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CONTACT: CHRISTIAN CAPLE, 253.213.2960
TACOMA, Wash. – When he moved to Tacoma with his family in the mid-1980s, Tim Owens figured he would be here “a couple years” before moving somewhere else.
Thirty-plus years later, he still happily calls himself a Pierce County resident.
And Pierce County is more than happy to have him.
United Way of Pierce County named Owens one of five 2018 LIVE UNITED award winners on Tuesday during its annual “Celebrate Community” breakfast event. The award is given to individuals who “embody what it means to LIVE UNITED” – those who think of others before themselves and impact their communities through selfless contributions.
“Tim isn’t the kind of guy who likes attention, but we are thrilled that our great partners at United Way have honored him with this award,” said Linda Nguyen, CEO of WorkForce Central. “Not only has Tim made valuable contributions as a member of the Pierce County Workforce Development Council, but he has connected so many young adults to the kind of employment opportunities that build the essential skills needed to succeed in their future careers. Tim is the kind of person we are proud to have in Pierce County.”
For nearly three decades, Owens – store Manager at Marshalls in Lakewood and Chair of the Pierce County Workforce Development Council (WDC) – has used his platform both as a professional and volunteer to make positive contributions to the local community.
“Each year, we ask the community if they know an individual, group or organization who make an impact in their community. As one of the five recipients of the LIVE UNITED Award, Tim Owens exemplifies the spirit of service to our community,” said Katherine Ransom, United Way of Pierce County’s Vice President of Marketing & Communications. “It was clear that he gives 110 percent to neighbors in need. Tim’s selfless work in helping to provide employment opportunities for young adults living with barriers to employment is exemplary. What’s more, he has helped inform the direction of Pierce County’s workforce development system since joining its Youth Council in 2007.”
Owens’ career as a retail store manager brought him to Tacoma for the opening of the Ross store in 1986, and has included long stints at Burlington Coat Factory and his current position at Marshalls. He first partnered with the Tacoma Community House’s Summer Youth Employment and Training Program during his time at Burlington Coat Factory, which served as the place of employment for the program’s participants.
“The goal at that point was to take kids who might not have a vision and give them a vision,” Owens said. “That was my biggest motivation.”
Owens continued to partner with even more community based organizations after becoming Manager at Marshalls in 2003, with the goal of training each participant to become a full-time employee. He estimates that he has employed more than 100 youth program participants, with more than 40 of those becoming full-time employees – and some are still employed with Marshalls today.
He maintains contact with 60 or 70 of those participants, and still provides letters of recommendation and references for many of them. Many of the young adults Owens hires face barriers to employment, such as limited English proficiency, disability or financial disadvantages. By hiring young people to work in his store, Owens provides not only the vision of a potential career path, but an opportunity to learn essential skills such as communication, teamwork and professional responsibility – transferrable skills that are just as important to employers as technical ability.
Of his 65 employees at Marshalls today, Owens estimates that about 20 percent are either high-school or college students – but he also strives to hire employees from every other age demographic (including an 81-year-old woman who recently retired). As an employer, Tim also acts as a career counselor, encouraging the young adults he works with to pursue careers that align with their interests and skills.
In 2007, Owens joined the WDC’s Youth Council, a seamless transition for someone already actively involved in providing youth with a vision for what their career paths could be. In 2009, he became a member of the WDC itself, and was named WDC Chair in 2017 – all on a volunteer basis.
Owens was essential in helping the WDC implement the changes required by the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and continues to provide valuable insight into the direction of the public workforce development system in Pierce County.
WorkForce Central strengthens the Pierce County economy by identifying skill gaps between jobseekers and employment opportunities, fostering data-driven decision making, and connecting workforce development partners into a cohesive, collaborative and effective network.