Our View: Creating an economy where every Oregonian can thrive
Quality careers have the power to transform lives, families and our economy.
Unfortunately, not everyone has equal access to the pathways that lead to the good-paying, in-demand careers we need to fill. Oregon has long faced a skills gap, and the pandemic made it even more clear that our workforce system is not accessible for everyone. Many Oregonians lost their jobs in the past two years, with communities of color, rural communities, and people with low incomes hit the hardest.
As we rebuild our economy, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to seize on the lessons we have learned and build a brighter future for all Oregonians. That's why we are working at the state and federal level to help Oregon build a future-ready workforce. And we are committed to doing this work with an equity lens.
Approaching workforce development with an equity lens means identifying barriers to career advancement for underserved communities, providing support services to help individuals overcome those barriers, and treating those supports — such as child care access or broadband — as critical infrastructure.
Making holistic, comprehensive workforce investments at the state and federal level means giving a fair shot at success to people like Ada, a student from Astoria. When her mother was forced out of work because of an injury, Ada needed to pick up night shifts at a local cannery to support her family. She struggled to balance the demands of her job while also attending high school. So Ada went to the GED program advisers at Clatsop Community College and explained her situation. They connected her with tools like rent assistance and technology for homework to enable her to earn her GED.
Earning that GED set Ada on the course to achieving her dreams. She is now a student in a seamanship program, learning the skills needed to take her career to the next level as a maritime engineer.
We are working to bolster our workforce programs so people across Oregon can have the opportunity to skill up and the support they need to complete their education.
After listening to Oregonians discuss their experiences, Congresswoman Bonamici has been working tirelessly to increase federal resources for workforce programs. She helped pass the American Rescue Plan Act, which sent $4.2 billion to Oregon to respond to the pandemic, and made certain that the funds can be used to meet local workforce needs.
Recently she helped lead an overdue update to the National Apprenticeship Act, which the House passed to increase access to paid, on-the-job training. The House also passed her bipartisan PARTNERS Act to create partnerships that help foster more work-based learning opportunities and provide workers with access to tools, work attire, transportation, child care services and mentorship. Additionally, the House passed her legislation to help workers get the skills they need for the thousands of new jobs created by the new bipartisan infrastructure law and by the important transition to a clean energy economy.
And right now at the state level, Gov. Brown is working to pass a comprehensive workforce development package — Future Ready Oregon — which makes needed investments in providing Oregonians with the education, training and wraparound services they need to access good-paying careers in key sectors with the highest need for workers. Future Ready Oregon's investments will go beyond bolstering workforce training programs — they will also support organizations and service providers in helping Oregonians overcome common barriers to workforce participation such as housing stability, child care and access to technology and transportation.
Together we have an opportunity to create a more equitable and efficient economy â€“â€“ and economic recovery â€“â€“ that breaks down barriers and empowers every Oregonian to reach their full potential in the job market.
Gov. Kate Brown is in her last year as governor of Oregon. U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici serves Oregon's 1st Congressional District, which includes portions of Portland and the metro area, and extends to the Oregon Coast.
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