June 26, 2012
Oregon is at a crossroads. The recent recession confirmed that our state is trapped in a persistent “boom and bust” pattern that makes Oregon over-sensitive to national and global economic downturns. Those of you who are here today know the effects of this cycle all too well – high unemployment, stagnant personal income, and Oregonians struggling to build a more prosperous future.
At the same time, even with record high unemployment, as Oregon’s companies have continued to innovate, many are reporting that they are having difficulties finding workers with the skills necessary to expand and grow their companies, casting a shadow on our economic recovery.
We have a choice: we can accept this reality and learn to live with it. Or we can create a different one -
• One where Oregon has a strong, diverse, globally-engaged and recession-resistant economy that generates enough jobs to keep our state below the national average unemployment rate.
• One where Oregonians in every region of the state enjoy jobs with incomes that reach and surpass the national average.
• One where we see a decrease of disparities in our communities of color, and an increase in economic health.
• One where Oregon’s existing industries lead the world in innovation and where our emerging industries – like renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean technology – thrive.
• And one where Oregonians harness the innovation in their communities to create productive and sustainable economies.
I believe the answer is clear. A robust economy with family wage jobs is the foundation for Oregon’s high quality of life and is necessary to fund quality education and other public services. A skilled workforce is essential to achieving this vision.
Last December, I met with the Oregon Workforce Investment Board to share my vision for Oregon’s future. I asked OWIB to help our state deliver on this vision by creating a plan to get Oregonians back to work, preparing citizens not just for the jobs of today but for the careers of the future, with skills to help the state seize new opportunities.
I asked OWIB to create a unified, investment-based plan, aligned and integrated with economic development and education to meet the needs of the job market. OWIB took this task seriously and over the last six months crafted a response to my request.
Today, I am here to congratulate OWIB on the creation of a new strategic plan for Oregon’s workforce system: Oregon at Work.
Oregon at Work is an ambitious plan that will transform the way that Oregon provides workforce services to better meet the needs of citizens and businesses.
The plan is built on three important strategies that align the workforce system with the needs of the job market, while increasing accountability and eliminating programmatic silos:
• Sector strategies will create and enhance private/public partnerships to better identify and meet industry needs for a highly skilled workforce. These strategies will position Oregon to grow traded sector companies and to implement new innovations in rapidly changing industries like health care and clean tech. Sector strategies are also proven to increase opportunities for upward mobility for those who face the greatest challenges – the poor and the disenfranchised. Most importantly sector strategies work because they leverage the talents and resources of both the public sector and private industry.
• The second strategy is Certified Work Ready Communities. Certified Work Ready Communities are a vehicle to assure that all citizens have the foundational skills to compete for good jobs and help companies innovate. By certifying Work Ready Communities, Oregon will help local economies grow by attracting, retaining and expanding businesses. This strategy leverages our state’s investment into the National Career Readiness Certificate which provides an objective measure of foundational skills in a way that companies can understand.
• Finally, the plan asks Oregon’s workforce system to innovate to respond to the needs of today’s industries while preparing for future shifts in our economy. Through systems innovation, all of you, your advisory boards, and your agencies will work together to transform Oregon's approach to workforce development – from federal silos and separate funding streams, to integrated and meaningful opportunities that lead to successful employment for all who can and want to work.
We live in a resource-constrained environment. This requires all of us to think as investors, looking for the best return on our dollar, finding new ways of working together to eliminate unnecessary duplications, and to new create efficiencies. We must deliver the best results possible with the resources that we currently have, build on what works, and make sure our solutions are based on the needs of our communities.
I am here today to announce that this plan, Oregon at Work, is now my blueprint for the state’s workforce system and to ask all of you to begin the work of implementing this plan. I am asking agency heads and program managers to work with all of you to find ways to innovate and meet the goals of this plan. And I am asking Oregon’s Local Workforce Investment Boards to convene you locally to create implementation plans that translate the goals, strategies, and outcomes into actionable items based on the needs of your communities.
Oregon’s Workforce System has much to be proud of. Its past innovation has made Oregon a leader in workforce development, getting many citizens back to work with good, family-wage jobs. We have a solid foundation on which to build.
If we work together, I am confident that we can create an Oregon where employers know they can locate and grow, and find highly skilled productive employees; where Oregon’s graduates and job-seekers are ready to contribute to our state and to our economy; and where per capita income is back up above the national average in every region of our state.
The path forward in this new century requires innovation, the willingness to challenge assumptions, and the courage to change. Now that OWIB has completed its plan, the next phase of redesigning Oregon’s workforce system begins. We will need all of your to assure its success.
Before I conclude, I would like to thank OWIB’s chair, Rosie Pryor, who provided the drive and dedication to create this new plan. Rosie is a strong business leader who has dedicated her skills to assuring that all Oregonians get the best results from our investment of our public workforce dollars. I would also like to thanks the members of OWIB’s strategic planning committee, Audrey Theis (pronounced “tice”) and Michelle Kennedy – the plan writers - my Workforce Policy Cabinet, Oregon’s seven Local Workforce Investment Boards and the more than 400 Oregonians who provided feedback on the plan.
Thank you all for your ongoing commitment to our state. With your help, we can create a more prosperous economy for all Oregonians.