Future Ready Careers

Expanding opportunities for the underserved

In his State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden called community colleges “America's best kept secret” for preparing America’s workforce for future careers. The sentiment is shared at Portland Community College which just took new steps for students to quickly become job ready.

During a celebration at Intel this month that drew an assortment of legislators, business, education, labor and community leaders, Gov. Kate Brown signed the “Future Ready Oregon” initiative into law.

The investment in statewide community college Career Pathways programs are geared as a solution to developing Oregon’s future workforce and creating more equitable prosperity across the state.

Crafted with input from the Governor’s Racial Justice Council Workforce Workgroup, the $200 million investment focuses on opportunities for historically underserved communities, including adult learners, dislocated workers, people of color, women, people with low incomes, rural communities, individuals who disproportionately experience age discrimination in employment and disconnected youth.

“Approaching workforce development with an equity lens really is the heart and soul of this legislation,” Brown said. “That means identifying barriers to career advancement for underserved communities, providing support services to help individuals overcome those barriers, and viewing those supports—such as child care access, or broadband—as critical infrastructure.”

Program advisors will help students identify their career of choice and provide wraparound support as they accumulate stackable credentials.

Future Ready Oregon is funded by leveraging Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by Congress last year, with state general funds.

In 2020, the state declared a need for an additional 300,000 skilled adult workers with postsecondary credentials, to meet the demands of a future filled with increasingly complex work. The COVID pandemic further disrupted the workforce crisis, as well as highlighted pre-existing economic disparities across the state.

“This initiative provides the roadmap for Oregonians, especially BIPOC Oregonians, to get access to family-wage careers in healthcare and beyond,” said Patsy Richards, director of Long-Term CareWorks at RISE Partnership and a member of the governor’s council.

Marin Areolla III, president of Advanced Economic Solutions and co-chair of the council’s workforce workgroup, said, “This historical bill will change our workforce system for the better and create an equitable economy that works for everyone.”