The economic and social progress of the North San Joaquin Valley was discussed at an annual conference Dec. 4 in Stockton, with a special focus on helping workers gain the skills they need for jobs today and into the future.

This was the fifth year University of the Pacific’s Center for Business and Policy Research has presented the State of the North San Joaquin Valley Conference. It is the fourth year of using the event to release the North San Joaquin Valley Index to underscore economic and social indicators for San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Merced counties.

“The index highlights the emerging and developing economic issues, as well as the economic and demographic outlooks for a three-county region that needs more recognition as a unique and important place in California,” said Jeffrey Michael, CBPR’s executive director. “The index and the conference are tools for building regional identity and for sparking collaboration on economic development to enhance the quality of life in the region.”

Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs’ keynote address discussed transforming employment opportunities in Stockton and the city’s Workforce Development Action Plan.

“It is important that we focus and prepare for the changing trends in our economic future,” Tubbs said. “We must situate Stockton and our greater region to build upon local advantages such as our port, our proximity to the Bay Area and our easy access to major transportation routes, all while providing our community with tools needed to fulfill the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow.”

Finding skilled workers is a major concern of small business owners, according to a CBPR survey. A panel discussion on “Transforming Skills Ecosystems in the NSJV” followed the keynote address.

“This three-county region faces a multitude of challenges as well as opportunities to transform its skills ecosystem and make sure there are more skilled workers,” said Thomas Pogue, CBPR’s associated director, who moderated the expert panel. That panel will include Linda Bidrossian, senior vice president of the Bay Area Council; Robert Tibbs, founder and CEO of ConSol-USA; and Ann Rogan, FUSE executive fellow in the mayor’s office.

JP Morgan Chace and Co., Pacific Gas and Electric and San Joaquin Council of Governments co-sponsored the event.