North Bay Business Journal

Monday, February 24, 2014, 6:07 am

Welcome to SSU Economic Outlook 2014

By Dr. William Silver

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    Greetings! As the North Bay rides a new wave of slow economic progress, we find that an old issue continues to challenge our businesses: Where will we find the talent to fuel our growth? 

    Sonoma State’s School of Business and Economics is pleased to partner with the North Bay Business Journal to present this year’s Economic Outlook Conference — Workforce 20/20 — a look ahead into the future of talent in the North Bay. The conference, which covered many of the topics in this special section, was held Feb. 19 at Sonoma State University.

    As the dean of the School of Business and Economics, I sit at the nexus of a “talent juxtaposition.” On one side I hear from North Bay business leaders who consistently share their frustration with finding the employees they need to fulfill key positions in their organizations. On the other side, I work on a campus where we have over 9,000 students each day coming to classes to learn the skills they need to be strong contributors to our workforce and our community. And we also have over 60,000 alums in our network, many of whom would enjoy working in the North Bay — and many of whom are already doing so.

    Given this pool of bright, motivated, and capable people, is there really a talent shortage? Is the workforce we need to be successful in 2020 already here?

    From my perspective, the answer to both questions paradoxically is “yes.” The talent gap is real, but SSU can help to close it very quickly by building educational programs which provide relevant skills for the workforce needs of the present and future, by directly collaborating with employers to help them access the talent they need, and by delivering educational experiences that will ensure that our students are “ready.” 

    Relevant programs

    The keynote speaker for our conference, Chancellor Timothy White of the California State University system, addressed how the world’s largest public university system is undertaking the mission of developing a relevant workforce on a state-wide level. The CSU is the largest source of California’s skilled diverse workforce, providing thousands of graduates in hundreds of fields each year. This powerful resource has and will continue to provide the foundation for the success of California’s businesses in a global economy.

    Closer to home, here at Sonoma State University we are constantly evolving our programs to serve the needs of the North Bay region we serve. This spring we are offering several new skill-based certificate programs based on specific gaps identified by our business partners. The Professional Social Media Certificate provides participants with training and experience developing a social media campaign in their industry.

    The Professionals Sales Certificate offers participants a hands-on experience in applying critical communication tools and sales strategies to various aspects of the sales process including prospecting, stakeholder meetings, and formal presentations of products/services, to create valuable and viable solutions for organizations. And the Hospitality and Tourism Certificate Program will support the burgeoning talent demand in this fast growing industry sector by preparing participants with the planning, marketing and fundamental operation skills needed in hospitality and tourism businesses.

    Accessing SSU’s student and alumni talent

    Beyond classes, we have a full service Career Center (sonoma.edu/sbe/careers-and-internships) which not only enhances the employability of our students, but also can work directly with you to match your hiring needs with the talents of SSU students and alumni. Our annual Career and Internship Expo is a prime venue for employers and internship sponsors to meet graduating seniors, recruit qualified juniors and seniors to fill internships, and get an early look at freshmen and sophomores as they begin their journey towards a career search.

    Our Mentor Program provides an opportunity for business leaders to impart real-world experiences to those embarking on careers for the first time, and to acquaint themselves with potential future employees. We also provide job posting and customized recruiting solutions to access our student and alumni networks. Our internship program is a low-risk opportunity to experience a potential career hiring while they perform a special project or company specific job assignments. The solution to many of your workforce requirements may already be in the area, on the Sonoma State campus. Reach out to us to learn how we can help with your hiring needs.

    Launching entrepreneurial careers and businesses

    One of the most exciting developments on SSU’s campus is the growth of courses, activities, and programs focused on entrepreneurship. We are leading an entrepreneurial movement in education that will transform our educational system, launch and support entrepreneurial careers and businesses, and accelerate entrepreneurial action in the North Bay. We have launched an entrepreneurialism in education curriculum which re-imagines the role of educators from teachers to educational entrepreneurs, focused on instilling the four Cs of 21st century education (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity) in our students. 

    The goal is not simply to launch new businesses in the North Bay (although we will encourage and support these ventures!), but to graduate students who are relevant -ready to be strong leaders and contributors to the organizations in which they work, and the communities in which they live. Entrepreneurial thinking general education courses, senior project design classes, a student-run market day, lean start-up entrepreneurship courses, a creative arts and digital media entrepreneurship certificate, the start-up 101 incubator process — these are some of the new classes and initiatives which SSU has undertaken to help eliminate the talent gap.

    $100,000 entrepreneurialism gift

    In support of these efforts, I am pleased to announce a $100,000 gift to the Sonoma State University from Dennis and Susan Gilardi to seed the development of a campus community focused on entrepreneurial learning and leadership. This generous gift will help us graduate Sonoma State students with the entrepreneurial drive to dream of new business ideas, and the technical skills and practical experience to bring them to market.

    Through entrepreneurship education students learn flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction, social and cross-cultural skills, productivity and accountability, leadership and responsibility. The programs established with the Gilardi gift will help us cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurial thinkers for the North Bay and prepare our students to succeed in our emerging entrepreneurial economy. We are grateful to the Gilardis for this gift and their investment in the North Bay’s future.

    And we are grateful to you, for your interest in Sonoma State University, and for joining in on the Workforce 20/20 dialogue.

    William S. Silver, PhD
    Dean, School of Business and Economics
    Sonoma State University

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