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Partner Feature - Sonia Campos-Rivera with UNITE-LA

In today’s feature, we are thrilled to have Sonia Campos-Rivera, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at UNITE-LA, for a deep dive into her work focused on uplifting young Angelenos and promoting economic mobility. We’re honored to have UNITE-LA as an NCC partner as they provide economic opportunities for students and their families, guiding them from the cradle all the way through their careers.

What do you love most about California?

What sets California apart is the spirit of collaboration and creativity that permeates throughout the state. We are a community that acknowledges our shortcomings and is committed to addressing them collectively. This sense of unity is palpable, whether I'm connecting with colleagues in San Francisco or discussing state-wide challenges that impact us all. Together, we strive to innovate and integrate solutions that not only support our business community but also contribute to the sustainable growth of our economy.

In California, we encourage creative thinking and proactive engagement in tackling some of our toughest challenges. It’s this forward-thinking approach that fuels our collective efforts to enhance the state's economic landscape and ensure a prosperous future for all.

What advice do you have for Californians struggling to succeed and considering moving out of state?

It's undeniable that many Californians, including middle to upper-income Latinos, face significant challenges, particularly with affordability issues driving families out of state. If I had a magic wand, I’d say: Patience. There’s a collective effort among many of us to address these challenges head-on and find solutions that ensure California remains the Golden State many of us desire to remain in. However, the pressing nature of these issues often makes it difficult for families who need immediate resolutions, especially when considering their children’s futures.

I want to see things like housing and childcare, for example, be more accessible to Californians to strengthen our workforce. Businesses thrive when employees are not burdened by inaccessible childcare or unaffordable housing. Californians need to know that they are not alone in this and that there are concerted efforts underway to improve their quality of life, ensuring that California remains a desirable place to live.

Are you optimistic about California's future?

I'm absolutely optimistic about California's future. Despite the challenges we face, there is clear evidence of progress. Our per pupil investments have increased, graduation rates have improved, and our strategic investments in high-wage, high-growth sectors like healthcare and clean technology demonstrate our commitment to an inclusive and equitable future for all individuals.

Collaboration between businesses, community leaders, and advocacy groups continues to drive positive changes. My optimism is grounded not just in hope but in concrete actions and plans that are shaping a promising path forward for our state. We've seen tough times, like the Great Recession of 2008 to 2014, and we've also seen periods of recovery and surplus. Being strategic and fostering equitable opportunities remain pivotal as we move forward.

How is UNITE-LA working to advance equitable economic mobility for a diverse and rising Latino workforce in LA?

UNITE-LA is deeply committed to fostering opportunities that allow our youth, particularly in the Latino community, to thrive. Our approach is systemic; we strive to ensure our services are seamlessly aligned and supportive of our students’ needs

A key focus area for us is early education, recognizing the vital role teachers play as 'brain architects' for young dual language or English language learners. Despite their significant responsibilities, early childhood educators receive minimal compensation, which barely covers basic living expenses, pushing them to depend on social safety nets. We need better infrastructure for educating our children and compensating educators – because it will benefit our economy as a whole.

UNITE-LA is also actively involved in sectors like clean tech and healthcare, implementing programs with an equity lens to ensure that state resources expand opportunities effectively. We aim to connect these high-growth areas with our communities, making sure that even high school students are aware of and prepared for these opportunities.

What should the business sector do to prepare, support, and absorb the future workforce?

UNITE-LA’s approach to engaging business partners involves a three-pronged strategy: policy, programs, and systems. This framework enables us to effectively collaborate with businesses on critical regional issues through advocacy, investment and internship opportunities that address immediate and long-term needs of the community.

By focusing on these strategies, businesses can significantly contribute to building a robust workforce, prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead, ensuring that California remains a thriving state for all its residents. UNITE-LA is proud to serve as an intermediary between business and education leaders to ensure a channel of communications exists between both to help each understand how to prepare and support our students for a 21st century economy.