific Gateway staff.
One example of such a partnershp occurred last year with Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Pacific Gateway applied for and received a $2.816 million job-training grant that allowed the hospital to offer positions and job training to students of Long Beach City College and Los Angeles Harbor College last March. “We’re hoping to do more of that as we look for other partnering opportunities,” Gonzalez said.
According to Erick Serrato, communications officer and grants specialist for Pacific Gateway, the network’s business retention program includes layoff aversion and rapid response assistance services. These are functions of all WIBs in the state.
“We, every year in July, are provided a baseline of funding from the state of WIA dollars, and that’s based on an interesting calculation of population thresholds and unemployment rates for the area,” Serrato said. “Part of that funding is designated for layoff aversion and rapid response activities.
Pacific Gateway has provided rapid response activities for both public and private organizations, from the City of Long Beach and Long Beach Unified School District to the United States Postal Service and Boeing. “The goal of that program is to catch individuals before they’re technically laid off and provide them with resources to make that transition to their new job as smooth as possible,” Serrato said.
Gonzalez said Pacific Gateway works with network partners to provide information on layoff aversion services to businesses, “should they be thinking of laying off or hiring people.” The two programs are designed to provide seamless transition for employees affected by downsizing.
In 2012, Pacific Gateway’s employment services served more than 9,000 people through one-on-one services centered on education and skills, career coaching, job readiness, training access and job development and placement, according to the city budget documents. That’s in addition to the more than 500 youth assisted in gaining work experience and more than 150 in obtaining jobs. Gonzalez defers the credit of these successes to the Pacific Gateway team, including Serrato.
“It has to be a collaborative, team effort,” Gonzalez. “We have a great team. On top of that, we have our boardmembers who are part of the effort. One of the things that I’m pleased that we’re all moving forward with is collaborating with our other workforce investment boards in the local area to identify what the best practices are. We can all share with each other.”
Pacific Gateway Hosts Public Forums On Development Of 2013-2014 Local Plan
In an effort to include business owners, nonprofit and workforce partners and other members of the public in the process, the Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network is hosting four forums to discuss the development of its 2013-2014 Local Plan. The plan outlines areas of service needed in the communities the network serves – Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lomita and Torrance – based on community feedback. Strategies are either validated or redefined, according to the workforce investment board executive director David Gonzalez. The plan dictates the funding levels for each program and is submitted to the state as part of the board’s re-certification.
The schedule of forums is as follows:
- February 27: Long Beach Career Transition Center, 3447 Atlantic Ave. from 9-11 a.m.
- March 6: U.S. Vets Building, 2001 River Ave., Long Beach, from 2-4 p.m.
- March 20: Goodwill SOLAC, 800 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, from 10 a.m. to noon.
- March 21: Katy Geissert Civic Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, from 10 a.m. to noon.
For more information, call 562/570-WORK (9675)