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Building Bridges: GA’s VP of Workforce Development, Rafael Castaneda, Joins the Team

General Assembly
May 8, 2024
Rafael Castaneda

Just like any good company, GA relies on people to make big things happen. That’s why we’re excited to announce the addition of Rafael Castaneda, who joins us as Vice President of Workforce Development and Social Impact. 

We sat down with Rafael to get his unique perspective on what it takes to build a coalition that supports tech skill advancement in the modern workforce. Keep reading to “meet” Rafael.

What is your role at General Assembly? 

I work at the intersection of employers, academic institutions, workforce agencies, and entities. My role is to create coalitions and build pathways for student learners to seek gainful employment — which ultimately builds better opportunities for people as they go forward in their careers and lives. 

Why did you choose to join our mission?

Having been in the higher education space for 25 years, I feel there are no limitations for technological-based education. Whether you’re in data, engineering, cloud — every employer, organization, and employee needs to have these skills. As the global economy advances, we will all benefit from creating educational solutions and opportunities for all learners, regardless of background or location.

Whose responsibility is it to build new tech skill building pathways?

None of the groups that I’ve worked with in the past — governments, employers, academic institutions, workforce agencies, funders, or learners themselves — will get to the right solutions on their own. Coalition building is all of our responsibility to increase the relevant tech skills in our workforce. Over the years, we’ve seen more and more willingness for groups to provide funding, to participate, to create work pathways, so it’s a really exciting time to join an organization like GA.

Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important in tech? 

Often, people think the paths to higher education are severely limited: coming out of high school, changing careers, or after a workforce reduction. They may feel they have a life that has prevented them from pursuing gainful employment. There shouldn’t be any sort of gating or hurdle with that. We believe in making tech programs accessible to everyone, whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a military service member transitioning to civilian life, seeking job training through a career center, sponsored by your employer, an experienced professional, or simply looking to acquire new skills. GA plays a part by showing a learner: Here’s how you start and here’s how you continue. 

How can we help communities keep up with AI advancements?

Despite early panic and alarm, I’ve seen a lot of good trends with laws and codification. AI is just like any other tool with the potential to be either very constructive or very destructive. We will have to agree, as a global community: What’s the right way to use this tool? 

Once we have sets of rules that everyone will have to abide by, then we can work together and communicate what makes sense going forward. If we look at AI as an opportunity to enhance our world and our education, we should be excited about that. 

What advice would you have for employers, learners and governments getting started with tech education? 

Remember, no one has all the answers. I’d be very wary of anyone that says that they do, whether that’s an individual or an organization. The solution will take coalition, government regulation, and funding. We’ll need a widely accessible curriculum that can be refined and curated as we go.

Higher education can no longer think in terms of centuries. We have to start thinking in terms of years or quarters to create education that adds more talent to the workforce across every industry. It’s worth investing in building a training coalition with experts — like GA — that have been doing this for a while.

Looking ahead, what are you most excited about?

When you look at the great legacy and reputation that General Assembly has dating back to 2011, I’m very excited about building new opportunities for a diverse pool of learners. I’m also excited to move into different spaces that maybe haven’t had the opportunity to benefit from the tech movement — either because it wasn’t the right time or they weren’t thinking about this as something that was right in front of them. Building an infrastructure and ecosystem for new learners is what this organization has done historically, and I think it’s a really exciting, perfect time for it in the overall landscape.

Want to join General Assembly’s coalition, creating pathways to cultivate the skills and talent you need right now and in the future? Let’s get the conversation started.

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