With Oregon’s employment base growing faster than its labor force, the state’s talent shortage has become more acute. Rising vacancies and increases in the length of time required to fill positions cost Oregon employers billions each year (not to mention the subsequent loss of state revenues from income taxes). However, the impact of unfilled vacancies is small when compared to lost productivity resulting from a mismatch between the skills of workers and the needs of employers. This mismatch is why Oregon businesses report the availability of talent and the skills of the existing workforce among their top concerns.
Established by the state in 2015, the Oregon Talent Council (OTC) is required to develop a biennial talent plan that identifies talent trends and issues and recommends appropriate training and education investments. In crafting the 2017 Oregon Talent Plan, TIP researched trends affecting talent (with a focus on the unique challenges facing rural Oregon), identified critical occupations that have high multiplier effects and that drive the growth of other jobs, and outlined a three-pronged approach for rethinking how the state invests in talent. Input from major area employers was used to validate the team’s findings and provide additional insights. The Talent Plan recommended the OTC invest in training models (over narrowly focused programs), support industry consortiums, develop a culture of learning (alongside training for specific skills), invest in rural delivery infrastructure, and focus on return-on-investment for both employers and workers. As part of a related engagement, TIP was also tasked with defining an evaluation framework and methodology, including the identification of key metrics and baseline information, to help gauge and record the impact of OTC investments, as well as to serve as a framework for evaluating the State of Oregon’s future investments in talent programs.