Worksystems, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that pursues and invests resources to improve the quality of the workforce in the City of Portland, Multnomah and Washington Counties. We develop policies and design workforce development programs and services delivered through a network of local partners to help people get the skills, training and education they need to go to work or to advance in their careers. Our partners include employers, labor groups, government, community colleges, high schools, community-based and economic development organizations.
Our mission is to coordinate a regional workforce system that supports individual prosperity and business competitiveness. We ensure that the public workforce system serves business by developing qualified employees and giving current and future workers the skills and support they need to successfully engage, advance, and succeed in the labor market.
Data show that construction has become a high-growth industry in the Portland Metro Area. In the next ten years, more than 15,000 new jobs are expected, outpacing other industries in the region. These are high paying jobs, averaging over $25 per hour. Current and future building trends, both public and private, are rapidly increasing the demand for skilled tradespeople in the region. One-fifth of the region’s construction workforce is at, or nearing, retirement age. Contractors are currently looking across the country to fill positions. How can we work together to address training and workforce needs locally and capture this opportunity to build a supply of locally trained workers?
We worked with industry to develop a Regional Construction Industry Workforce Plan. Creating this plan allows us to identify common industry workforce challenges, coalesce around shared goals, and align the efforts of the public workforce system to make a greater overall impact for the sector.
Companies identified several priority areas, indicating a strong emphasis be placed throughout on better marketing of career opportunities, recruiting non-traditional construction workers, creating industry support tools such as mentoring to retain their workforce, and helping industry strengthen best practices for recruiting and screening the best candidates.
To help achieve the goal of diversifying the construction workforce, Worksystems staffs the Construction Apprenticeship Workforce Solutions (CAWS) committee comprised of owners, developers, contractors, unions, and community organizations from across the industry – all dedicated to increasing the representation of people of color and women in the trades. In addition, we staff the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity (MAWE) to guide and oversee the City of Portland’s Community Benefit Agreements to ensure that minorities and women are included on city-owned construction projects.
Healthcare has the strongest employment growth of any industry in the Portland metro area. While workforce supply and demand remain mostly in balance, key skill gaps exist in certain occupations. Worksystems is bringing together a broad network of partners to fill these gaps and prepare for changes in the way health care will be delivered in the coming years.
We have engaged the health care industry to better understand their workforce needs and are designing programs and investing resources to meet their specific needs including:
- Investing in coordinated training programs that meet the changing needs of our growing healthcare industry
- Building a more diverse workforce—one that is bilingual, culturally aware, and that reflects the communities experiencing the most rapid growth
Worksystems is working with industry partners, including the five major health systems in the region – Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, Oregon Health & Sciences University, PeaceHealth, and Providence – to identify opportunities to implement a collaborative funding model focused on workforce diversity.
Advanced Manufacturing is the engine that powers our region’s economic vitality. From metals, machinery, and transportation to semiconductors and green technology, the manufacturing sector in the metro area represents almost 30% of the region’s GDP. Manufacturing provides jobs, innovation and spurs productivity – giving our region an edge in the competitive global economy.
We have engaged the manufacturing community to better understand their workforce issues and are designing programs and investing resources to meet their needs including:
- Hosting events that connect industry with the workforce
- Training current workers to improve their productivity and reduce skill gaps
- Training new workers for manufacturing careers in industry identified occupations
- Building the pipeline of workers by exposing youth to careers in manufacturing
- Pursuing new training resources to address emerging needs
As the workforce ages, additional jobs will become available and many provide a living wage with career pathways to advancement. To ensure that we have an adequate pipeline of skilled workers ready to fill these openings, we are working directly with manufacturers to identify their workforce needs in critical occupations and designing training to meet industry specifications.
The local technology industry is booming, providing great opportunity to keep Portland working. Information technology occupations exist within and across every sector and the sector is a significant contributor to the advancement, stability, and vitality of the local economy. High projected growth provides ample employment opportunities and high wages support the prosperity of the region’s population.
The tech industry is expected to grow 32% with 10,000 new jobs projected by 2022. To prepare for these jobs, job seekers much have the right mix of skills to help them find and keep work. Most job openings will require some post-secondary education although some occupations will be available for job seekers with less advanced skills.
We are working with industry stakeholders to identify the crucial gaps between supply and demand across the industry and to develop a work plan that will serve as a blueprint to direct and guide the activities and investments of the public workforce system.
A current major effort involves the founding and implementation of an IT Helpdesk Apprenticeship, through a partnership with the Creating IT Futures Foundation and area employers including Bridgetech, Pacific Office Automation & Vernier Software.