California Western’s staff have a long tradition of community involvement, volunteering in various capacities throughout San Diego.
David Blake, California Western’s Vice President of Human Resources, is a staff member committed to serving the community. Blake has recently been appointed to the San Diego County Workforce Development Board. The Board’s mission is to empower job seekers to meet the current and future workforce needs of employers.
“My involvement is as a representative of higher education but specifically as a representative of California Western,” says Blake. “I’m appointed there to help craft what the future of the workforce looks like in the greater San Diego area; so, whether that's entry-level jobs or more sophisticated level jobs we have a voice at that table to help understand how we use federal dollars that come to the city for workforce development training.”
Blake volunteers on a subcommittee of the Workforce Development Board that helps individuals who were previously incarcerated and are now making their way back into the workforce.
“That is a passion of mine,” says Blake.
Blake admits that it is a tough sell convincing an employer to hire previously incarcerated individuals. Part of the strategy says Blake is changing the vocabulary.
The language we use now is justice-involved says Blake.
“One of the most effective strategies,” he says, “is to make sure justice-involved individuals know how to have the conversation. How to have an open and honest conversation with a potential employer that convinces them to give that individual a chance.”
Blake references the work Prof. Justin Brooks does with the California Innocence Project as complementary to the work he does with the Board.
“These are individuals who were innocent and had no business being in prison,” says Blake. “But these individuals can still have a difficult time because the label was you were there, and some people are always going to second guess.”
Blake believes that when people don’t have the opportunity for meaningful work they will find alternative ways to provide for their families. As a society we best serve those in need when we provide pathways to skills training and gainful employment, he says.
“I believe everybody deserves a second chance.”