Earlier this month, staff from King County’s Natural Resources and Parks were busy getting ready for the upcoming spring and summer season when Pacific Northwesterners experience our parks in full force. This time of year also marks hiring for important jobs to ensure our parks are ready for the season. This hiring event took place at the local community center in White Center. The event is part of a purposeful effort to address the growing disparities we see in our region between those that have opportunities to thrive economically, and those that don’t.
It’s part of the Communities of Opportunity (COO) initiative to ensure all residents thrive economically. To move the needle on that goal, COO has set out to increase the percent of people earning above 200% of the poverty level in our region. One approach to doing this is expanding the ways companies, businesses and organizations approach outreach and hiring to ensure equitable opportunities for employment.
Impacting income disparities in our region
As a large employer in our region, King County can have a powerful impact on growing income disparities. For example, the 2014 median income for Blacks was less than half of the median income for Asians and whites.
Events that recruit for positions in County Departments like this one in White Center, can not only lead to a more diverse workforce that reflects our communities, but can also serve as a model for other businesses throughout the region.
How it works
COO staff provide technical assistance and targeted outreach efforts to increase the opportunity for all people to get a fair shot at these job opportunities. For this March event, COO staff worked with partners to translate the event marketing materials into Vietnamese, Spanish, and Somali to bring more diversity to the candidate pool. COO and partners plan the event in places that are more accessible to a wider range of residents and work with King County job programs on outreach. One of these programs, the King County Jobs Initiative, works to connect people who have been in prison or jail with job opportunities. This program even hosted a job readiness workshop specifically to prepare their customers for this event.
A promising approach
These dedicated efforts seem to be on the right track. For example, of the 113 people who attended the event, 45% were people of color and over 1/3 were from White Center, Tukwila/SeaTac and Rainier Valley—three go-first communities through COO. And, collaboration with other King County programs designed to address the needs of veterans and rapid re-housing efforts seem to be working, 1/3 of participants were customers of these types of programs.
And the success extends to the applicants as well. Some received initial job offers right on-site.
The collaboration for this event included WorkSource, Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Communities of Opportunity, King County Jobs Initiative and Career Connections, and White Center Community Development Association.
Originally posted 3/13/17