Economic Development and Workforce Development

There was a time when the activities associated with economic development and workforce development were conducted separately and in a very narrowly focused manner. Economic development practitioners focused on corporate and business attraction, while workforce development professionals advocated on behalf of individuals or employees.  No longer is workforce development an issue that only union groups and labor advocates care about.  The entire economic development profession cares about the nature of the labor force because without qualified workers, efforts to grow the economy and build community wealth will not be successful.

Economic developers who are in the throes of attracting or retaining medium to large-sized businesses to their communities have to eventually respond to the questions, “Where is my labor coming from?” and “Is the existing local labor force ready and qualified for the jobs that will become available?” The answer to this may determine the success of attracting and retaining businesses within the community.

Due to the very low unemployment rate in many communities across Oregon and the desire of many people to attain a “better job,” it is very important to have a systemic (rather than hysterical) approach in preparing the local labor force, one person at a time.

Talent Ready Oregon City

The Oregon City Economic Development Department created and organized the Talent Ready Initiative.  The program was launched in November of 2022. It is funded through the City’s general fund.

Oregon City residents needing to overcome barriers to employment are eligible to participate in Talent Ready. This also includes assisting employees within existing companies seeking to move up the career ladder. Likewise, Oregon City-based employers who need qualified employees and are facing worker shortages are eligible to be a part of the Talent Ready Initiative.

Oregon City’s Economic Development has established partnerships with the following human service, education, and workforce development agencies:

  • Worksource Clackamas
  • Clackamas Community College Workforce Development Center
  • Children, Family and Community Connections, Clackamas County
  • Clackamas County Behavioral Health
  • Clackamas Workforce Partnership
  • Oregon Dept. of Human Services – Employment & Training Navigators
  • Oregon City School District
  • Oregon State University Extension
  • Parrott Creek Child and Family Services

The Economic Development Department has recently established a public/private partnership with Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center, the largest private sector employer in Oregon City, employing 750 employees.

How does Talent Ready work?

There can be many obstacles to being employed such as mental health challenges, lack of childcare, lack of proper job skills and drug/alcohol addiction, just to name a few. Further, there are many social service programs administered by federal, state, and county agencies that operate in silos, sending the individual from agency to agency to fill out forms that request the same information. In addition, there is very little follow-up with the client as to how they are doing. Talent Ready is designed to help the individual navigate these bureaucratic challenges.

With regard to businesses and other organizations with an employment base, Oregon City’s Economic Development Department assists these organizations with overcoming labor shortages. The Talent Ready Initiative is systemic, long-term, and patient initiative partnering with businesses to train potential workers and working with potential employees to overcome life’s obstacles so that new hires stay.

When individuals (‘clients”) sign up with Talent Ready, they are matched with a navigator: a person who will work with the client to identify barriers to employment and job-related goals. Instead of having the client run between numerous human service agencies to find services they qualify for, the navigator does this work for the client, identifying appropriate wrap-around services to help the client prepare for employment. Many times, the navigator will start a conversation about the client’s perception of their mental health. The navigator will initially offer access to at least one mental health counseling session to help the client become familiar with the behavioral mental health services available to them. Regardless of what human services are eventually provided, the navigator checks in with the client to monitor their progress.

With an established partnership with an employer or business client, the navigator will work to identify the employers’ labor force needs and expected qualifications of job candidates. Working with the various public agency partners, the navigator will coordinate a relationship with the various job skill-training programs. The navigator will check-in with employers to monitor their satisfaction with program partners and progress with hiring qualified candidates.

With regard to keeping the worker pipeline full for employers, Talent Ready works with the Oregon City School District and employers to establish internships for high-school students.

What is the extent to which public and private sector participants have formed a true partnership or joint venture in planning, developing, and financing this project?

Talent Ready Oregon City is truly a partnership on a variety of levels. All of the program’s partners expend their respective funding to help individuals obtain the services needed to be talent ready. Our human service partners already provide the various services needed, but Talent Ready ensures better coordination between the partners to effect meaningful collaboration and change.  Oregon City utilizes its own funding from its General Fund to further incentivize its partners or to help supplement existing services.  Private sector partners provide job skills-training in cooperation with public service agencies.

What is the direct economic benefit to the community (such as through jobs, tax base, or workforce development)?

Talent Ready Oregon City is a comprehensive approach to providing workforce development services that helps individuals obtain talent ready status toward gainful employment. It is an economic development program that assists the City of Oregon City with business retention and recruitment efforts, and a human service initiative that contributes toward mitigating persistent and cyclical poverty.

What is the spin-off impact of this project? 

Talent Ready may be viewed as a model for other communities as well as an initiative that may help the State of Oregon’s Future Ready Program gain a greater understanding of the interdependent nature of economic development and workforce development, particularly as it relates to understanding the complexities associated with advancing opportunities for historically underserved communities. It should also be recognized that there is very little overall coordination and management among various independent public services whose mission is to mitigate the causes of poverty. Talent Ready demonstrates the possibilities that exist to encourage and incentivize meaningful collaboration among various human service agencies that have the same mission.

How does this project demonstrate creativity or innovation (e.g. packaging land acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint venture aspects, and financing)?

Talent Ready Oregon City is the very essence of strategic partnership, with its foundations in collaboration via written agreements that outline duties and responsibilities of all parties involved. It’s innovation discovers new means of engaging different human service programs, including those associated with behavioral mental health, with economic and workforce development.

Pictured: On July 12th, Oregon City’s Economic Development Department announced a new partnership between the city’s workforce development program and a major employer in the community: Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center.