As Oregon’s recession bottomed out in 2003, Oregon employers faced significant shortages in skilled labor, despite the lower hiring activity of the previous three years. An increasing number of workers retiring with technical experience exacerbated the shortfall in available knowledge. New technologies put further pressure on the less-skilled labor pool.
A task force determined that Oregon lagged behind the rest of the country in public investment in workforce training and that workforce training and development was not connected to Oregon’s engines of economic growth. No coherent statewide strategy existed to combat the problems.
To facilitate better training, Gov. Ted Kulongoski created the Employer Workforce Training Fund (EWTF) in the fall of 2003. The fund, intended to grow and retain a skilled workforce and living-wage jobs in Oregon, assists companies with the cost of training their workers.
The EWTF is a good resource for training Oregon’s private sector workforce. The funds, available on a regional and state level, provide support to companies with a need to train current workers to retain and expand jobs. Regional-based workforce response teams distributed about $3.9 million to Oregon companies each of the last two years. Another $1.2 million was invested annually in statewide workforce training initiatives.
Regional workforce response teams provide a single point-of-contact and connect state resources to local communities.
Each region uses a slightly different application process to award workforce-training funds, with new dollars available each year beginning on July 1. Claire Berger, Oregon’s workforce policy coordinator, expects regional workforce response teams to disburse about $3.6 in matching grants this fiscal year to companies seeking aid with workforce training.
Your company may qualify for workforce training funds.
The award criteria benefit companies in clusters formed around trade-sectors, occupations or skills with shortages, and training necessary to advance a company’s technological capacity or enhance productivity. And while a company must provide matching funds or an equal in-kind contribution to receive the grant funds, no limit exists, apart from budgetary constraints, to the size of an awarded grant.
The awarded funds cannot be used for the recruitment of non-Oregon-based businesses or workers, as wages for trainees, or for the purchase of equipment.
Go to www.oregon.gov/worksource/wrt/index.shtml for further information and resources related to the grant process, including a sample grant application, a boilerplate contract for funding and lessons learned in the grant process
— Robert H. Hamrick
|Workforce response teams by county|
Linn, Benton and Lincoln
Baker, Union and Wallowa
Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson
Gilliam, Hood River, Sherman, Wasco and Wheeler