New Year's Message from Executive Director Dr. Su Jin Gatlin Jez

by Su Jin Gatlin Jez

Executive Director


Topics: Race and Ethnicity, State Coordination, Ed Equity, Adults, COVID-19, Workforce, Online Education, Student Parents


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

On behalf of California Competes’s Leadership Council and staff, I wish everyone a happy New Year.

While the past couple of years presented a confluence of challenges and uncertainty, I am struck by the perseverance and solidarity among partners—both new and old—to drive community impact. I step into 2022 with optimism that together we can and will build a brighter and stronger future for California.

Reflections on 2021

2021 was a special year for California Competes as it marked a decade of driving meaningful change across the state’s postsecondary and workforce systems.

Throughout our landmark year, we worked with steadfast dedication to address the state’s complex social and economic problems. Our evidence-based counsel included:

  • advising the development of the Cradle-to-Career Data System and guiding states nationwide in the equitable use of data;
  • driving public conversations on expanding higher education access to the millions of adults without college degrees, including those with dependent children;
  • advancing more consistent, comprehensive, and equitable use of credit for prior learning;
  • elevating the effective use of competency-based education to improve access and outcomes for working learners; and
  • guiding higher education leaders to thoughtfully integrate career readiness and workforce alignment in their planning, processes, and structures.

We have served as a trusted advisor, providing data, evidence, and partnership, to support our state and its institutions in creating and implementing policies that center equity and help communities thrive.

Onward to 2022

As California Competes begins its second decade of driving system-level change, a few things are certain. Our commitment to strengthening pathways so all Californians have access to higher education and career opportunities is stronger than ever–especially as the pandemic exacerbates long-standing disparities. With the state’s historic budget surplus last year and predictions of another surplus this year, we have a real opportunity to reimagine higher education to bolster California’s economy and communities. In 2022, we will work to advance policies and practices centered on our state’s areas of highest need that stand to bring the greatest impact. A few highlights on what California Competes has in store for 2022 include:

  • Providing a Clearer Picture of the State of Opportunity Across California. New metrics and updates to the California Postsecondary to Prosperity Dashboard will allow stakeholders to easily identify gaps, assess need, and drive change. We’ll use our expertise here to help stand up the Cradle-to-Career Data System in a fashion that effectively creates better education and workforce outcomes for all.
  • Reforming Education to Support Lifelong Learning. California Competes will increase its efforts to steer the public agenda and resources into higher education reforms that better address the needs of adult learners—most of whom are people of color and are key to meeting economic and community needs.
  • Advancing Employment through Further Engagement with Employers, Educators, and Students. Our work to strengthen the state’s higher education system only stands to reach so far without the foundational understanding of what happens on the ground level. Together with employers, students, faculty, postsecondary institutions, and workforce development partners, we will expand our network for better coordination and collective action in addressing inefficiencies across the education-to-work space.
  • Amplifying our Organizational Capacity for Impact. California Competes enters the new year with a fully staffed team. To fortify our foothold at the intersection of higher education, equity, and economy, we will continue making organizational changes to expand our influence.
  • Commemorating of a Decade of Igniting Change. In March, we will be celebrating our 10th anniversary with an evening reception with US Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal, co-hosted by key state legislators. Join us to reflect on our past, present, and future!

In 2022, we look forward to continued work with partners and advocates across the higher education ecosystem in facing the ongoing global crisis head on and innovating for a brighter future. Let us build on the momentum to emerge even stronger than before.

In partnership,

Su Jin Gatlin Jez, PhD
Executive Director
California Competes