Soapbox

Workers need more training to succeed in “gig” economy. In Stockton and Richmond, they’ll get it.

Ian Hopps, a “gig” economy worker, looks at his laptop at a downtown Sacramento coffee shop in March 2017.
Ian Hopps, a “gig” economy worker, looks at his laptop at a downtown Sacramento coffee shop in March 2017. Sacramento Bee file

Throughout California and across the nation, the nature of work is changing. Long gone are the days of gold watch retirements after decades at the same company. Instead, the average worker stays in a job for 4.6 years, and just 3.2 years for millennials.

More and more people are forgoing conventional jobs altogether for freelance work in the “gig” economy. But not all “gigs” are created equal.

 
Opinion

While ridesharing or delivery may provide good short-term opportunity, skilled independent work is more sustainable and fulfilling. These workers might be graphic designers, copywriters, web developers, digital marketers, wedding musicians, or animators. There are more than 10 million of these independent contractors, but growth in this sector has been concentrated in major metropolitan areas and among those with early access to digital tools.

As the mayors of Stockton and Richmond – cities that may be a stone’s throw from the innovation and wealth of Silicon Valley but often feel worlds away – we believe that all local economies can benefit from growth in the independent economy with the right tools necessary for people to succeed.

That’s why our two cities have partnered to launch the Digital Workforce Development Initiative on Friday in Richmond and July 28 in Stockton to grow our independent economies with training and support, particularly among the underemployed and underserved.

Program participants will have the chance to develop important building blocks to success in the new economy, including the basics of freelancing (everything from writing job proposals and contracts to managing project timelines). They will have access to courses to constantly gain broader skills and to a wide array of digital and live tools, including a mentorship program.

This is forward-thinking workforce development, which is increasingly important as the economy becomes more segmented, specialized and automated. The benefits extend far beyond freelancers themselves to bolstering the creative class and keeping entrepreneurs local.

And by plugging local independent workers into the global marketplace, freelancers can stay in their own communities, near their families. This means more time for civic participation and more time to care for a child or an aging loved one.

Richmond and Stockton are both great places to live, offering many conveniences and advantages to business, both large and small; we’re the California Dream without the congestion or expense. And when you have the tools you need to grow your own business and access the rest of the world, then why ever leave?

Michael Tubbs is the mayor of Stockton and can be contacted at mayor@stocktonca.gov. Tom Butt is the mayor of Richmond and can be contacted at tom.butt@intres.com.

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