The Willamette Workforce Partnership (WWP) is engaging in sector partnerships in four key industries in the Mid-Willamette Valley region: Transportation, Warehousing and Distribution; Manufacturing; Health Care; and Construction. The workforce development board, providing services in Linn, Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, is mandated by the Workforce Opportunity and Investment Act to invest in sector strategies, making good workforce investment sense. The health of our area businesses is the key to good jobs and a thriving community.
What is a sector partnership? It is an industry-led problem-solving group, with WWP as the “convener.” In that role, WWP acts as a neutral organizer and, through its community, educational and governmental contacts provides the resources to assist the industry in solving critical problems. The assumption underlying sector partnerships is that they can improve industry competitiveness and job seekers’ employment opportunities.
Why did WWP choose these specific industries? Private sector employment in the Mid-Valley is diverse, with no one industry dominating employment. It makes sense to choose industries that show growth potential.
Transportation, Warehousing and Distribution is one of these industries and includes warehouse workers, long and short-haul truck drivers, forklift operators, and any other position required to operate a warehouse. Nearly 12,000 job openings in this industry are projected over the next ten years (eight percent of all openings), and the industry faces challenges. Proximity to the Interstate has fueled growth – FedEx and Home Depot have recently built large warehouse complexes in south Salem right off I-5, and Amazon is building a second warehouse in the region, this one in North Marion County.
The diverse manufacturing industry is vital to the Mid-Valley’s economy. Still, the industry, except manufacturing in Yamhill County, has not recovered employment to its level before the great recession. The sector faces many challenges, generally pays good wages, and expects 32,000 job openings over the next ten years.
The health care industry is the only industry to weather the great recession without job losses. Fueled by an aging population, the industry expects nearly 44,000 job openings over ten years. The pandemic has sped this up, and the health care workforce challenges are felt in every aspect of the sector. Challenges include finding workers for entry-level occupations and educating a sufficient supply of registered nurses.
Construction is expected to continue expanding. Residential building and commercial construction will continue driving the economy throughout the region. As a new targeted sector for Willamette Workforce Partnership, the focus has been on supporting youth getting exposure to the construction industry and supporting employers in finding the workforce they need.
WWP business staff will be holding initial employer meetings with manufacturing and healthcare leaders in the months to come.