OPINION – I have been fighting for a state workforce that reflects the diversity of our state and community. With many state workers approaching retirement and an increase in available state jobs, I wanted to be sure the opportunity to get state jobs included minority communities in the Sacramento region.

Last summer I called the state’s Department of Human Resources (CalHR) and Government Operations to a hearing at the state capitol, along with employee and civil rights leaders, to ask what was being done to achieve a diverse workforce.

CalHR reported they are working on a Civil Service Improvement Initiative to incorporate equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies into all aspects of civil service. But that was not enough for me and many advocates. We wanted job opportunities brought to our communities now.

I immediately got to work, along with state government departments that oversee state hiring, and a whole host of organizations like the Black Advocates in State Services, the Services Employees International Union and the League of United Latin American Citizens. Our goal was simple: to help the many talented people, right here in our own backyard, to have a chance to get a state job.

Starting in March, I held eight workshops in community sites such as the Sam & Bonnie Pannell Center in Meadowview and the La Familia Counseling Center, in historically underrepresented areas.   The workshops were free and open to the public and offered a real opportunity to people of color.  Over 1,000 people attended and came away with a better understanding of how the state hiring process works and a plan on how to get started on a career in state service.

They learned how the state civil service process works, an overview of the all-important website, and helpful pointers and preparation for the state exam and interviews.

There are businesses in California that do this service for job seekers for a fee. And of course, those who can afford to pay have a leg up on everyone else. We thought: why can’t we tap into the talents of underserved communities by doing this service for people for free? By taking the mystery out of the process, we are not only helping to recruit more good applicants, we are also helping to bring more diversity to our workforce.

For populations of people who continue to suffer racial and economic inequalities, providing an opportunity is imperative. While this effort is a great start, I am also continuing to work with CalHR to develop their long-term strategy to address our diversity gap in state service.

At the hearing last summer, CalHR reported that in 10 years, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the state’s workforce.  Without a change in the status quo, the diversity gap will widen.  Now is the time to take action and change policies that will lead to an innovative, high-performing workforce that is capable of addressing the diverse needs of California.
By Dr. Richard Pan
State Senator 6th District