Forum brings focus to the labor shortage


Labor Shortage Forum   May 31's forum led to an interesting panel discussion on the current labor shortage.
   The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis' Josh Lehner set the stage by sharing with the audience how the region is experiencing one of the longest economic expansions in history, but at the same time the workforce is losing thousands of people to retirement.
   Lehner said businesses are looking to grow, but don't have the labor to do it.  
   The one benefit the Portland metro area has is its ability to attract young skilled households.  
   One area feeling the labor pinch are the trades.
   Andersen Construction's Joel Andersen feels the trades have a perception problem.  
   He said high school students and their parents don't seem to see the trades as a successful career pathway and that perception needs to change.
   He pointed out that construction is at the root of just about every industry.
   Janine Weir of the Beaverton School District shared some her experience with students and some of the technical programs her district provides.
   She said the district is planning to inventory its efforts and continue talking with industries and the community. 

   Weir also shared the story of a woman who'd been an art major, but couldn't make a decent living, so she went into welding. (see video to the right).
   *Portland Community College's Sylvia Kelley said PCC recently graduated 5,200 students.
   She said one problem the college is seeing is the cost of housing and how students who need the skilled training can't afford to live in the service area.
   Worksystems, Inc.'s Andrew McGough said 20 percent of the workforce doesn't make enough to support their families.
 According to IBEW Local 48's Jon Jensen, the average age of those starting in apprenticeship programs is 28, so its almost a second career.
   He wants to see more programs established in schools and the ability to target the workers between the ages of 16-28.
   McGough said he would like to see an advisory committee to oversee the development of curriculum, so the region doesn't have multiple programs focusing on the same industry.
   To read more about the forum, see Peter Wong's article in the Portland Tribune.
   The WEA Facebook page has photos.
   McGough also referred to this website, which explores careers in the trades.