Work force programs, key to economic stability

Published on The Register Guard, by JOHN LIVELY and CHUCK FORSTER, July 5, 2012.

Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, prepared a speech, which he never gave, for this year’s college graduates that might well have included the phrase: “You’re screwed” … // 

… Some want a job right away. Some want to be more competitive for the kinds of jobs they left, and others want to change careers and need new skills. Some want help with résumés, and some just want someone to talk to about their next career move. They all have one thing in common: They want a good-paying job.

Recognizing that many unemployed people have great skills but just need a leg up to get the next job, and knowing that many employers could use a little help in hiring and training the right person for the job, the Lane Workforce Partnership established an on-the-job training program. Nearly 80 on-the-job training agreements with 47 local businesses have been implemented. Of those who completed training, 96 percent are still on the job today.

Most good-paying jobs require some training after high school. Of the top 10 high-wage, high-demand occupations in Lane County, all require postsecondary training.

Lane Workforce Partnership invested $540,000 in occupational training scholarships for 160 local residents in 2011-12. Training crossed a range of occupations. A few examples: computer programmer, truck driver, registered nurse, dental hygienist, medical assistant, bookkeeper and auto mechanic.

Communities thrive when they have a talent-rich work force. The work force is central to the success of business recruitment and retention efforts. In recognition of this fact, states and communities are looking for ways to promote the quality of their work force.

Oregon is one such state. Under the leadership of the Oregon Workforce Investment Board, Oregon soon will launch a Work Ready Community initiative.

A Work Ready Community is one that places high value on improving the skills of its current and emerging work force. We will begin this summer to explore interest in certifications as a Work Ready community with a formal launch of this effort in the winter of 2013.

The members of the board of directors of the Lane Workforce Partnership are committed to continued collaboration with our local partners to leverage the funds available from the federal, state and local levels and to assist as many workers as we can. At the same time, we continue to look for other resources to supplement or provide other programs.

Now is not the time to abandon proven programs or lessen our efforts to improve the skills of our work force. The challenge is to become more engaged, support efforts to maintain funding at the federal and state level, and recognize that one key to higher wages is improved worker skills.

Let’s not let the “noise” distract us from the helping those who need the help and from improving upon what we are already doing. (full text).

(John Lively is president of the Lane Workforce Partnership. Chuck Forster is the partnership’s executive director).


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