Investments in OR training could boost workforce / Public News Service

In an effort to boost workers in critical industries, Oregon lawmakers are considering a major investment in education and workforce development.

Proposed by Governor Kate Brown, the $200 million Future Ready Bill is a set of proposals aimed at reducing barriers to jobs in construction, healthcare, manufacturing and technology.

One of the proposals is $17 million for career path programs that put in place short-term ways to earn credentials, with the help of program navigators.

Mark Mitsui, president of Portland Community College, said the certificates are stackable, so people can graduate, get a job, and then come back to school whenever they want without starting over.

“And that creates this kind of virtuous cycle of upward mobility,” Mitsui explained. “This is really what our state workers need to access gainful employment through education and training.”

The bill aims to increase access for priority populations, including people of color, tribals, veterans and residents of rural communities. The measure enjoys the support of professional organisations. Groups such as the Associated Oregon Loggers say the measure has potential but would like their industry included.

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 provides training and benefits and is linked to unions such as Service Employees International Union Local 503, said another important provision would ensure that prior training of people aren’t erased, noting that people come to Oregon with experience.

“But they don’t get credit for prior learning,” observed Richards. “And so we put them through all these courses and go through all these hoops where we should have a mechanism to assess and give them credit for their prior learning, so they can move up and get into our workforce faster. “

The bill includes $10 million for prior learning credit.

Mitsui added that a colleague once told him that talent is universal, but opportunities are not.

“Future Ready Oregon, or Senate Bill 1545, aims to make opportunity as universal as the talent around us by reimagining the workforce system and creating more equitable opportunities through education and training for the new work landscape,” concluded Mitsui.

Support for this report was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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