Doing What Matters for Jobs and Economy

Van Ton-QuinlivanVan Ton-Quinlivan is being honored as a Champion of Change for her efforts as an AAPI Women leader.


I immigrated to the United States with my family at the age of six from the Vietnam war. My journey shares the same national fabric many refer to as the American Dream.   And, as I recollect what enabled me to attain my current standing and level of achievement, credit goes to my schooling and education for opening key doors that enabled me my future. This acknowledgment is the core reason why I now work with great passion to answer President Obama’s call to close the skills gap between what employers want and those that American workers have.

I am the vice chancellor of workforce and economic development of California's system of 112 community colleges and our 2.4 million students. In this role, I work to transform the country's largest higher education system through my leadership focus on Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and Economy. My work emphasizes stackable credentials in sectors important to California’s regional economies. I work to unify once siloed policies so that students can find themselves more successful as they enter and stay in the workforce. By closing the skills gap, community colleges play a vital role in enabling the American Dream.

I came to this role as a recognized thought leader from the energy and utility industry, where I architected the best practice model PG&E PowerPathway™. PowerPathway demonstrated the type of collaboration between industry, the public workforce system, education, and organized labor that effectively transitions military veterans and members of underserved communities into energy sector jobs. I was one of five corporate leaders invited to the first White House Community College Summit and spoke at the inaugural Clinton Global Initiative-America focused on ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.’

Thomas Friedman quoted me in his September 8, 2012, article entitled “The New Rules.” In the same article, he wrote about the reality of today’s workforce. “The truth is, if you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life today you have to work harder, regularly reinvent yourself, obtain at least some form of postsecondary education, make sure that you’re engaged in lifelong learning and play by the rules.” I hope that through my work with the community colleges, I will keep open the doors to jobs and the economy for others the way others have opened doors for me.

Van Ton-Quinlivan is vice chancellor for workforce and economic development for California’s Community Colleges.

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