Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW), Worksystems and Clackamas Workforce Partnership have been awarded a combined $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to support the childcare needs of 150 job seekers in the region while they participate in training to prepare for a new career.

People experiencing poverty are often unable to participate in job training because they lack access to childcare. Coupled with the high cost, which averages $1,500 per month in our region, lack of accessible and affordable childcare becomes an insurmountable barrier that disproportionately impacts women and people of color.

WSW and its partners will be launching a pilot program in early 2022 that will cover the costs of childcare when available public resources have been exhausted. It will also fund Workforce Childcare Navigators, dedicated staff working to secure childcare for job seekers while they engage in training, search for employment, and at the beginning of their new job.

“The goal is to support people so they can complete short-term training that gives them the tools to enter good-paying occupations,” said Workforce Southwest Washington CEO Miriam Halliday. “The COVID-19 pandemic forced women out of the labor market, and this is one step to helping them re-enter the workforce, hopefully at a higher wage than before.”

The funding will assist women and people of color who were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and are overrepresented in the hardest-hit industries including hospitality, food service and retail. The grant will support childcare for 150 job seekers in the six-county Southwest Washington-Portland Metro region, including 36 people in the Southwest Washington counties of Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum. Workforce Southwest Washington will receive $183,000 over the two years of the grant.

Job seekers will be able to connect with Childcare Navigators and job training by contacting WorkSource in Vancouver or Kelso. Contact information is available online at www.WorkSourceSWWA.org.

Companies that hire these individuals will also benefit as the grant will aid in retention of the new employees by alleviating the childcare affordability barrier as they begin their new jobs. Companies interested in hiring people into good-paying jobs should contact WSW’s Director of Business Services Darcy Hoffman at dhoffman@workforcesw.org.

The competitive grant is part of the Comprehensive and Accessible Reemployment Through Equitable Employment Recovery (CAREER) National Dislocated Worker Grants. Supported by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, National Dislocated Worker Grants offer resources that provide flexibility to states and communities in response to and recovery from events that cause widespread unemployment.

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