Katie Condit, CEO, WorkForce Central

It’s an amazing time and place to rethink workforce development. After coming to WorkForce Central in July, I’ve been welcomed by incredible community partners and engaged by a team that has met the challenges presented by this pandemic with innovation and tenacity. I am very grateful for both.

In the past two months, I’ve met with dozens of local partners to talk about how to better align the workforce system with others who also seek increased and equitable prosperity for all. In Pierce County, there are significant gaps in opportunity and access for people of color, those experiencing poverty, individuals with disabilities, those living in rural areas, and our LGBTQ+ community members, amongst others. These gaps are compounded by the pandemic, which disproportionally impacts these communities in profound ways.

In a uniquely Pierce County way, I’ve seen strong cross-sector commitment to addressing these disparities. The business and education sectors, along with government and nonprofits, have stepped up. Our community has a low tolerance for smoke and mirrors. It is focused on action and impact.

We are at a critical moment in the lives of individuals and the health of our economy, and WorkForce Central has a responsibility to be nimble and responsive in new ways. An example of this commitment is our team’s efforts around disaster recovery that aim to connect dislocated workers with meaningful jobs at food banks and with other critical services—paid work that supports community recovery. Another has been the shift that our systems have made to virtual services, including career preparation and job fairs, which have successfully paired job seekers with employers in essential services. These efforts align with a long-term shift we’re making to meet individuals where and how they decide they need to be met. This is a commitment to designing with, not simply for, the communities we aim to support.

Much of our focus has been on direct service to people seeking employment and to employers navigating this pandemic and the workforce fluctuations that come with it. That commitment to direct service won’t change. We are doubling down on designing these services through a human-centered framework, challenging ourselves and the status quo to ensure we are choosing what works over what is comfortable or has always been done.

In addition to that focus, our team continues to build WorkForce Central’s strategic direction towards systems-level transformation. We are rethinking and redesigning policies and practices across workforce development systems with the aim of broadening our reach and deepening our impact, and with the ultimate goal of eliminating gaps in economic prosperity. Our current crisis has driven a collective desire for change, and we are working alongside our partners to take advantage of that opportunity.

Thank you for your warm welcome to this incredible community. I look forward to seeing what we can do together.