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Oregon assessment of current, future workforce needs released


The State of Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission and Workforce and Talent Development Board announced Thursday the release of the Oregon Talent Assessment. This report is the first in a series of biennial assessments to address the talent needs of Oregon businesses, and how to best prepare Oregonians for the evolving 21st century workforce.

Developed by ECONorthwest in partnership with Program and Policy Insight, the assessment is the result of a year of research on business needs and labor projections, including engagement with hundreds of business representatives from industries critical to Oregon’s economy.

Ken Madden, chair of the WTDB, said, “This first Talent Assessment for Oregon is unprecedented in its scope, bringing together on-the-ground perspectives of industry leaders with the state’s best economic and employment-related research. We hope this research is read widely to deepen the understanding of Oregon’s talent needs, so we can work together and strategically to address them.”

The Talent Assessment provides findings and recommendations related to in-demand occupations and skills, as well as current and future talent needs and gaps, and these findings will be used to inform state policy, funding, and decisions affecting Oregon communities. Some of the key findings include:

While most Oregon employers do not report widespread gaps in basic skills, about half of employers report a shortage of occupational skills required for specific occupations – with problem solving and critical thinking at the top of the list. Interpersonal skills – also called soft, essential or social skills – are lacking in the workforce, while growing in importance in the labor market. The labor market has been rewarding workers for performing tasks that computers cannot do. Demographic changes and increasing automation play leading roles in where the jobs will be. Projections show increased demand for healthcare with an aging population, and automation continuing to erode employment in some fields. Oregon shows relatively modest wage growth, even while employers report skill shortages. Sizable, traditional working age populations are still without work in Oregon, and almost half have a high school degree or less. Populations that remain outside the labor force late in this economic expansion are obvious candidates for a full suite of skills training, supportive work environments, and job search assistance programs.

The Oregon Talent Assessment was approved by the WTDB on September, 2018, and presented to the HECC in October, 2018, and was developed in conjunction with the two boards’development of a new Oregon educational attainment goal for working age adults, approved by the HECC in November. This work will guide the WTDB’s in providing intentional legislative and policy recommendations to the governor on state workforce opportunities and investments.

Additionally, it help guide the HECC and higher education institutions in crafting programs, pathways and other learning opportunities for students that align with short and long-term workforce needs.

Neil Bryant of Bend, chair of the HECC, said, “This is critical information, and in close conversation with the new Oregon goal for adult educational attainment. We look forward to applying the Talent Assessment to the higher education landscape, and fostering meaningful partnerships between industry and higher education and training programs to serve Oregon’s collective needs.”

The Talent Assessment is the result of extensive engagement including surveys, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, and the Oregon Talent Summit, which brought hundreds of industry, state, and workforce leaders together in May.

The ECONothwest researchers relied on the Oregon Employment Department (OED) 2017-2027 Employment Projections, other state research, and numerous other data sources to develop the findings.

The 2018 Oregon Talent Assessment and more information is available on the WTDB website here.

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