Navigating Workforce Development Challenges in Kitsap : A Path to Economic Resilience
22 Sep 2023
In recent years, Kitsap has witnessed a transformative shift in its workforce landscape. To gain deeper insights into evolving workforce development issues impacting the local economy, we sat down with Monica Blackwood, President & CEO of West Sound Workforce, a prominent staffing company based in Kitsap.
Evolving Workforce Dynamics
Broader regional trends have profoundly influenced Kitsap's economy. Monica Blackwood states, "Kitsap's workforce issues have mirrored much of what has been happening in our region for the last decade." Notably, the region has experienced a shortage of workers, an increasing tilt in negotiation power towards employees, and the importance of more robust broadband infrastructure highlighted during the pandemic.
The workplace, as we once knew it, has been redefined. Job seekers now prioritize flexibility to align with their life circumstances, challenging businesses to adapt. Monica emphasized the need for employers to be creative in accommodating individual needs, whether adjusting shift schedules or considering remote work options for in-person roles.
Comparing Kitsap to Neighboring Areas
Kitsap's unique workforce challenges are influenced by its proximity to the tech epicenter of the Puget Sound region. As Monica points out, the tech industry brought a wave of remote workers to the area, with tech giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and others employing Kitsap residents. However, the ripple effect of tech layoffs has left many job seekers in Kitsap searching for opportunities, particularly in the tech sector.
Rising salaries in Kitsap have presented a double-edged sword. While it helps attract and retain talent, it also exacerbates the already high cost of housing in the area, putting pressure on businesses and workers.
Another critical issue highlighted by Monica is the need for improved transportation access to industrial areas. Public transportation often must match work schedules, hindering entry-level workers' ability to reach job locations. Addressing this challenge could unlock a larger pool of skilled workers.
West Sound Workforce's Role in Addressing Challenges
West Sound Workforce is pivotal in addressing workforce development challenges in Kitsap. Monica stressed the importance of staying engaged in workforce issues at local, state, and national levels. By doing so, they can engage in meaningful conversations with employer partners, encouraging curiosity and creativity in solving workforce problems.
The staffing company is known for asking unconventional questions, such as proposing mobile mechanics to work on employees' cars during their shifts or exploring ride-sharing solutions to bridge the transportation gap.
On the employee side, West Sound Workforce provides valuable guidance to job seekers. The organization assists individuals in understanding the nuances of working from home and helps them determine whether it aligns with their preferences and work styles.
Additionally, West Sound Workforce offers training services that help employers meet regulatory and operational needs. This includes CPR/First Aid training, which contributes to workplace safety, and HR basics for supervisors to address potential issues proactively. In an era when mental health is a pressing concern, their Mental Health First Aid class equips employees with essential tools and resources to seek help when needed.
Kitsap's workforce development challenges are complex and multifaceted. However, through the efforts of organizations like West Sound Workforce, there is hope for positive change. By fostering creativity, embracing flexibility, and promoting essential training, Kitsap is taking steps toward a more resilient and prosperous local economy where the needs of both businesses and workers are met in innovative and sustainable ways.