Having lost his job and, eventually, his apartment, “Jordan” became homeless and began to live in his car. Not having a stable place to live, he separated from his daughters and he realized he needed help to get back on track.
Fortunately, Jordan is involved in skills training, job search assistance and housing assistance through a local nonprofit. In less than a month, working intensively with his career counselor and agency partners, Jordan got a permanent job, moved into permanent housing and reunited with his daughters.
The help Jordan has received has been made possible by investing in the local workforce system – your tax dollars at work, allowing a network of community and nonprofit organizations to serve at the forefront of economic recovery. This nationwide collaboration of local labor development councils, which has existed in one form or another for more than 80 years, serves nearly 78,000 Washington residents annually and helps nearly 15,000 businesses fill vacancies.
Right now, tens of thousands of people are still on the side of the job market for a variety of reasons – not having affordable childcare, fearing the impact of COVID for themselves or their families, and many need help to participate in local and regional labor. These communities – including many BIPOCs, immigrants and refugees, as well as rural residents – are in real danger of falling into the trap of a number of interrelated barriers without additional support.
At the same time, businesses are struggling to fill nearly 200,000 vacancies across the state, including thousands in important areas such as healthcare, education, manufacturing and hospitality. This hinders the recovery of our state’s economy and hinders the ability of enterprises of all sizes to fully recover and grow.
While lawmakers at Olympia are discussing critical measures to rebuild Washington’s economy, now is the time to invest in solutions for local cadres. We recommend the $ 50 million State Workforce Innovation Fund to empower local solutions through flexible funding. We encourage lawmakers to leverage existing infrastructure – established funding, vendor network, community partners, WorkSource Centers and industry relationships – and build on it to deliver the best results for employees and businesses, as well as for maximum scale and impact.
No federal labor investment was designated under the Federal CARES Act or the U.S. Rescue Plan. Existing federal funds are not flexible, insufficiently and poorly equipped to meet “just in time” demands caused by our new pandemic economy, which will leave 90% of those in need.
Our state cannot afford to leave people like Jordan. By investing in these local solutions, lawmakers can make an initial contribution to a fair economic recovery for better and stronger communities.
Tiffany Scott is the Chief Executive Officer of the Benton-Franklin Labor Development Council (BFWDC). BFWDC is a comprehensive career development system that combines access to a wide range of employment and training services for both job seekers and employers at WorkSource Columbia Basin and TC Futures. The BFWDC is also a member of the Washington Workers Association.