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Chair's Blog

Growing the future workforce for small businesses February 2015
By Debbie Kitchin

Did you know that 80 percent of the Alliance’s membership are small businesses? One thing we hear often from these members is that they struggle to find skilled workers to fill jobs. I can relate. My husband and I own a small construction business, so I know how valuable a skilled pool of talent is. To that end, the Alliance, with help from The Rockefeller Foundation, is launching an effort to help small- and medium-sized businesses fill their workforce pipelines for the future.

The Alliance received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation to help small businesses recruit and train young, local talent who lack resources to develop relevant job skills. In turn, area youth recruited into the programs will learn valuable, marketable skills while earning a living wage. There’s a strong business case for implementing innovative hiring programs, and, with proper training, youth can be an ideal source of energy, and they can appeal to new markets to help fortify a company’s longevity.

This week we had a discussion at our Forum Breakfast around the small business community’s leadership on youth hiring and upskilling. Many small businesses are developing innovative strategies to hire and train young workers in ways that are both good for business, and that reduce the unemployment hardships that disproportionately impact disadvantaged young people. We heard from groups that have a stake in this important initiative, including The Rockefeller Foundation and Economist Intelligence Unit, both based in New York City; and the Small Business Majority here in Portland as well as Precision Body & Paint of Beaverton, who is actually developing many best practices that are serving as a national model.  

I am also excited to announce that the Alliance will start offering business advising at its offices beginning on March 17, thanks to the foundation grant. We are partnering with Portland Community College’s Small Business Development Center to provide advising sessions for small business owners at no cost. The sessions will cover all aspects of growing a healthy business, including how to incorporate innovative hiring techniques. The one-hour sessions will be available on Tuesdays, by appointment only. We want our members to be the first to know about these new services; I encourage small business owners to take advantage of this free advising while the opportunity is here. If you’re interested, you can register at

These programs and services wouldn’t be possible without our members, so thank you for your support.
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