Education, training investments could boost Oregon workforce
March 10, 2022 | View PDF
In an effort to boost workers in critical industries, Oregon lawmakers are considering a major investment in education and workforce development.
Proposed by Gov. Kate Brown, the $200 million Future Ready bill is a package of proposals to lower barriers to construction, health care, manufacturing, and technology jobs.
One of the proposals is $17 million for career pathways programs setting up short-term ways to earn credentials, with help from program navigators.
Mark Mitsui, president of Portland Community College, said the certificates are stackable, so people can get one credential, get a job, and then come back to school when they want to without starting over.
"And it creates this sort of virtuous upward-mobility cycle," Mitsui explained. "That is really what our workers in the state need in order to access living-wage jobs through education and training."
The bill aims to increase access for priority populations, including people of color, members of tribes, veterans, and people in rural communities. The measure has support from business organizations. Groups such as the Associated Oregon Loggers say the measure has potential but would like their industry included in it.
The bill also includes workforce-readiness grants to remove barriers to education and training, such as the cost of child care and housing.
Patsy Richards, director of Long-Term CareWorks for the RISE Partnership, which delivers training and benefits and is connected with unions such as Service Employees International Union Local 503, said another important provision would make sure people's past training is not erased, noting people come to Oregon with experience.
"But they do not get credit for prior learning," Richards observed. "And so we make them take over all these courses and go through all these hoops where we should have a mechanism to assess and give them credit for prior learning, so they can move forward and move into our workforce quicker."
The bill includes $10 million for credit for prior learning.
Mitsui added a colleague once told him talent is universal, but opportunity is not.
"Future Ready Oregon, or Senate Bill 1545, is about making opportunity as universal as the talent around us by reimagining the workforce system and creating more equitable opportunity through education and training for the new work scape," Mitsui concluded.