Quality Jobs Offer Economic Stability, Opportunity, and a Healthy Workplace

June 20, 2023

For most sectors in Pierce County, job openings are outpacing job seekers. For every one job seeker in Washington state, there are 1.5 jobs needing to be filled. And yet, it’s taking the average American job seeker five months to find employment. With job seekers taking nearly half a year to find the right job and employers struggling to fill these positions, we find ourselves asking where the disconnect lies and what it means to talk about quality jobs in our region.

As president of the National League of Cities, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards recently announced her commitment to recognizing and growing good jobs in the city. As a part of that commitment, Tacoma was selected as one of 16 cities in the nation to participate in The Good Jobs, Great Cities Academy through the Department of Labor and National League of Cities. Academy cities are working closely with employers, workforce development boards, and other cross-sector partners to find innovative solutions that upskill and reskill workers into quality, high-demand jobs in infrastructure, clean energy, and advanced manufacturing. The first step in this partnership is to solidly define what a “good job” looks like in our region. From a workforce and economic development perspective, we know a quality job provides workers with economic stability, personal growth opportunities, and a sense of dignity and respect in the workplace.

To provide economic stability, wages must provide adequate income to meet a quality standard of living for the area, including access to stable housing, childcare if needed, transportation, and resources to cover food and other expenses. The measure of a “good job” can be complicated by the fact that every community member has different circumstances by which that is measured. For example, a single parent with three dependent children has a different level of wages required to be self-sufficient, perhaps, than a single young adult with no dependents leaving community college in pursuit of their next job.

To understand what sufficient wages mean for unique individual experiences, we take into consideration family composition, such as the number of children and dependents, and the community where a worker resides. WorkForce Central has adopted the Self-Sufficiency Calculator created by University of Washington to help determine what wages any given community member needs to support themselves and their families. This tool can also be used to assist employers in offering competitive wages.

Comprehensive benefits are also key for most job seekers, as these benefits increase a person’s economic security and improve their health and overall well-being through access to affordable healthcare and retirement savings programs, among other supports. Employers have become creative in their offerings of comprehensive benefits, including many that provide a “menu” of sorts, allowing individual job seekers to determine for themselves the benefits that most matter, including things like childcare support, different retirement options, and flexible schedules. For individuals sharing insurance with a spouse or parent, for example, health coverage may not be a top priority compared to other benefits an employer is offering.

Recently, the idea of “flexible work” has become synonymous with “working from home.” However, it can be much more dynamic than that and is a key indicator of strong hiring and retention rates for employers. Flexible work can mean things like working from home part or full time, allowing for more hours worked in fewer days, creating a staffing structure that allows for different hours in the work week (e.g. 32-hour work week), and different start and end time schedules (e.g. 7:00-3:00, 9:00-5:00). These multiple approaches to flexible work make this model accessible to employers who need staff to be in person to meet the needs of the job. These aren’t new concepts. Employers have used these models for years to accommodate employees with varieties of life circumstances. The important condition to these offerings is that they work for both the employer’s business model and for the lived experiences of the worker to ensure a mutually beneficial, and therefore quality, work experience.

A good job often provides opportunities for employees to build skills and a pathway for advancement in the workplace and in their own careers. Opportunities like articulated internal pathways for career progression, professional training, and mentorship opportunities matter for recruitment and retention of workers. A good job offers a safe working environment with an established culture of care where employees feel they are treated with dignity and respect and are comfortable working with everyone. They feel comfortable sharing opinions and ideas, knowing they will be met with acceptance and understanding. Quality jobs uphold and enforce anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies and provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities.

There is one final factor in quality employment that could assist in bringing the right applicants through the doors from the get-go. A quality job offers transparent and accessible hiring and onboarding practices to ensure that the employer and employee are set for success. Recent changes to the Washington Equal Pay and Opportunities Act now require Washington employers with 15+ workers to post wage scale or salary range information in all job postings, as well as benefits and other compensation. With 85.5% of Pierce County establishments having fewer than 15 employees, the majority aren’t required to do this. However, if employers want to bring in quality applicants and lessen the burden of the hiring process, it’s in everyone’s best interest to be transparent and straightforward in the position and compensation package.

All these factors are important to quality jobs, and we look forward to working with the City of Tacoma and the Pierce County business community in bringing actionable models forward to ensure we have abundant quality job opportunities for every business and community member in the region. And, if you’re an employer looking to determine how you might grow a quality jobs model in your business, WorkForce Central’s Business Solutions Team can connect you to multiple resources to support you in those efforts!

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