From Oregon Investment Guide 2024

Where Our Talent’s Needs Come First

Highly skilled workers are a staple in Oregon.

Oregon aims to connect its talent to employers with ease.
Photo: Getty Images


our years ago, Oregon City Economic Development leadership took notice of three distinct challenges in its region. 

At this point in time a global pandemic threw a wrench in how the entire world operated, and in this northwestern Oregon county of over 37,300 the tides were shifting for the region’s workforce. 

Some retired, some quit, and others were let go, but for many it led to a career path epiphany. When businesses came back online, this was a challenge for both employer and employee. Even with the aid of training programs through local workforce development organizations there was an apparent disconnect in employer participation throughout the process, which didn’t help local talent. It was a time that also put a spotlight on the importance of employee resources for mental health services and child care.

“So, we’re addressing the things that are missing in many workforce development initiatives,” says Oregon City Economic Development Manager James Graham. “Talent Ready Oregon City is an initiative that we designed that’s aimed at helping individuals overcome their barriers to employment, then working to connect employers to these employees.”

Talent Ready Oregon City was launched in November 2023, bringing together several workforce services that already exist in the state, allowing this program to exist at no cost to residents or local businesses. These services include: WorkSource Clackamas, Clackamas Community College Workforce Development Center, Clackamas County Children, Family and Community Connections, Clackamas County Behavioral Health, Clackamas Workforce Partnership, Parrot Creek Child and Family Services, Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon City School District.

Through the Oregon Department of Human Services, talent in the program are provided a personal navigator to aid in helping an individual connect to the relevant organizations or agencies that address needs such as job opportunities, education and training, child care, mental health and transportation. The Talent Ready navigator ensures residents have help every step of the way until securing the ideal role.

Oregon State University’s (OSU) Professional and Continuing Education Program is the latest addition to Talent Ready Oregon City’s growing network as of March 2024. Graham said this OSU Extension Program’s addition, “just makes sense,” as these customized training and education courses will cater directly to high-demand industries, like health care and agriculture, in the region. If focuses shift, OSU’s vast list of programs can be integrated at any time.

“That’s the great thing about partnering with an organization like OSU — they have all kinds of resources that are available to individuals who want to change careers or enhance their career,” says Graham. “The great thing about this with Talent Ready is that no one program can provide the same thing to everyone. These programs are tailored for the individual, for the employer and the service provider.”

While Talent Ready Oregon City was created as a pilot program specifically for the county’s residents, as the program moves forward the hope is that other local governments will take notice and emulate the model in their operations.

“The day of one size fits all is over and the day of silos is coming to an end,” says Graham. “And the day of learning what partnership really means is here.”

For skilled talent in the region looking to pave their own way, Oregon City leadership has been ensuring business education, technical assistance and financial support can be found with ease. Entrepreneurs can learn the ins and outs of business through Oregon City’s Biz Pod class and leave with a $3,000 grant to support business needs.

If funding is the main concern, residents can apply for up to $20,000, at a 0.5% interest rate in the first 12 months, through the Entrepreneurial Opportunity Loan Program. This funding can be used to purchase equipment, for capital needs, or on property or building renovations.

Creating new incentives and programs that target both talent and employers is a key goal for future initiatives made by Oregon City Economic Development. Connection and communication led the charge, which was the basis of the county’s newest Ombudsman Program. Coming soon, the program assists businesses looking to come to or expand in Oregon City by providing support for zoning, permitting and finding the ideal site. It will also offer customized job training programs and introduce businesses to available workforce recruitment resources.

“We’re taking a different approach to economic development. It’s not simply about showing real estate but taking on the full scope of what building wealth in a community is all about,” says Graham.

Benefits For All
Much like Oregon City, balancing support that hits on the needs of both employees and employers has become a statewide goal.

WorkSource Oregon has grown to 45 locations throughout the state, bridging the gap between public and private organizations and talent. At each WorkSource center, or through an online portal, residents can find any number of tools that will help them land a new role or pave a new career path. Looking to build the basics, such as computer, professional or financial literacy skills? Residents can participate in a free workshop at any time to tackle these skills and gain guidance on how to build a resume, network and prepare for interviews.

If the foundation is already set, and a job seeker is looking to freshly enter the workforce or switch careers, WorkSource offers connection to an array of skills training programs, apprenticeship or internship opportunities and paid on-the-job training. Financial barriers may often present an issue for employees, so WorkSource can help provide funding assistance through federal, state and local grants.

With an established portfolio of talent, this resource becomes an invaluable tool to Oregon employers. They can post new roles or be connected directly to skilled talent, and by participating in apprenticeship or internship programs, they can craft a readily accessible talent pipeline. WorkSource additionally will aid in funding toward new training initiatives or identify potential tax credits for businesses to attract high-quality employees.

Alexis Elmore
Associate Editor of Site Selection magazine

Alexis Elmore

Alexis Elmore joined Conway Data in 2022 as associate editor for Site Selection. A 2021 graduate of the University of Georgia, she studied journalism and communications before moving back to Atlanta to pursue her career. As an editor for Site Selection and contributor to Conway's Custom Content guides, she writes about economic development efforts and corporate growth happening around the globe.


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