A “Win-Win-Win:” Research shows impact of private-public partnerships in job training

Photo courtesy Cameron Karsten Photography for Seattle Colleges 2018 marketing campaign at Seattle Central College.

Seattle is enjoying impressively low unemployment rates—the lowest point in 2018 so far was 2.8 percent in April. With so few workers to go around, how is an employer to fill open positions?

The answer to that question, for many employers, is investing in workforce development—that is, making sure that prospective future employees are trained and prepared to fill in-demand positions.

According to a new study from the National Skills Coalition, about 80 percent of jobs in the U.S. require candidates to have some form of training or education beyond high school. This doesn’t mean that most workers will be required to get a four-year degree to be successful. About 53 percent of jobs in our labor market are “middle skill,” meaning they require training beyond high school but not a college degree, according to the same study. However, only 43 percent of workers have the training they need to qualify for these middle skill jobs.

The need for middle skilled workers is apparent in several important industries right here in King County: the Seattle Jobs Initiative projects that there will be shortages of hundreds of workers to fill openings in teaching, nursing and computer support in the coming years, for example.

In order to fill these positions, employers are joining forces with community partners to connect adults with the skills they need to be successful. Community colleges have proven to be particularly effective partners in workforce development efforts locally, and across the country.

Through the Office of Economic Development’s investment in the Seattle Colleges’ Center for Working Adults, (CWA)  the college is working to ramp up its capacity for public-private partnerships. For employers, CWA represents a pivotal partner for talent recruitment, retention, and advancement.

Seattle Colleges have a legacy of developing effective employer-training partnerships. For example, Vigor Industrial is the leading provider of shipbuilding, complex fabrication and ship repair and conversion in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska; they need welders. South Seattle College leases training space from Vigor, administers a welding program, and pays instructor salaries. Vigor currently hires about 50 percent of the students into welding, fitting, fabricating, and other trades positions, and has a list of other employers that other grads are often referred to. An entry-level employee can expect to make an average of $21 per hour as a pre-apprentice.

As a recent report from the Seattle Jobs Initiative details, local private-public partnerships in job training, like Vigor’s, are a win-win-win situation for all parties involved. Colleges improve the quality and relevance of their training programs, students improve their employment prospects, and employers secure a pipeline of workers who have the specific skills they need.

Participating in job training programs saves businesses money. The Seattle Jobs Initiative’s study of Shoreline College’s program, for example, found that businesses saved thousands of dollars on both training and labor costs. Partnering with community organizations is especially helpful for small businesses, which are less able to shoulder the costs of training staff on their own.

The Office of Economic Development continues to support partnerships that bridge the skills gap between workers and employers. Have questions or ideas? Reach out to us at oed@seattle.gov.