Like a lot of people, Sarah Lane wasn’t sure how WorkSource worked. As the owner of First Light Home Care, she visited her local office to see about recruiting workers and was pleasantly surprised with what she found.
“I thought I’d just be added to a list of business owners and hope that someone would pick me,” says Lane, “but I actually met with someone at WorkSource who learned about my company, what my needs were, and what kind of employees I was looking for. It was great to have such specific information.” Since then, Lane has held hiring events through the agency, posted job openings on their site, and hired multiple employees as a result.
WorkSource is just one facet of the Pacific Mountain Workforce Development Council, a regional non-profit that provides workforce solutions for businesses, career builders, and job seekers in Lewis, Mason, Grays Harbor, Pacific, and Thurston counties. “Our job is to work with all of those community members and businesses to make sure the economy stays vital,” says executive director Cheryl Fambles.
In 2012, PacMtn conducted a study to identify key industries that create a stronger regional economy. The study found six: healthcare, IT, forest products, food processing, chemical manufacturing and plastics, and leisure/hospitality. “You can imagine what that looks like in our region,” says Fambles. “Forest products obviously includes logging and timber mills. With food processing, people don’t think about the amount of shellfish we have here or the millions of chickens that are in Lewis County. We’re also trying to work through organics and cideries and distilling. That’s all part of food processing.”
Local Worksource offices provide a plethora of resources for both job seekers and employers attempting to navigate the modern work world. For those looking to build a career or transition into a new one, the landscape has changed. “Nowadays, almost everything is done online,” Fambles explains. “We offer a tremendous amount of resources at worksource.wa.com.”
WorkSource staff help job seekers with creating effective resumes, translating skills from previous jobs into appropriate language for what they’re seeking, and rehearsing during mock interviews. “It’s terrifying being across the table from somebody asking you to tell them about yourself,” says Fambles. “The more you practice, the better you can get.”
PacMtn also offers a program for dislocated workers. “If you’ve been laid off, you’re immediately eligible for that program,” Fambles notes. “Some of the programs have paid internships and on-the-job training where we can subsidize the training wage for up to three months. We can do all kinds of things with employers where we work to get you into a position.”
Fambles doesn’t have to look far for evidence of the program’s success. PacMtn’s manager of policy and performance first connected with the organization as a displaced worker after being laid off from his boat building job. “He came with tremendous amounts of experience in the work he’d been doing in marine manufacturing,” says Fambles. “He was able to apply that, first as a caseworker and then as someone who was really interested in policies and performance. I see him every day and I celebrate the fact that he took it upon himself to transition out and come to a place where he can help someone else.”
But WorkSource isn’t just for job seekers; employers also use it to find staff and learn about how to retain people once they’re hired. “We’ve got multiple generations in the workforce now,” says Fambles. “The days of ‘They’ll just have to get over it because that’s the way it is’ aren’t working for many millennials. With the labor market being so tight, they’re going to go somewhere else and your business is going to suffer. We’re trying to help employers understand what’s happening now in the labor force.”
The tight market also opens the door for another set of employees, one that’s often overlooked: those with a criminal record. “I really want to speak to those people,” Fambles says. “Most didn’t murder somebody or burgle somebody; they made a mistake, went to jail or prison, and did their time. I’ve met hundreds of those kinds of folks who want to go to work and be contributors to their local economy. I really encourage employers to look at them.”
Visiting Worksource is a good starting point, for people on both sides of the employment line. “Come visit us,” says Fambles. “You’ll be welcomed, you’ll like what you see, and then when you or your neighbor or your child needs to figure out how to get into a job or how to get a better job, you’ll know where to go.”
Cheryl Fambles participated in an interview on Thurston Community Media’s Mission Non-Profit series with host Andrea Capere. TC Media and Fambles share more about the mission and services of Pac Mtn in these videos.