It was the very early start to day three which opened our eyes to the issue of homelessness in Seattle. With Washington state ranked in the top 10 American states for its quality of life and evidencing the highest minimum wage in the USA; our drive through the city exposed the scale of this issue and left our delegation questioning why? Seattle reported that it has been hit particularly hard by the homelessness issue and we clearly saw how tent cities are now part of everyday life.
We travelled to Olympia, the capital of Washington state, and met with a team of dynamic professionals. The energy of the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and Workforce Training & Education Co-ordinating Board was contagious; what a great team! The board describe themselves as ‘small and nimble’, explaining how this enables flexibility to independently evaluate effectiveness of their programmes. They demonstrated how ‘apples to apples’ comparisons are made using state employment security data to analyse and further develop the impact of training. Using a net impact study every 4 to 5 years the board are able to compare those students who undertake a workforce programme against those who don’t. The Board drills down into the data and identifies where learners progress in the labour market from college, both on exit and at later points in their careers.
The AWB, founded in 1904, is focused on the ‘business of business’. They are an advocate for the ‘risk taker, entrepreneur, dreamer and taxpayer’ and certainly inspired our delegation with their vibrant enthusiasm. Their ‘Generation Apocalypse’ plan for a workforce summit aims to raise awareness of workforce changes. We discussed and shared strategies about succession planning; exploring how baby boomers are retiring, how generation X’s are becoming Washington states new leaders and how generation Z’s are taking on greater responsibilities as they enter the workforce. This highlighted the need for greater connectivity between business and education; ensuring all stakeholders ‘row’ in the same direction to fill skills gaps and meet the needs of the future workforce. How well do we build Wales’ talent pipeline for years to come?
We were curious about how Washington state use an online tool called ‘career bridge’ which enables young people engagement in a personal journey of career exploration. We were interested to hear how Washington states multiple pathways concept assures students that there are no wrong career pathways. Career exploration and lifelong learning approaches connect learning and provide opportunities for young people to trial out different careers. The engine to this is the use of Industry skill panels which bring the right people to the table to talk about skills. What works best to connect young people to the world of work and what works best to result in career success is tangible and measured impressively for the states ROI.
We were told about how Washington states vision and mission for workforce development aims to help more people find jobs that lead to economic self sufficiency. The Washington State Board for Community & Technical colleges have created centres of excellence to support this, however recruiting experienced skills professionals appears to be challenging. With their 34 colleges enrolling 6 out of every 10 full time students, career connected learning opportunities are the majority.
We met with Washington State’s Employment Security Department who declare that it has the World’s best workforce. Forbes recently listed Washington state among the 10 best states for business. As we uncovered yesterday, it is the birthplace of some of the world’s best companies and is one of the most highly trained and educated workforces in America. With Washington’s expanding labour force, it has grown by 85,000 from 2014 to 2015, with more than 3.5 million people in the workforce today.
Concluding our schedule with another question – how can we create jobs in Wales that regular people can have which pay well?
We then extended our day to accept a tour around Washington State’s Legislative Building and further extended our experience to include skills participation at the community and technical college legislative reception. It was great to end our visit to Olympia in the company of students. On our drive back to Seattle, we were able to reflect on Washington state’s department of commerce’s reason to choose Washington: “We change the world a little every day, driven by a passion to build a brighter future”. After a 12 hour day we arrived back in Seattle with just enough time to prepare for another busy day tomorrow.
Day 3 – Team #InnovateFE