One-Call Workforce Development Resource Provides Real Time Training for Businesses, Nonprofits and Government Agencies in Washington State
Four South Sound Community Colleges Collaborate to Provide Needed Skills
Invista Performance Solutions is a unique, one-call workforce training resource that proves public sector collaboration can benefit the Washington state economy and private industry. Since its inception, the Lakewood, Wash. organization has helped 40 clients develop customized training programs for private businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to prepare their workforce. The Gates Foundation, General Plastics Manufacturing Company and Financial Pacific Leasing are examples of Invista’s current client base.
Four South Sound community colleges are the energy behind Invista: Bates Technical College, Clover Park Technical College, Pierce College and Tacoma Community College. The aim of this collaboration between the colleges is to offset declining revenue streams. In 2011, the colleges faced a decline in registrations after years of robust attendance. According to Invista’s Global Solutions Officer, Lisa Edwards, the inspiration came from news that Tacoma Community College’s Corporate Education Department obtained $1.7 million in training contracts for businesses in the region in 2011.
“We help companies gain a competitive advantage by increasing the skills of their workforce,” adds Edwards. “No matter the skill or need, we can immediately craft a solution. This could include a training, conduct group facilitation or even management coaching.”
Ellie Chambers-Grady, economic development director for the City of Lakewood, highlights that the need for workforce development education continues to increase as companies struggle to find workers to fill jobs. Data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce indicates that approximately 90 percent of the jobs in the fastest-growing occupations require some level of postsecondary education and training. In addition, the data shows that half of the workforce does not have the skills required to get or advance in jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.
“We work with businesses every day, and hiring properly prepared workers is critical but not always easy,” notes Chambers-Grady. “What began as a revenue-generating idea is now a local economic development tool, and that is an effort our city leadership can definitely support.”
Edwards knows the challenges businesses face. When a large organization, like Boeing, or even a small business, has an order backlog, the main priority is expanding the workforce with trained or trainable people. This also applies to mid and small-sized organizations, such as Financial Pacific Leasing . The company, headquartered in Federal Way, Wash., is an Invista success story. The direct provider of small ticket commercial leases is helping other companies grow by financing their acquisition of new and used equipment.
In 2010, the search for consistent management and leadership training led Financial Pacific Leasing to contact Invista. Company representatives worked with the Invista staff to determine educational topics that would be most relevant then identified experienced instructors to develop curriculum. The final product was a cluster of monthly four-hour classes for the supervisors and a parallel coaching process. Other clients have included a range of industries and companies, such as Chehalis Tribes, Goodwill Industries, Green Mountain Roasters and Hartung Glass.
The Invista strategy taps into a pool of highly skilled instructors and consultants. It also integrates a battery of assessments and testing facilities, the intellectual property of over 40 network colleges, and credit and non-credit programming. The range of potential programs or training includes leadership, management, business skills, software, IT, process improvement, industrial and technical skills, communications and basic skills. If an existing program is not available, Invista will create a customized solution bringing instructors directly to the employer and stick with the employer to problem solve throughout the experience.
“Many of the students need soft skills as well as technical skills,” Edwards expands. “Learning how to convey information clearly and understanding how to hold a job are the kind of skills that can make or break a successful employer-employee relationship.”
About Lakewood, Washington
Lakewood is the second largest city in Pierce County and the eighteenth largest in Washington. It is strategically located between Sea-Tac International Airport and Olympia, the state’s capital. The city is home to 60,000 residents and nearly 3,200 businesses. Lakewood also is the host community to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Camp Murray, two major military installations. In 2011, Lakewood was named one of the nation’s One Hundred Best Communities for Young People by America’s Promise Alliance for the fifth year. In addition to vibrant residential and business communities, the city offers a myriad of recreational opportunities for residents and tourists. These include: five lakes offering water skiing, rowing, and fishing; four golf courses; Fort Steilacoom Park, and Lakewold Gardens, to name a few. The city also is the gateway to: Chambers Bay Golf Course, selected as home to the 2015 U.S. Open; Mt. Rainier National Park; and Puget Sound waterways and islands.