Kitsap County Celebrates CTE Month with a Focus on Workforce Development: Insights from the KEDA OWDC Workforce + Education Roundtable

Kitsap County Celebrates CTE Month with a Focus on Workforce Development: Insights from the KEDA OWDC Workforce + Education Roundtable Main Photo

26 Feb 2024

Career and Technical Education (CTE) prepares students for the high-wage and high-demand career fields of the 21st Century and is critical to Kitsap’s economic vitality. We celebrate National CTE Month in February and applaud our school district's exceptional dual credit program CTE  and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs.

In our work as economic developers, KEDA hears a lot about critical workforce challenges facing Kitsap industries and employers, and addressing those challenges is a crucial pillar of KEDA’s One Kitsap five-year economic strategy.

Enhancing Collaboration for Robust CTE Programs

As a first step in addressing workforce needs, KEDA turned to our partners at the Olympic Workforce Development Council (OWDC) to convene a Workforce + Education Roundtable event in January. The event brought together over 60 business and education leaders, government officials, and other resource partners to discuss critical workforce challenges skills gaps, and explore solutions to meet the current and future needs in the region. Bill Dowling, Director of the Olympic Workforce Development Council, provided his valuable insights.

Insights from Bill Dowling, Director of the Olympic Workforce Development Council

Olympic Workforce is dedicated to developing an innovative workforce system supporting a strong economy and community within Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties. The council strives to keep an inclusive and diverse workforce in conjunction with local businesses, training and education providers, and industry leaders.

Bill Dowling, the Director of OWDC, emphasized the importance of stakeholder collaboration in addressing workforce challenges. The strategic planning sessions, coordinated with KEDA a year ago, laid the groundwork for initiating conversations that led to the formation of the OWDC Workforce Roundtable. The ongoing commitment to continue these discussions reflects the long-term vision for workforce development in Kitsap County.

Dowling stated, “The Roundtable, sponsored by KEDA and the OWDC, was a great opportunity to gather educators, industry, government, economic development, and workforce professionals to focus on expanding workforce training opportunities in Kitsap County. It was so exciting to have all the players at the table to discuss what is working and how best to duplicate those efforts to include other industries in our region.  While we have robust CTE programs throughout the area, each school district’s opportunities differ.  This unique event allowed employers to hear what education is doing and find out how it might be most helpful in promoting opportunities to young people.   In addition, educators could hear firsthand from businesses about the skills of their incoming workforce, what’s missing, and what’s working.”

Dowling also highlighted the takeaways from the Roundtable by participants:

  • An open and lively discussion about the gaps educators are seeing and how they differ from what businesses are experiencing in candidates they are interviewing for hire.
  • The skills gaps identified by industries and ideas discussions on how best to tackle those gaps.
  • For teens to understand how career choices will impact their financial future, financial literacy is needed.
  • Alignment of graduation requirements to real-life needs for future employment.
  • There is an ongoing conversation about building better pipelines for students into local businesses.

Aligning with CTE Month Goals

Career and Technical Education Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the Workforce Roundtable's alignment with the broader goals of promoting and advancing CTE. Roundtable conversations emphasized the need for increased awareness of existing CTE programs and job opportunities.  A consistent message from employers across all industry sectors was the role of parents and the need for greater exposure to CTE opportunities starting at the middle school level. achievements within the community.

Continuing the Conversation: Next Steps

The event's success has paved the way for future initiatives, with participants expressing the need to continue the conversation. Plans include creating a white paper, led by KEDA and OWDC, to disseminate the findings and recommendations discussed during the Roundtable further. Additionally, the formation of a Community Task Force by OWDC signals a collaborative effort to address workforce challenges collectively. Contact the council here for more information.

In Kitsap County, the celebration of CTE Month is intertwined with a proactive approach to workforce development. The Workforce Roundtable has become a cornerstone event, fostering collaboration, addressing challenges, and laying the groundwork for sustained initiatives. As Kitsap County continues to invest in its workforce, the emphasis on collaboration between education, industry, and community stakeholders remains crucial for building a resilient and skilled workforce for the future.