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City Club of C.O. forum looks at region’s staffing challenges, ways to train, attract young talent to jobs

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The City Club of Central Oregon's monthly forum Thursday focused on an all-too-familiar issue for many businesses these days: attracting and retaining talented people to fill job vacancies.

The City Club's monthly gathering focused on how organizations in need can find and hire young talent to meet their workforce needs.

Panel participants included officials with East Cascade Works, the Central Oregon Community College apprenticeship program and St. Charles Health System.

City Club Executive Director Kim Gammond spoke beforehand about Thursday's discussion topic.

"We hear a lot about what' scary or what's going wrong in our employment and economic landscape, and what we're going to talk about today," she said. "I think it'll also be about what's going right, and what we do so that we have the services we need in Central Oregon, so that we have people when we go to restaurants, and we have people to build our homes, and we have people when we go to seek medical care."

The panel looked at work opportunities with St. Charles Health System, along with apprenticeships at Central Oregon Community College.

A familiar, related issue that was also discussed at Thursday's forum was a lack of housing affordability for potential talent to land work in the region.

Heather Ficht, executive director of East Cascade Works, says affordable housing is one of the most difficult reasons employers can't find young talent.

"We don't have affordable housing here, and even the housing that we do have that is not affordable," she said. "The vacancy rate is so small, it's very difficult for people to move into our area, and it's certainly difficult for young people to move into our area."

Most apprenticeships available at COCC are blue-collar type jobs, such as welding and carpentry. COCC Coordinator of Apprenticeships Kip Morris is excited to offer new fields of studies for potential talent.

"We are excited about bringing on more programs such as culinary, early childhood learning and development, and digital marketing, some of the things we heard about today." Morris said.

St. Charles Health System is currently recruiting people to help fill positions in their workforce. The vacancy rate of open positions compared to filled jobs is 17%, but with new programs, they hope to lower that figure.

Rebecca Berry, St. Charles' vice-president of human resources, says if you're interested in become a CNA, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.

"We have four cohorts that we're offering in 2023 with CNAs, and also a medical assistant program that we're really trying to fill," she said. "So if anyone has opportunities, you want to learn about being a CNA, look us up at Saint Charles.

"We pay people to come in, we pay their tuition, we pay their time, benefits, and when they're done completing the CNA course, they go in and get a position at St. Charles with us."

Even with nearly 1,000 in 2022, Saint Charles Health System currently has nearly 600 openings.

You can click these links If you're interested in applying for a position at St. Charles, or for an apprenticeship at COCC.

Article Topic Follows: Business

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Blake Mayfield

Blake Mayfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Blake here.


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