Miriam Halliday, CEO of Workforce Southwest Washington, offers her thoughts on efforts to move Washingtonians to good-paying careers
Miriam Halliday, chief executive officer
Workforce Southwest Washington
Our communities, and the elected officials who create policies that support them, are in one of the most unique times in recent history.
Even as we move past the pandemic, companies continue struggling to find qualified candidates to fill vacant jobs. There are significant openings at local businesses and in critical industries like healthcare, education, manufacturing and food processing.
Likewise, potential workers, especially women and people of color, are finding it difficult to return to the labor force due to lack of childcare, inflation, the rising cost of housing, and the increase in the overall cost of living. Additionally, job seekers may not know how to access the many job training, certifications, apprenticeships and other skill-based education programs and services that prepare them for careers.
These challenging moments also give way to great opportunities. Our Local Workforce Development Boards, including Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW), are ready and able to support investments in poverty prevention and business services and navigation efforts to move Washingtonians to good-paying careers.
Washington’s 12 Local Boards, located in every region of the state, are an important piece of the workforce development solution. The funds we invest serve almost 80,000 individuals annually and help nearly 20,000 businesses fill vacant positions.
This year, working with the governor’s office, the state Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board and the state Employment Security Department, we are supporting a strategic, ongoing state investment in an expanded Economic Security for All (EcSA) program outlined in the governor’s budget.
We support the original EcSA program and its request for increased funding to help our most vulnerable and marginalized residents move out of poverty, and we also support the $13.8 million request for EcSA expansion as a way to keep those residents out of the cycle of poverty.
EcSA expansion investments will provide responsive funding to bring local solutions directly to job seekers and businesses and allow Local Boards to meet career seekers where they are and engage with more businesses to help them meet their workforce needs and retain or upskill their current team members.
Across the state, this fund will:
- Aid in poverty prevention
- Expand investment in skills-based training
- Intensify focus on and outreach to at-risk and underserved populations
- Support earn-to-learn opportunities
- Expand employer engagement
Locally, the additional funds will enable WSW to support business competitiveness and growth by expanding our business services team and that of our partners at WorkSource to help meet workforce needs of local infrastructure and construction projects, like the I-5 bridge replacement project, among others. Providing more stable funding for business-facing work provides flexibility and additional tools to help companies in Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties recruit, retain and train the employees they need to grow and thrive.
Job seekers will benefit from training and support services in our key sectors of healthcare, manufacturing, construction and technology. More than 265 individuals in Cowlitz County have benefitted from workforce system assistance through our original EcSA funding.
By investing in a local workforce solution like this, legislators can foster economic opportunity for all.
The $8 million in EcSA expansion funding in the governor’s budget will fill gaps and we are grateful for his recognition of our success in helping both businesses and job seekers move to economic independence. We hope the Legislature will fully fund our budget request of $13.8 million with the understanding that the need for skilled Local Board staff to address the workforce and worker needs is growing.
This proposal, and others like the Job Skills Program, additional EcSA program funding, AmeriCorps investments, community college programming, and so many other workforce systems Local Boards work with daily will make a difference to so many across our state. We also support the many investments in housing and childcare support. Job seekers cannot enter the workforce if they don’t have stable housing, access to affordable childcare and healthy food.
Together, we can help move Washingtonians into good jobs with family wages and support them as they move toward full financial independence. It is an investment that supports families and businesses across our state.
Both the House and Senate budgets are poised for hearings after the March 20 revenue forecast, leaving just over a month to ensure this funding is included in the overall budget.
We hope you will join us in this landmark effort by Local Workforce Development Boards to serve even more residents and businesses that, together, make for strong and vibrant communities.
Miriam Halliday is Chief Executive Officer of Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) the local workforce development board for Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Workforce Southwest Washington
Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) is the Local Workforce Development Board (LWDB) designated by federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) legislation to oversee the public workforce system in Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties. WSW is a nonprofit organization and funds community prosperity by investing in services that help individuals gain skills to obtain good-paying jobs or advance in their careers and help companies recruit, train and retain workers. Since 2003, WSW has invested more than $126 million in Southwest Washington businesses, adults and youth. Learn more at www.workforcesw.org.
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