On September 7, nearly 80,000 Oregonians lost some form of extended unemployment compensation, and thousands more remain idled by the pandemic. With the expiration of the aforementioned supports, these Oregonians will seek assistance from the public workforce system. At the same time, employers across the State are having a difficult time finding qualified talent. This is impeding their ability to grow and may ultimately slow the State’s recovery.
Yet, despite nearly double the unemployment rate of a year ago, increasing numbers of people considered long-term unemployed (>52 weeks), and declining labor market participation, there have been no designated investments in workforce development through the public workforce system through the CARES Act or the American Rescue Plan.
To ensure an equitable economic recovery, Oregon needs to help local businesses recoup from the pandemic and provide a hand-up for Oregonians most impacted by COVID-19, including communities of color, women, and younger, less-educated, and lower-income workers.
1. Increase Local Service Capacity: Local Workforce Boards have a scalable, big-tent approach that connects the strengths of local community-based, education, business, and other partners with services offered through the public workforce system. This broad and scalable approach will be implemented through established networks of local partners that provide start-to-finish career coaching services including outreach, referrals to skill development and training opportunities, and referrals to wraparound support services that enable participation and success. Resources will be used to expand Local Workforce partners’ capacity to respond to COVID-related workforce and local business needs.
2. Earn and Learn Opportunities to Re-Career: A large share of low-income workers have lost their jobs and need support meeting their basic needs while going through training and placement to re-career. This means providing paid internships, paid community service work, stipends, and other income supports in conjunction with occupational training and placement into middle-income career opportunities. Services include Paid Internships, Cohort-Based Occupational Training, Training Stipends, Scholarships, Registered Pre-Apprenticeship Programs, On-the-Job Training, Current Worker Training, and Registered Apprenticeships.
3. Wrap-Around Supports: Wrap-around supports, including childcare, housing, and behavioral health support, are needed to enable people navigating poverty to participate in programs that will help them re-engage in the workforce. We must provide childcare support for people navigating poverty with young children. Otherwise, the high cost and limited access to childcare will prohibit them from going through a training program and starting a new job. We will seek to assist with housing placement and connecting renters to state and local rental assistance programs to maintain housing stability. Otherwise, the impacts of homelessness will greatly reduce their ability to get back into a new job and career. Finally, we must provide supports such as mental health and substance use treatment as we help people return to new careers after the traumatizing impacts of the pandemic. Services include: Rental Assistance, Childcare, Utilities payment support, Computer and Internet Access, Transportation, Mental Health, Alcohol & Drug Treatment, Household Assistance Work, Related Clothing and Tools. Local Workforce Boards will ensure coordination with the WSO system and distribute resources to community-based organizations, education entities, and other local partners with a requirement to serve BIPOC, Latino a/x, women, young workers, rural residents, and others most impacted by COVID -19. Services and outcomes will be tracked and reported using the existing statewide workforce data and reporting system (I-Trac). All data will be disaggregated by race, gender, and geography.