The Orange County Development Board, which supports the workforce development activities in California’s third-most populous county in conjunction with the Orange County Board of Supervisors, now includes Cal State Fullerton MBA grad Jesse Ben-Ron ’15.
An undergraduate alumnus of San Diego State University and recent newlywed to fellow Titan Tiffany Richardson ’13 (liberal studies), Ben-Ron has served as director of economic and workforce development at the Orange County Business Council (OCBC) since March 2019 and previously was district coordinator for Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) for nearly three years.
Tasked with maximizing the county’s workforce through labor market information, training services and business assistance, Ben-Ron says a goal of the board is to ensure that Orange County workers have what it takes to thrive in the county’s high-priced economy.
“It is a great honor to serve on this board. If you look at the other members, they are incredibly smart and accomplished individuals, so being in the same room with them is an exciting opportunity,” says Ben-Ron. “Our ultimate goal is to ensure our workforce development activities are as effective and efficient as possible. In an ideal world, every job seeker who reaches out to the development board receives training and a job that can create financial stability in the high-cost world of Orange County.”
He is also working to increase the board’s visibility. “There are many people in our county who could benefit from the great work our staff does if only they knew that this service was available to them,” he says. “I am seeking to generate greater awareness of the development board’s services.”
Making an Impact With the OCBC – From Intern to Director
Even before his graduate-student days at Cal State Fullerton, Ben-Ron served as government affairs intern with the OCBC, the co-presenter of Cal State Fullerton’s annual Economic Forecast Conference.
Ben-Ron assisted the council in preparing their events and maintaining relationships with county government and business leaders.
Nearly six years later, Ben-Ron rejoined the OCBC, this time as director of economic and workforce development, a position responsible for many of the council’s initiatives and policies.
“Workforce and economic development really go hand in hand in the 21st century, so it can be hard for me to say I’m switching hats from one day to the other,” says Ben-Ron. “Without a talented workforce, entrepreneurs won’t start their business and companies won’t relocate to Orange County if they can’t find capable workers.”
While recognizing that Orange County has one of the most talented workforces on the West Coast, Ben-Ron is always at the forefront of engagement with schools, colleges, universities and employers to best match classroom instruction and extracurricular activities with workforce needs.
“Jobs are constantly changing, so we always need that line of communication open to ensure that students are learning skills that will make them employable,” he says.
Ben-Ron also administers the Latino Educational Attainment Initiative, which has now grown to include delivery in English, Vietnamese and Korean, but shares the commonality of educating primarily first-generation immigrant parents on the fundamentals of the California educational system.
“By demystifying our educational systems, these parents are now more confident to support their children through their scholastic journeys,” he says.
Working with OCBC economist Wallace Walrod, Ben-Ron also helps market Orange County to executives across the country and around the world.
“Great schools, good weather, strong amenities, ethnic diversity, low unemployment and being one of the safest regions in the United States are some things about Orange County that executives elsewhere need to know,” he says.
Ben-Ron encourages Orange County young professionals to consider OCBC as an opportunity to intern, network or reach higher, and to always be ready to reengage with previous employers.
“OCBC is a business organization but is constantly working in spaces that are led by education or public policymakers. Being at this intersection means that networks and relationships are critical,” he says. “Interning at OCBC really helped me understand the value of getting to know people. You’ll never know if you’ll cross paths professionally again, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have a positive relationship with them.”
Developing a Passion for Public Service
As a student at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, Ben-Ron was active in the Finance Association; Risk Management Association; and Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF), which tasks finance students with managing real-world investments.
He says his graduate school experience played a major role in his personal development and he encourages current and prospective students to give their all.
“My favorite thing about Mihaylo is the opportunities available to any student. There’s exceptional faculty, a committed career services team and student organizations to get involved in,” he says. “Every student should make the most of their time there, as you’re going to get out what you put in. The advice and expertise of faculty and staff is open to you, so take advantage of it. Get to know your classmates as well. Don’t just show up, take notes and leave. Your classmates will be leaders in their respective companies or industries. You’ll never know when you’ll need their help finding a new job or landing a business deal.”
After earning his MBA, Ben-Ron focused on supporting the campaign and legislative office of North Orange County Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva. Supporting the state legislator convinced the Titan alumnus of the importance and reward of public service, setting the stage for his current role on the Orange County Development Board.
“Every day was an opportunity to hear from people all across her district about the issues of importance to them, and how the government could help,” says Ben-Ron. “Taking in all this information and relaying it to the assemblywoman, which she then used when voting on legislation, was extremely rewarding.”
Quirk-Silva was the chair of the Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy committee in the California State Assembly, so much of Ben-Ron’s work involved convening conversations between the lawmaker and leaders of businesses large and small to help the state of California support economic growth and hiring.
“Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva really valued hearing from others,” Ben-Ron recalls. “She never assumed that she knew all the answers, so hearing from business was very important for her when crafting legislation and voting on bills.”
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