MENDing Poverty Conference Examines Job Market
The Fifth Annual MENDing Poverty Conference brought together 180 people on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 at MEND headquarters in Pacoima. This year’s theme was Where Are the Jobs?
The focus of the daylong conference was on the vital roles both employment and employment development services play in lifting people out of poverty. In hard economic times, with many supports for poor people tapped out or stretched very thin, efforts to help people find and keep jobs, especially those with decent wages and benefits, are more important than ever.
Morning keynote speaker Alicia Villarreal of the U. S. Department of Labor opened the conference with an overview of Federal programs for employment and training services. As Regional Representative, she spoke for labor secretary Hilda Solis in emphasizing the importance of concentrating national and local efforts on finding good jobs in a tough economy. Many of the current Federal programs are offered here in the Los Angeles region.
The next speaker, Christine Cooper of the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, offered local commentary on some of the same themes. She described the current economy in Los Angeles, identifying which industries have job openings now and which will have opportunities in the near future.
Following a break for networking, three workshops convened on the following topics:
- Doing More with Less: Workforce Policy and Current Economic Realities;
- Getting More: Innovative Employment Programs in Southern California;
- Nonprofit Financial Management: Volunteerism: Paths to Employment and Nonprofit Sustainability.
The conference concluded with a keynote speech by United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta. Fresh from receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Dolores Huerta inspired the audience with her call for action and advocacy, both by individuals and nonprofits. She talked both about the history of the farm labor movement in California and the current challenges faced by poor people in Los Angeles.
MEND and Valley Nonprofit Resources hosted the conference with support sponsors Kaiser Permanente, the California Wellness Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Office of Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, the Office of Councilmember Richard Alarcon, Pacific Federal, the California Endowment, and Wells Fargo Foundation. A Planning Committee co-chaired by James Garrison of Pacific Federal and Jocelyn Guihama of UCLA Center for Civil Society guided development of the conference.