Pierce County and Joint Base Lewis McCord are interconnected through history, economy, and people. The WorkSource system partners with JBLM leaders to serve those who have served us.

This partnership recently contributed to Washington state being named Community Impact Leader of the Year by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Division. “Washington is the benchmark for military readiness. We are very intentional about having plans in place to be accessible and to remove barriers to civilian employment,” explained Shellie Willis, who leads WorkForce Central’s military initiatives.

JBLM’s 45,000 service members and civilian workers, 29,000 family members, and 120,000 retirees are a big part of Pierce County. “The military community is one of the largest and most diverse workforces in our state. We want to honor and value their service. By doing so, we lift our entire community,” Willis said.

In recent years, WorkForce Central has worked alongside JBLM leadership, the state Employment Security Department, Veteran’s Affairs, DSHS, and others to create the America’s Job Center, which is the first WorkSource-affiliated job center on a U.S. military base. This Malcom Baldridge-certified site helps military members and their spouses match skills to civilian jobs and find local opportunities.

Washington was the first to establish a statewide Military Spouse Economic Employment Zone, an effort spearheaded by Tacoma leaders. The Zone designation recognizes the military spouse’s ability to build their own career as a stabilizing force for the family. This is a key indicator for whether the family will remain in the community.

“If the spouse is happy, we retain two skilled people in Pierce County,” Willis added. “Our goal is to encourage the hiring of military spouses and to make the transfer of career credentials easier from state to state.”

WorkForce Central and its service arm, WorkSource Pierce, also focus on veterans who have not found a good job fit after leaving the military. Willis explained, “We have a veterans’ group that helps with training and resources. Transitioning out of the military to a civilian job is one goal, but ultimately the goal is job retention.”

How can the community help?

Willis reminds us to look at military members, spouses, and veterans for their transferable skills, not their resumes. To learn more, contact Shellie Willis at swillis@workforce-central.org.

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