Finding Your Path at the Olympia Career Hub

by Kathryn Millhorn

Take a walk around downtown Olympia and you can’t miss the number of new buildings rising from vacant lots. The often missing and essential ingredient of these gorgeous new buildings? Builders state that the number one business challenge is finding skilled workers.

Meanwhile, Olympia faces a housing shortage. These new buildings will provide needed housing. Thus the issue—unless we have skilled workers, we can’t build the housing. Housing that will serve a growing population.

“The City of Olympia understands that workforce development and economic development go hand-in-hand,” said Megan Fiess, Vice President of Workforce and Strategic Initiatives at the Chamber.

“The City is investing in skill development so our local business community and people can continue to grow opportunities for success.”

One of the ways the City is investing in workforce development is the creation of the Olympia Career Hub. The Hub is a free training program and resource portal for job seekers. It also serves those looking to change paths, return to the marketplace or advance up the ladder.

The City funds the Hub and the Thurston County Chamber’s Hired Workforce Solutions team manages the Hub. Project Manager Micah Pong explains it is open to:

  • residents of Olympia
  • Squaxin Island Tribal members
  • and Thurston County employers

One of the programs rolling out soon is the Construction Cohort. The Construction Cohort is a no-cost, multi-week registered pre-apprenticeship program. Students earn their OSHA-10 safety, flagger, and forklift certifications. The program ends with a hiring event.

“We want to connect students with employers, so grads go to work the Monday after they finish,” says Pong. And once they go to work, they’ll have the support of the Chamber’s Business Services Team. The first cohort will begin on January 23. Another will run during the summer for youth 18 years and older who are still in school.

What if someone isn’t interested in pursuing a career in the construction industry?

The Olympia Career Hub holds Career Map Meetups weekly. Meetups help folks explore new fields, network with industry professionals and hiring businesses. “All ages and experience levels are welcome at the Meetups,” says Pong. From recent high school graduates to folks eager to try something new. Meetups occur every week and focus on a different career each session.

“Come learn about new opportunities,” says Pong, “It’s an excellent program, especially if you want change.”

Meetups cover topics such as:

  • salaries and benefits
  • work/life balance
  • goal setting
  • how to get started in that particular field

Stay up to date on all Olympia Career Hub events by going to the Thurston Chamber’s online events calendar.

The Hidden Talent Pipeline is a Hub program for employers that focuses on:

  • resources, tools, and best practices for hiring often overlooked candidates.
  • tax credits and bonding programs available to employers

“It’s common to hear leaders of successful companies state that their staff are the backbone of their organizations and the reason their business is thriving,” said the City of Olympia’s Economic Development Director Mike Reid. “At the City we believe that to be true about our residents. We know that if we can support our residents in growing their workforce skills and identifying pathways for career growth, we will strengthen not only our local economy, but we can lift up our residents to a higher quality of life.”

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