workforce & Education

The mission of EconAlliance is building awareness, advocacy, and appreciation of Northern Santa Barbara County industries and communities.

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Workforce Development & Education 


Eddie Taylor, CEO

United Way NSBC


Vicki Conner, EconAlliance Initiatives Director



Econalliance Logo United Way LogoPeople Self-Help HousingFirst5 Allan Hancock College Santa Maria Times

What is WALI?

The Workforce and Literacy Initiative (WALI) is a regional collective impact effort to collaboratively articulate and achieve five distinct workforce and literacy goals* to improve economic prosperity and quality of life in Northern Santa Barbara County. WALI is being co-led by the United Way NSBC and EconAlliance with numerous North County partners, including Allan Hancock College.


Of Northern Santa Barbara County residents, 23% live in poverty, 25% have no high school diploma and 42% are English language learners. Attainment of higher education degrees has dropped 19% over the last decade and 62% of students entering Allan Hancock College do not read at high school grade level. Nationally, 75% of state prison inmates, and 59% of federal prison inmates did not finish high school or can be classified as “low literate”. According to, a 1% increase in literacy translates to a 1.5% permanent increase in GDP.

Download Wali Info


Current and Recent Activities

Upcoming Event Wake Up to WALI! WALI Spring Forum 2018: Click Here to View Flyer

EconAlliance STEM Industry Day Camp Recap: Click Here to Review STEM Day Camp

Click to View Recap of Spring WALI Forum

May 3, 2017 WALI Forum to Feature Allan Hancock College’s Pres/Supt Kevin Walthers on Expansion of 4-Yr Degrees in North County!

With Cal Poly, UCSB and CSU Channel Islands relatively close to North County, why aren’t 4-yr degrees more accessible to local students? This subject and how we might address it is the topic of Dr. Kevin Walther’s presentation on the expansion of 4-year degrees at the Wednesday, May 3rd Workforce Development & Literacy (WALI) Forum. The Forum will be held from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. at the Santa Maria Inn.

Also on tap for the Forum will be a panel of local school district superintendents to share success stories and how the community can help support the advancement of literacy and workforce development. Panelists:

Deborah Blow, Supt., Orcutt Union School District

Ed Cora, Supt., Guadalupe Union School District

Kathi Froemming, Asst. Supt., Lompoc Unified School District

Luke Ontiveros, Supt., Santa Maria-Bonita School District

Mark Richardson, Supt., Santa Maria Joint Union High School District

In addition, WALI organizers will be sharing information about the WALI-inspired “Working Neighborhoods Initiative”, as well as updated regional data.

Event flyer can be accessed here Click Here for Flyer

Registration for May 3rd WALI Forum is at:

Click Here to Register

Or contact Victoria Conner, initiatives@EconAlliance, 805-345-0688

View Recap From Recent WALI Events

“Wake Up to WALI” December 8th!

The next Workforce & Literacy Initiative (WALI) semi-annual forum is scheduled for 7:30 – 9:30 a.m. at the Los Adobes de Maria Community Room of the Peoples’ Self-Help Housing Community in Santa Maria.* Employers, educators, workforce and economic stakeholders are all invited. RSVP to (Forum registration $25). While Lompoc stakeholders are invited December 8th, there will be a repeat forum in January in Lompoc, date and location: TBA.

Click to view Program from WAKE UP TO WALI Breakfast December 8, 2016

1148 W. Boone, corner of Boone & Blosser

Agenda will include:

—-Annual data on progress toward WALI 2020 collective goals

—-Overview of Countywide child care issue and Santa Barbara Resource & Referral programs in progress

—-Overview of “Working Neighborhoods Initiative”, a collaborative education and workforce effort of ten North County partners designed for six North County neighborhoods

—-WALI Success Stories

WALI is a collective impact effort of North County nonprofits, educators, workforce professionals and economic stakeholders working collaboratively to improve literacy rates and develop the foundation for a 21st Century workforce by 2020. Spearheaded by United Way and EconAlliance, WALI partners include Allan Hancock College, the WARE Group, Santa Maria Times/Lee Newspapers, Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, Laurus College, and others. For list of WALI 2020 goals, see

EconAlliance Helps Spearhead, Seek Funding for “Working Neighborhoods Initiative”

In cooperation with Peoples’ Self-Help Housing and United Way NSBC, EconAlliance has helped design the Working Neighborhoods Initiative (WNI), a broad-based collaboration of ten regional partners providing literacy, workforce, STEM and life skills programs targeting six low-income North County neighborhoods (five of which are Peoples’ Self-Help Housing communities). Program elements include numerous projects in several different areas – STARTSmart, READSmart, STEMStart, WORKSmart and PROSPERITY!

Working Neighborhoods Initiative current partners (both inkind and those to be funded) include:

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing, United Way NSBC, EconAlliance, Santa Barbara County Resource & Referral, Allan Hancock College, Central Coast Literacy Council, Women’s Economic Ventures, Academic Scholar, Lompoc Co-Op, and AmeriCorps. WNI discussions are also being scheduled with People Helping People and Lompoc Adult School.

WNI program overview:

STARTSmart (onsite child care provider licensing, business planning, and ongoing support, parent support)

READSmart (onsite adult English language acquisition, adult literacy, after-school student grade level literacy)

STEMSmart (onsite after-school robotics 4th-8th grade and high school, Summer College Camp at Allan Hancock College and STEM Action Camp onsite and at various employer locations)

WORKSmart (workforce readiness for neighborhood residents featuring onsite workshops on: regional Industry & Career Awareness, regional Career & Education Resources, Employment Search/Successful Applications and Job Interviewing. WORKSmart includes Job & Career assessments for both students and adults engaged in WNI literacy program)

The WNI “PROSPERITY!” element features Financial Literacy (2 workshops), Entrepreneurship and Co-Op Business Ownership workshops, as well as outreach to neighborhood veterans to attend all the WNI community workshops listed above.

WNI partners are currently refining programs, soliciting funding and in some cases recruiting volunteers and subject matter experts to implement the Northern Santa Barbara County Working Neighborhoods Initiative. Email initiatives@EconAlliance with any questions or information.

Past Activities

Recap of WALI January 2016 Event

August 2014 Literacy Summit bringing together leading United Way, state and regional education and economic development voices to help chart a path, through civic and key stakeholder engagement (small group breakouts), towards significantly increasing on-time student graduation and regional STEM career pathways, as well as significantly decreasing the number of students reading below proficient levels in every grade

WALI Advisory Groups

Employer/Educator/Workforce Development Advisory Group

Tony Bauer, Santa Barbara County Office of Education ROP Director

Theresa Binney, Coast Hills Credit Union Branch Manager, Santa Maria

Nadia Brizzolara-Frakes, SMV YMCA

Holly Chavez, Allan Hancock College Director of Inst’l Planning

Lugdy Cueva, LMC Consulting

Krista Delia, North County Volunteer Corps & SMV YMCA

Susan Hersberger, Aera Energy LLC Public Affairs/Project Manager

Vicki Kelly, Cal Lutheran University Program Director

Victoria Lopez, Santa Maria High School Counselor

Eva Macias

Leslie Miller, Brandman University Community Relations Manager

Cecilia Mortela, Laurus College

Anne Rampone, Coast Hills Credit Union Business Development Officer

Mike Welch, Hardy Diagnostics HR Director

Devika Stalling, United Boys & Girls Club

Grace Schoch Manzano, EDD Workforce Service Manager

Jeri Wynn, Santa Barbara County Office of Education ROP Program Manager

(805) 254-4479
540 E. Betteravia Rd., #D234 

Santa Maria, CA 93454

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EconAlliance is an organization building awareness, advocacy, and appreciation of Northern Santa Barbara County industries and communities.

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