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Washington County legislators: 'We need to make smart, comprehensive investments to support future generations.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Janeen SollmanAs legislators serving within Senate District 15 in western Washington County, we know firsthand the enormous workforce issues our state is facing.

Workforce development is defined as initiatives that educate and train individuals to meet the needs of current and future business and industry. In order to maintain a sustainable competitive economic environment, workforce development needs to be a top priority in our respective committees, across all sectors, and across our state.

That's why we are excited about the Future Ready Oregon 2022 Package, a $200 million, game-changing workforce development plan which will have an impact on education, business, and workforce. Future Ready Oregon will help fill future job needs, including right here in western Washington County, with a special focus on healthcare and manufacturing jobs.

In our work as legislators, we listen to business and industry when they tell us that they are lacking enough skilled workers to fulfill all their positions and that, without intervention, the future looks even grimmer. We have worked to bring awareness and support to help with training and education, but there is more to be done.

COURTESY PHOTO - Susan McLainOregon entered the decade facing a workforce crisis. Prior to the pandemic, Oregon industries faced a shortage of 300,000 workers with post-secondary credentials, such as an apprenticeship, degree, or certificate. The pandemic exacerbated this crisis, and highlighted existing, significant disparities in our workforce system. Black, Indigenous, Latino/a/x and people of color, people with low incomes, and rural Oregonians were hardest hit. Barriers to job readiness, job training, and career advancement persist.

Future Ready Oregon would create opportunities for workers in our area and would help train, educate and fulfill the future workforce needs for employers. Our Career & College Pathways program in the Hillsboro School District has been focusing on these issues for our students in our schools for some time. The Hillsboro School District, Washington County Chamber of Commerce and many community leaders have come together to work on identifying the need that exists in our workforce and the tools it will take to get there. Washington County Chamber of Commerce's School to Career program should be a statewide model for this work as well.

What a boost Future Ready Oregon will be to have this workforce development occurring statewide and reaching all students, making Oregon the first state in the nation to create a truly comprehensive system for workforce readiness.

COURTESY PHOTO - Nathan SosaFuture Ready Oregon makes targeted investments to advance opportunities for historically underserved communities, including adult learners, dislocated workers, and disconnected youth. Investments will prioritize two key sectors: healthcare and manufacturing, sectors that provide short-term pathways to meaningful employment, higher earning potential, and opportunities for economic mobility. These investments will leverage and expand current successful programs such as local workforce boards, community college career pathways programs and registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. Investments will also remove barriers to accessing those opportunities with direct benefits to individuals and benefits navigators.

As Oregon works to seize this opportunity, we must emerge from the pandemic with a stronger economy than ever before. We need to make smart, comprehensive investments to support future generations. Future Ready Oregon does just that and we are ready for it.

Janeen Sollman has represented Senate District 15, including Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Cornelius and North Plains, in the Oregon Senate since 2022. Susan McLain has represented House District 29, including Forest Grove, Cornelius and west Hillsboro, in the Oregon House of Representatives since 2015. Nathan Sosa has represented House District 30, including North Plains and most of Hillsboro, in the Oregon House of Representatives since 2022. All are Democrats.

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