Alright – so today we’ve got the honor of introducing you to Peter Callstrom. We think you’ll enjoy our conversation, we’ve shared it below.
Peter, thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us today So, let’s start with a hypothetical – what would you change about the educational system?
Some of our most important and innovative work is about bringing together education and workforce in actionable and transformative ways. Very little is done to truly intersect education/workforce/career-preparation. There are 550 workforce boards in the country. We haven’t seen this done anywhere else. This collaboration shows how it can be tangibly done.
This as a critically important part of our future and how to help align students to the workforce – instead of the current broken approach where some make it thru, but many don’t – or have no idea what they want to do. When we do this well, students understand themselves, understand sectors/careers, and are motivated to pursue what might work best for them. This work can bring an end to the tragedy of youth disconnection, juvenile detention, and host of other social challenges that we face when education/workforce fails.
1. Materials: Poster Boards for schools (don’t reach students) and learning materials.
2. Online: career navigation tool (live data connected to O*Net and local career pathways)
3. In Person: The ‘Launch Pad’ with Cajon Valley (immersive and fun in-person experience). The school provides the space and we just provide our education materials and staff support. We have expanded the Launch Pad to multiple middle schools in the Cajon Valley district already.
“Cindy absolutely enjoyed this class and having you as her teacher! :) Career Explorations is awesome! It’s a class I think we’ve all been waiting for! I wish there would’ve been a class like this when I was in school. Thank you SO much for all your hard work and dedication to your students this year, you rock!”
Replicating is easy. The tools are in place. Just takes committed and open-minded partners/educators, staff time and resources to deploy, train, support.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
Peter is a nationally recognized leader in workforce and economic development. A sought-after speaker and thought leader, Peter is leading efforts to transform the public workforce system with innovative and measurable programs, bold thinking and real results.
Peter has led nonprofit organizations in the San Diego County region (6th largest county in the US with $3.4M residents in a very diverse economic ecosystem) since 1986 including services to people with disabilities, the homeless, and under- represented job seekers. He has led the SDWP since 2012. With an annual budget of $40M+ from multiple and investors (public, private sector, and philanthropy), the SDWP funds and delivers workforce services to train and support job seekers of all ages. With an emphasis on underserved populations and people with barriers to employment, but available to all job seekers, the SDWP and its funded partners services reach tens of thousands of job seekers annually. The SDWP is nationally recognized leader due to its many innovations, thought-leadership, community partnerships and use of technology that is redefining workforce development.
The SDWP conducts ongoing in-depth labor market information (LMI), releasing numerous studies to better understand economic needs and trends. In order to ensure that the data reaches the community, SDWP deployed created a custom-built online experience ‘MyNextMove’ to share content in a user-friendly platform that brings LMI to life. In addition, SDWP co-created the Launch Pad with the Cajon Valley school district: a hands-on immersive experience to inform and inspire students, teachers, job seekers and our community. Education and workforce development must be inextricably linked. The old approach must be disrupted. Potential is unrealized when students have no idea how their unique strengths, interests, and values map to a satisfying career. The SDWP transformed its use of LMI by incorporating an assessment model (RIASEC) that dramatically amplified their ability to inspire and inform job seekers with a common language. Peter has been at the forefront of these efforts and envisions this work as a demonstrable way to transform how education and workforce development must partner to empower our students and job seekers.
Under Peter’s leadership, the SDWP has significantly expanded and been awarded tens of millions in grants to serve our region. New projects: jobs program for disconnected/opportunity youth, justice involved, seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and more. Peter has led robust outreach and engagement: newsletters, website, social media, op-eds, and extensive media appearances and public speaking. Peter led the creation of Connect2Careers (C2C), the region’s youth employment program, with a focus on reaching disconnected youth.
The SDWP launched an Income Share Agreement (ISA) fund in 2018 – an innovative student financing model to create post-secondary pathways – the first and only workforce ISA in the country. The ISA is empowering adult learners to access the education and training needed to acquire the skills to transform their career and earning potential. The ‘pay it forward’ model creates an evergreen fund that enables future participants to succeed.
As CEO of ‘Partnerships With Industry – PWI’ for 15 years, Peter led PWI through tenfold growth. PWI provides vocational and community support services for adults with disabilities. Just prior to joining SDWP, Peter was the CEO of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH), the region’s information resource and leader on a myriad of issues related to homelessness. At the RTFH, Peter increased collaborative activities and impact with many groups and community leaders.
SDWP is the recipient of the ‘WIOA Trailblazer’ (of 550 workforce boards around the USA) by the National Association of Workforce Boards and the ‘Kaleidoscope’ award from USD Nonprofit Institute in recognition of excellent governance.
Peter was awarded nonprofit CEO of the year in 2021 by the San Diego Business Journal. In 2022, he was named an Aspen ‘Job Quality Fellow’ – working with other leaders to advance equity in the workplace.
Can you open up about how you funded your business?
In the public workforce development field, there are 550 ‘workforce boards’ that provide services throughout the country. Primarily funded by the federal government (Dept. of Labor), local boards use these resources to fund career centers that serve dislocated workers and anyone else who wants to reskill in order to advance their career options. The majority of these local boards are only funded with public funds and therefore have little impact and flexibility to innovate. At the San Diego Workforce Partnership, we have worked hard to attract new funds from the private sector and philanthropy. Thanks to multiple investors, we now have a very diverse budget that allows us pilot, test, and continuously innovate. Unique initiatives include: Cybersecurity training, Construction Career Jumpstart, Dental Assistant training, Connect2Careers – youth employment, Re-entry for justice-involved, K-12 career exploration resources, and much more. As a result of these efforts, we have been recognized by the National Association of Workforce Board (NAWB) as the most innovative board in the country.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
When I started a decade ago, I was told we are the ‘best-kept secret’. Unfortunately, it was true. While good work was occurring, few knew about our work, mission, or impact. We had no newsletter, no social media, and little external messaging. Since that time, we have worked to comprehensively and creatively message our work. Efforts include three distinct newsletters monthly, robust social media daily on all channels, extensive public speaking, press releases, an expansive website with quality content, media engagement on TV, podcasts, and radio, large convenings, thought-leadership content on many topics, and much more. As a result of our outreach, we have been able to engage innumerable new partners, funders, and supporters. Effective communications have helped to transform our ability to serve our region and advance our mission throughout the San Diego County region.
- Website: workforce.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sdworkforce_/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sdworkforce
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/peter-callstrom-ba69781b/
- Twitter: PeterACallstrom
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SDatWork
credits to San Diego Workforce Partnership