Workforce development is crucial to economic health
This blog post originally appeared on Clackamas Workforce Partnership's website.
May 9-15 is Economic Development Week – an opportunity to take a moment to highlight local programs that create jobs, advance career opportunities, and increase the quality of life in communities everywhere. Especially now, as our region works together to help businesses and workers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and last year’s wildfires, it more important than ever to highlight the close connection between economic development and workforce development.
Greater Portland Inc (GPI) is a regional economic development partnership that provides support and services to companies seeking to relocate or expand in the Greater Portland region, including Clackamas County. As we work with these companies, one of the top factors they consider is our region’s supply of skilled workers. It’s pretty simple – if a company doesn’t believe it can find the right talent here, it will locate elsewhere. This is one reason our collaborations with Clackamas Workforce Partnership, Worksystems Inc., Workforce Southwest Washington, our region’s higher education institutions, and others are so important.
By aligning our efforts, individuals can acquire skills that will allow them to secure living wage jobs in our target industries, such as metals and machinery, computers and electronics, clean tech, and food & beverage manufacturing. For example, the Quality Jobs Initiative from the Columbia Willamette Workforce Collaborative (CWWC), is a commitment to designing and developing a regional approach with workers, employers, job seekers, community-based organizations, economic developers, and local municipalities to define, support, and promote quality jobs.
Programs like this expand our skilled labor pool, which is key in continuing to attract businesses to our region. For example, the ability to find skilled workers was one reason why Twist Bioscience recently announced it is building a “factory of the future” in Wilsonville, creating up to 400 new jobs.
Aligning economic and workforce development efforts through economic planning
We also know the importance of taking time to convene partners from across the region to plan for our economy’s future. We do this through the Greater Portland Economic Development District (GPEDD), which is staffed by GPI. GPEDD is currently developing our region’s next Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). GPEDD updates the CEDS every five years so our region can qualify for financial assistance from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). The EDA recently updated its investment priorities to specifically include workforce development, which underscores federal support for economic development planning that incorporates workforce and skills training that meets the needs of the business community.
GPEDD also created and is working to implement the Greater Portland Economic Recovery Plan to guide the region in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan identifies three target impact areas closely connected to workforce development:
- Help small businesses recover and grow
- Advance economic mobility for individuals
- Support families and children
Through all these efforts, and by continually working together to strengthen the connection between economic development and workforce development, we can reduce persistent inequities and increase self-sufficiency and economic mobility for all of Greater Portland’s residents.