WORKing Together Conference

For the first time in two years, 450 people came together for Oregon Workforce Partnership’s (OWP’s) WORKing Together Conference in support of Oregon’s workforce. Oregon businesses, educators, public agency leaders, community-based organizations, elected officials, and workforce professionals gathered at the Riverhouse in Bend on November 17-18, 2022 to explore local, state, and national best practices, emerging trends and innovative solutions.

Day one kicked off with a keynote address by Chris Wilson, founder of the Chris Wilson Foundation which supports social entrepreneurs and prison education, including re-entry and financial literacy for returning citizens, as well as art-related programs. His riveting presentation recounted how he overcame a trauma-filled childhood, was incarcerated for murder, and transformed himself into a place of power from pain. His memoir, The Master Plan, details his journey and triumphant release from prison 16 years later. Chris is an inspiration who proves that every person is capable of doing great things!

In addition to the keynote address, there were three general sessions and a Plenary Panel on Childcare, and 11 breakout sessions on topics ranging from re-entry to sector partnerships. Breakfasts, lunches and social hours provided the opportunity for attendees to congregate, connect and create.

Willamette Workforce Partnership (WWP) had a visible presence at the conference. Kim Parker-Llerenas, WWP’s Executive Director is OWP’s Chair and was front and center. The entire WWP staff and several board members joined Kim and actively participated in conference events. Ami Maceira (left), WWP’s Program Director presented a breakout session, Leading to Change: Driven by Data, Designed by People to a packed house. Her message was to challenge the impersonality of data and to design programs that connect numbers to what they stand for: stories, people and ideas.

Susan Barksdale, WWP’s Rethinking Program Consultant, along with Matt Willson, area manager with Oregon Employment Department, presented another breakout session, Redeploying Rethinking Job Search, which highlighted WWP’s and OED’s partnership to offer Rethinking Job Search in a redesigned virtual platform to a targeted audience of Unemployment Insurance recipients.

OWP recognized Alvin Elbert, owner of A.R.E. Manufacturing in Newberg and longtime WWP board member, for his steadfast work with youth. The day before the conference Alvin was in North Carolina with WWP’s Director of Business Services, Dean Craig, where he received the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals’ (NAWDP’s) Youth Employer of the Year award. Ever humble, Alvin took a back seat to the recognition and awards. He is a workforce hero!