Developing and nurturing tomorrow’s workforce

How organizations in Clark County are planting seeds to advance existing employees and fill workforce gaps

As an employer myself, I understand firsthand the importance of finding work-ready employees who can contribute from day one. Clark County has many resources to fill the gaps in your workforce and advance existing employees.

Knowing where to look, as an employer, can be a daunting task.

“Helping employers understand the resources available to them is what Workforce Southwest Washington (WSW) does,” said WSW Communications Manager Julia Maglione. WSW is responsible for investing more than $10 million of public funds annually to attract, sustain and grow businesses across Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.

Exposing Students (of All Ages) to Industry

Seeding young employees is a key part of that sustainability and growth.

WSW develops career-exposure events, such the upcoming Youth Employment Summit on April 10 that bring together young adults and local businesses, allowing students to learn about industries and career options, leading to summer jobs or even on-the-spot hires. Their annual Manufacturing Day in October allows companies to share what types of jobs they employ and what training is needed for those positions.

Cascadia Technical Academy (CTA), formerly Clark County Skills Center, is another terrific resource for employers to look for their next generation of qualified candidates. A cooperative of 10 area school districts, CTA provides 1,100 students annually in-depth learning and certifications in a wide variety of industries – from automotive service, aviation, construction, applied sciences, cosmetology and more.

“Two-thirds of our graduates go directly into their industry of study,” said CTA Director Dr. Mark Mansell. “Working with an advisory committee made up of community businesses, we stay up on industry needs and help students learn to be work-ready.”

Providing Foundational Skills and Knowledge

Programs like CTA’s don’t just offer young workers exposure to industry, they instill the necessary education and real-world experience to help them function in their chosen vocation right out of the gate.

Camas High School, a participant in the CTA cooperative, places students into internships for hands-on training.

“These days, fewer students have jobs while they are in school,” said Camas High School’s Career and Technical Education Director Derek Jaques. “We have developed an internship program that places students in their chosen trades to gain valuable experience.”

This experience not only provides students the foundation to be work-ready, it allows them to explore industries and make critical decisions for their career paths. The internship program allows many students to immediately step into the workforce after high school if they choose to.

“Many high-wage careers like high-tech manufacturing, computer sciences and culinary don’t necessarily require post-secondary education,” Jaques said.

Trade Associations offer members resources and exposure to work-ready young hires as well. Southwest Washington Contractors Association (SWCA) Director Darcy Altizer said, “Fulfilling our mission of helping (association) members be more profitable, train their employees and earn more work, puts us at the forefront of helping them manage a tight labor market.”

One way the SWCA assists in filling those labor market gaps is providing scholarships to community members of all ages who want to break into a trade.

SWCA is hosting a Construction Executive Summit on Feb. 15 to discuss challenges of the labor market and to stay abreast of the exact needs of local construction companies.

Working in tandem with Clark College, CTA and the Northwest College of Construction, the SWCA helps fill the pool of trained candidates for the roles that contractors throughout southwest Washington are needing now and in the future.

The Washington Hospitality Association provides students and the community a variety of courses and certifications necessary to break into the restaurant or lodging industry or help them advance their careers once hired.

“We are an industry that welcomes first-time career entrants, second chance careers and those with schedules that may not fit with other industries,” Naja Hogander and Sandra Miller said. “In an industry of high turnover, WHA helps employers gain and retain quality employees that are ready to work right out of the gate.”

Hiring Work-Ready Employees

The ultimate value of all of these training and development programs is in the qualified, work-ready workers that they infuse into the labor market.

WorkSource assists employers to recruit and screen for qualified applicants, provides wage reimbursement through on-the-job trainings and supplies cost-savings information on employment tax credits. They also hold monthly hiring events where companies from various industries that have open positions can meet and interview job seekers.

Graduates from Cascadia Technical Academy and Camas High School’s internship programs provide a natural link from learning to working.

A prequalified, precertified and highly employable flow of candidates are ready to start and grow their careers for employers in Clark County. These amazing resources are available and ready for employers to take full advantage of keeping their workforce stocked and ready to work.

Seth Sjostrom is the chief strategy officer for Camas-based healthcare company EverMed DPC. He is a novelist with published titles “Blood in the Snow” and “Finding Christmas,” as well as a frequent contributor to healthcare trade journals and the Vancouver Business Journal.

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