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!

Rethinking Barriers Continues at Love, INC

Rethinking Barriers to Employment, WWP’s program designed to help participants overcome barriers to employment, just completed a full workshop series with participants from Love, INC. in Newberg. Since 2004, Love, INC. has worked with local churches to serve thousands of families and individuals in need in the Newberg area. Athlynn Reeves, Regional Ministry Coordinator, worked diligently to recruit six participants who were eager to learn and grow, and more importantly, find meaningful work. Love, INC. contracted with WWP to offer this training.

Robin Windsor, previously employed by WWP and more recently by South Coast Business Employment Corporation (SCBEC), is a seasoned Rethinking program facilitator who skillfully delivered Rethinking Barriers to the Love, INC. group. Although retired from workforce development, the offer to facilitate Rethinking Barriers, a program she wholeheartedly believes in, enticed her to facilitate the workshop.

According to Robin, “I didn’t know what to expect on the first day of class or even who would be there; but, I was not disappointed. From the first day, the group dynamics were positive and each participant fully participated, completed all homework and skill and thinking logs.” Robin attributed the group cohesiveness to participants having similar backgrounds including financial, housing, anger, anxiety and PTSD challenges. She witnessed their “lightbulbs” turn on throughout the program as they examined their skills and thinking, and realized what they might need to change to find employment.

Rethinking Barriers Class: Jennifer Green, Larry Marshall, Sonia French, Dylan Caldwell-Tuttle, Jeremy Macy, Annette Stiffler

One participant stated she “enjoyed the program because it encouraged her to be accountable and show up. I took pride in doing these things – things that are important when job searching. I learned a lot about myself.” Another participant said “I have used these techniques in the past but this workshop was enlightening and helped me realize these techniques are timeless and help in many kinds of situations. Working on our inner selves, we will get farther as a community, country and planet.” Still another participant shared they “…were directly and significantly assisted with identifying, noticing, accepting, understanding, and further challenging things such as self-worth, confidence, thoughts, perspectives, behaviors and conclusions that no longer work for me!”

For Robin, each meeting with this group “…was like wrapping up in a warm cozy blanket. Like getting a gift and not knowing what it would be but knowing I’d like it.” She went on to say she learned so much from the participants and is confident they will be successful in their job searching.

Congratulations to the entire class and Robin on successfully completing Rethinking Barriers!