We strive to create an accessible and effective workforce system to advance equity for individuals and to promote the community and economic development goals of Southwest Washington through systems change.
Workforce Southwest Washington welcomes new board members
In June 2022, Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) welcomed 11 new board members representing a diverse array of business owners, entrepreneurs and leaders in the private, nonprofit and public sectors. The new board members reflect WSW’s new board recruitment strategy focused on aligning the board of directors with the diversity of the Southwest Washington business community.
“As a majority private sector board of directors and a business-led nonprofit, it is imperative that the board of directors not only represents our high-growth and in-demand sectors, but also represents a diversity of size of business and the myriad identities that individuals hold in our community,” said Miriam Halliday, CEO of Workforce Southwest Washington. “This representation will allow WSW to gather input from a variety of stakeholders and continue to build a competitive and comprehensive system of leaders in our community that can in turn increase belonging and inclusion across our region.”
Workforce Southwest Washington provides grants for employee training leading to quality jobs and workforce equity
During 2022 and 2023, Workforce Southwest Washington is offering grant funds to reimburse companies for training their existing employees.
WSW prioritizes investments that advance workforce equity, ensuring the public workforce system focuses on equitable support of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other People of Color and historically excluded communities, and is inclusive of companies that demonstrate commitment to providing quality jobs.
In support of the Quality Jobs Initiative, WSW will invest in training with companies that are making local jobs better for women and individuals from historically excluded communities and are able to demonstrate the actions they have taken in support of equity, diversity and inclusion.
Improving access to the public workforce system
WSW and its peers in the Washington Workforce Association (WWA) are striving to create a more equitable workforce system. At their recommendation, Governor Jay Inslee issued a directive including Black, Asian, Native Hawaiian, Compact of Free Association (COFA) nations, and Pacific Islander communities; Latinos; LGBTQ communities; expectant persons; and veterans as workforce focus populations for planning and performance accountability. WSW will continue to advocate for additional changes to create a more equitable system.
Building a Community of Equity Training
As part of its dedication and focus on equity, diversity and inclusion, WSW continued its journey by participating in the Building a Community of Equity (BaCE) program through Washington State University Vancouver. The four-month curriculum, in which the entire WSW team participated, culminated in the team breaking into small groups and developing a series of systems change projects that the organization will implement. This includes efforts to improve representation and diversity on WSW’s Board, a Next Champions Council to incorporate voices and leadership from historically underrepresented communities into the youth employment and training center, developing and administering WSW’s first annual internal Equity Climate Survey, development of internal affinity groups, and identify opportunities for paid volunteering, among other initiatives.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion trainings for service providers
WSW is working in partnership with Sidney Morgan and locally-based Red Sea Road Consulting to provide a series of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) trainings to the staff at the adult and youth career and employment centers, WorkSource and Next. These sessions are intended to spark open conversations about DEI and support staff in viewing their work and impact through an equity lens.
Expanding outreach to communities in need
To reach individuals who may benefit from the support and services of the public workforce development system, WSW worked with state agencies, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and Employment Security Department (ESD), to develop the first official data sharing agreement (DSA). The agreement will allow WSW-funded contractors to contact individuals enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with information about workforce system services and connect them to quality employment offering them a path to self-sufficiency.
As we seek to promote equity within our regional systems, our team has taken the following actions:
- 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 January 2022.