Since our last update, we have launched our new 2021-2024 Strategic Plan which focuses on creating an equitable economic recovery by supporting business growth and recovery and economic mobility.
Created with input from business, education, community and staff, the plan lays out three overarching goals and specific objectives we will work to accomplish in the next three years:
- Business Growth and Recovery– Businesses have access to hire, develop and invest in the skilled workers they need to recover and grow
- Economic Mobility– Promote equity for every individual by providing access to high-quality employment and advancement opportunities
- Systems Change– An accessible and effective workforce system exists to advance equity for individuals and to promote the community and economic development goals of the region
A few highlights of some of our progress to-date:
Business Growth + Recovery
To ensure our region’s businesses have access to the skilled workers they need to recover and grow, WSW and its Columbia-Willamette Workforce Collaborative partners have launched a Quality Jobs Initiative and are working closely with business, community, and education partners to define what high-quality work means for our region and how we can come together to support a high-quality job for everyone.
As our business team forms its Quality Jobs strategy, they are engaging with businesses on a variety of issues, among them:
- Hiring strategies to increase opportunities for historically-excluded populations. Analyzing job descriptions to remove job requirements that could potentially and inadvertently exclude candidates. For example, requiring higher education degrees when not truly necessary to perform essential work functions, decreasing or removing years of experience requirements). And using language to market positions, rather than listing requirements.
- The overall readiness to welcome, support and retain historically-excluded populations in the workplace and what resources companies might find helpful.
- Seeking ways to support apprenticeships, especially those for entry-level candidates that include support around developing a professional network and professional/soft skills.
- Exploring a pilot partnership with a healthcare organization to create a pathway for current CNA’s, especially women, immigrants and people of color.
- Gaining insights from the next generation of workers by gathering feedback from local college students on what job quality means to them and incorporating that into our strategies.
In our own organization, we have updated our employee handbook and are reviewing policies, practices and procedures. We will be contacting Women and Minority Owned Firms in our region to learn more about how we can support them and ensuring they are on our distribution lists to receive future requests for proposals and notices of workforce development grants and other opportunities.
We are reviewing all aspects of our organization and the workforce system with an equity lens to identify and remove barriers to employment and advancement opportunities.
To this end, our Programs team has taken numerous steps:
- Conducted an analysis of race and ethnicity data across the workforce system. While the data showed Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other People of Color (BIPOC) had similar outcomes (i.e., gaining employment, training, etc.) to the rest of the population, we found fewer BIPOC people enrolled in workforce programs compared to their percentage of the population.
- To address this, we are focusing on identifying equitable ways to invest our workforce dollars and including specific goals in our contracts with service providers to include outreach and engagement with diverse communities to increase enrollments.
- As we seek to change and improve the workforce system, we acknowledge that historically-excluded communities have suffered trauma. In recognition of this, we are implementing quarterly trainings for the staff of our current grantees and service providers focused on racial equity and trauma-informed care. The first training will be in September 2021.
- Rather than assuming we know what any community wants or needs, we are partnering with a local community group to evaluate workforce system accessibility, inclusivity and other factors and create a way to actively engage with community partners throughout the region to ensure the needs of historically-excluded communities are being met.
- Through our youth career and employment center, Next, we will be seeking individuals with expertise and knowledge of the needs of historically-excluded populations to provide culturally competent and inclusive services to youth from those communities.
We will continue to keep you apprised of our progress and look forward to your input and partnership as we improve the workforce system to make programs and services more accessible and help those most in need avail themselves of the abundance of resources in our community as we move toward a more inclusive economic recovery.