Uplift Oregon Career Mobility Develops Talent for Hard-to-Fill Government Positions

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Labor-Management Partnership Launches Innovative Approach to Career Advancement

On Jan. 8, 2024, Uplift Oregon, a labor-management partnership among Oregon Department of Administrative Services, SEIU Local 503 and Western Oregon University, launched the first cohort of its Career Mobility program. The goal of this program is to provide a clear pathway to career advancement through quality training, education and community support for state workers who meet specific criteria, while centering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. The program is provided at no cost to participants.

The recently launched pilot focuses on three such positions: Accounting I, Accounting II and Tax Auditing. Over four, 10-week terms, participants will complete 32 credit hours of upper-level online accounting courses at Western Oregon University. The content of the courses includes a strong emphasis on governmental accounting and financial management. At the pilot program’s conclusion, participants will be invited to apply for Accounting I, Accounting II and Tax Auditing positions. In recognition of the state’s investment in the program, employees are asked to stay within state service for at least two years in their new roles.

This new program is designed to match state employees who are looking for professional development opportunities with “hard-to-fill” state agency positions, defined as a job classification that is budgeted for and has remained open for more than 120 days in six or more agencies. It allows incumbent state employees to continue working for their agency in their current roles, while gaining the foundational requirements for other careers. One aim of the Career Mobility program is to train and connect existing state employees with many of the 15 classifications designated “hard-to-fill.”

Career Mobility has proved to be a very popular concept among state workers: 457 state employees from 45 different agencies applied for the initial cohort! Through a competitive application process, 30 participants were selected from locations ranging from Gold Beach to Rainier. A recent launch event was held on the Salem campus of Western Oregon University to welcome the new participants and acquaint them with each other and with many of the individuals responsible for the development of the program, including Berri Leslie, Director and Chief Operating Officer at DAS, Phillip Shilts, Public Services Director for SEIU, and additional agency and labor partners who served on various program committees.

One cohort participant, a Revenue Agent from the Department of Revenue, said, “I felt for the first time in my career the potential for advancement. This program and its successes are paramount to helping talented people find a way to be noticed, supported, and in turn serve the Oregon Government that we are proud to be part of.”

According to the Secretary of State’s recent Workforce Audit, the Oregon Department of Administrative Services continues to face workforce crises; Career Mobility Program Manager Whitney Johnson believes this creates opportunities for innovation.

“As the state’s workforce planning practices continue to evolve, it will be crucial that both management and labor are at the table. This labor-management driven Career Mobility pilot is a first step in what could scale to a major contribution in a thriving workforce management culture at the state,” said Johnson.

The Career Mobility program is a collaboration between Uplift Oregon, the primary organizer for the program; SEIU Local 503, DAS, OHA, ODHS, DCBS, OHCS, DOR, and ODOT, all of which serve as the committee partners and sponsors; and Western Oregon University (WOU), the program’s educational partner. 

Uplift Oregon is a project of the labor-management partnership between AFSCME Council 75, SEIU 503, and the state of Oregon. Uplift’s programming focuses on consistent, quality training on benefits, wellness, and equity for state employees. Uplift Oregon is delivered by RISE Partnership, an Oregon nonprofit that supports caregivers and public service employees by developing unique and equitable workforce solutions, including education, benefits navigation, recruitment, and career development.

About Author

Jill is the Director of Communications at RISE Partnership.

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