The phrase “a force of nature” is sometimes used to describe someone with an unlimited and seemingly unstoppable amount of energy or influence. Following a recent conversation with PJ Shelton, I can’t think of a better way to convey the impression I came away with after spending time with her. Even though we were conversing over the phone, it felt like PJ was right there in the room with me. Her energy, passion and dedication to helping others and to facilitating positive change through collaboration and communication came through loud and clear.

Petural ‘PJ’ Shelton, M.Ed., PhD, began what she calls her first career with FedEx, a company that trained their salespeople in all aspects of shipping and transportation, including safety. This grounding in safety provided a foundation of safety awareness and hazard prevention in the workplace that PJ has carried with her throughout her career. She spent 5 years at FedEx, then pursued her career in sales and training in global business trade and logistics, managing and directing sales teams for Emery Worldwide, Exel and Roadway (RPS).

In 2011 PJ segued into her second career in education, becoming an adjunct professor in the Peralta Community College District. PJ was approached by the president of the College of Alameda at the time, who wanted to create a new career pathways program to help people transition into career opportunities in the supply chain field. PJ’s extensive experience in supply chain logistics made her the perfect choice to train adult learners in transition on the many aspects of supply chain, including the importance of safety awareness and hazard prevention.

PJ was subsequently appointed as the Deputy Sector Navigator of Global Trade & Logistics at Peralta Community College District, where she established industry partnerships with many Bay Area and Silicon Valley businesses. She helped identify industry priorities and facilitate alignment with the region’s education, workforce and economic development strategies, providing a platform to support K-12 schools and community colleges in creating additional career pathways programs.

PJ is currently providing classes through a dual enrollment program, which gives high school students an opportunity to take college courses for credit. Classes are practical and business oriented, and, as in her other programs, PJ weaves workplace safety into her curriculum. The dual enrollment program gives her yet another opportunity to encourage students to think about their future careers and gain real world knowledge while expanding their education.

The City of Oakland has recently established a role for PJ to support the city’s Equity Grant Programs by helping establish a pathway for formerly incarcerated and others adversely affected by the war on drugs to join the cannabis industry. Providing training to these potential employees not only creates job opportunities but also helps develop a pipeline of workers who can step into many areas of this expanding industry, including warehousing, transportation and retail dispensaries. Among other curriculum, PJ will be providing safety information from a Cal/OSHA 30-Hour General Industry class that has been customized to meet the requirements of California AB 2799 for the cannabis industry.

PJ has also pursued her own higher education while working full time. In 2014 she earned her Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Career Technical Education from Concordia University. In 2020 she earned her Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Organizational Systems from Saybrook University. She has also recently expanded her occupational safety and health credentials by becoming an OSHA Outreach Trainer in General Industry, which authorizes her to teach OSHA 10-hour and 30-hour General Industry safety and health outreach classes.

PJ is passionate about education and is dedicated to helping people of all ages find new pathways to career opportunities. In addition to all her current roles, she is in the preliminary stages of establishing a nonprofit called Two Voices Plus, which will focus on forming educational opportunities for students from around the world. She believes in the creative power of collaboration and loves working with people. As she said at the end of our conversation, “If I don’t know you, you’re just a friend I haven’t met yet.” PJ Shelton is someone that everyone should have the opportunity to meet.