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Founded in June 2002 as the Southwest Washington Workforce Development Council (SWWDC), Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) has made significant impact on the region. Since its founding, WSW has invested more than $120 million to support business growth through recruitment, training and retention of workers and in training and employment services for adults and youth in Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

During its 20 years, WSW has seen significant changes. The nonprofit workforce development board rebranded and changed names, and its investments have piloted programs to help families get out of poverty, brought career services and trainings to job seekers and workers wanting to advance in their careers, and prepared youth for the workforce. It has centered equity, diversity and inclusion in its policies and practices and its board of directors has become more diverse to reflect the Southwest Washington community more closely. Innovation during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to new programs and the growth of virtual services across the three-county area and outreach and location-based services have made the workforce system more accessible.

The investments that WSW has made over the years include youth programs, such as the Next youth career center, two summer internship programs (one for high school-aged youth and the other for underrepresented students at Washington State University Vancouver), the YouthBuild program, the Youth Employment Summit and the South Kelso project. WSW invests in opportunity youth – young people ages 16 to 24 that are not engaged in school or work. Investments in youth provide companies with a talent pipeline and youth with the confidence and skills to blaze a career path.

Adult job seeker investments across the 20 years have ranged from cohort trainings, location-based services, apprenticeships, on-the-job trainings, work experience and support services to help people access resources for childcare, rent, transportation, schoolbooks and work clothing or tools as they complete training for a job that will enable them to become self-sufficient and care for themselves and their family. Strategic investments in adult job seeker training and services provides the skilled workers essential for a thriving local economy.

Explore the history of Workforce Southwest Washington below.

“The future of workforce development is ripe with opportunity as we sit presently in what was once coined the ‘future of work,’” said Miriam Halliday, Workforce Southwest Washington’s CEO. “With unprecedented shifts in our social and economic structures, WSW is primed to provide leadership and investment to ensure that Southwest Washington continues to be a competitive and vibrant community.”

As WSW celebrates 20 years of workforce development, we look excitedly towards a bright future and remain committed to our strategic plan and its three pillars of business growth and recovery, economic mobility and systems change.

“WSW will continue our Quality Jobs Initiative with partners from across the Southwest Washington region and across the river in Portland and Clackamas to further WSW’s strategic goals of economic mobility and systems change,” said Halliday. “Specifically, this will entail working with innovative companies in their endeavors to attract top talent as well as retain their workforce as the years progress. Working within the framework of our Economic Mobility goals, we will continue to invest in population-specific strategies, garner increased workforce investment to drive into the local community, as well as ensure high-quality employment outcomes for everyone who is served by a public workforce dollar.”

“WSW’s leadership will continue to advocate for system change and challenge the status quo to ensure true access, data-driven decision making and accountability to ensure a seamless experience for individuals and businesses needing support,” added Halliday.

WSW is dedicated to leading a regional workforce development system where every individual has access to high-quality employment and every business has access to a highly-skilled workforce to create a region where economic prosperity and growth exists for every person.

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