EDASC initiatives continue addressing workforce shortages

EDASC initiatives continue addressing workforce shortages Main Photo

24 Jan 2022

In response to employer needs, EDASC in 2021 launched a pair of programs to address workforce challenges to go along with its existing initiatives.

EDASC launched the Skagit Job Board in June, enabling its Investors to publish unlimited job openings at no cost. It also co-hosted three Northwest Regional Job Fairs, helping connect employers and job seekers virtually.

“Over the past year – and even before that -- the first thing we heard from employers was they were having difficulties filling jobs,” said EDASC Economic Development and External Relations Manager Aaron Weinberg. “EDASC has shifted its resources to meet that need.”

For at least a generation, it has been apparent with the aging of the Baby Boomer skilled workforce, particularly in manufacturing and the trades, that the newer generations were not numerous or trained enough to replace them.

The pandemic only intensified these pre-existing workforce shortages.

EDASC’s workforce development initiatives have aimed to help businesses fill positions.

The Skagit Job Board, EDASC’s most popular Investor perk, is regularly at capacity with 100 employers advertising open positions. It averaged around 1,500 total listings at any given time. It’s been so successful EDASC is looking at ways to make this service available to more segments of the business community.

The virtual Northwest Regional Job Fairs helped connect over 600 job seekers with positions at over 200 businesses and organizations from Skagit, Whatcom, Island and San Juan counties. These events were made possible through partnerships with WorkSource and Skagit-Island Human Resources Management Association (SIHRMA).

Many businesses reported successful hires from the job fair, including Burlington boat builder Aspen Catamarans.

“We spoke with multiple qualified candidates during the online job fair,” said Berry Zimmerman, talent manager at Aspen Power Catamarans. “One of the candidates swiftly moved through our interviewing and hiring process to full-time employment in our boat-building factory.”

EDASC is also involved in ongoing workforce initiatives. It collaborates with several organizations to help businesses access funding opportunities to upskill workers. In 2021, EDASC’s work resulted in two successful job upskilling grants for local manufacturers.

New for 2021, EDASC organized and co-hosted the first Career Connect Skagit Summit in partnership with Skagit STEM Network and the Northwest Educational Service District. The virtual workshop showcased the local organizations and programs that help nurture, engage and inspire K-12 through college-age youth. The event led to several businesses connecting with local the Skagit STEM Network to provide workplace learning opportunities to foster career development.

EDASC’s leadership training program, Leadership Skagit, also continues to graduate local emerging leaders ready to make their positive impact on the community and help take their businesses and organizations to the next level. Although not an intentional feature of the program, Leadership Skagit participants often find their careers taking a more meaningful, if not completely different direction during or after their year.

Looking ahead, EDASC has put forth several recommendations through its Skagit County Economic Recovery Plan for the County to consider addressing workforce barriers, such as access to childcare, returnship programs, signing bonuses for manufacturers, a public transportation needs assessment and more.

Said EDASC CEO John Sternlicht, “In this highly competitive labor environment, employers and indeed the entire community need innovative efforts to attract and retain the workforce they need. This involves improving the lives of employees and removing barriers to their employment.”