Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Workforce Training Board Annual Convention
October 8, 2003

Thank you David, and good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here.

The timing for this conference could not be better. This year we’ve seen the benefits of a well-trained, innovative, leading-edge workforce. I’m referring to our effort to land Boeing 7E7 final assembly in our state.

We are confident in the proposal we submitted to Boeing in June. And we are confident that Boeing will choose Washington as the best place to build this airplane.

And much of that confidence is based on our state’s workforce.

The best airplane assembly workforce in the world lives and works here. The best aerospace engineers on the planet live and work here. Our people are well-trained, highly skilled and experienced. Many of the innovative minds, great imaginations, world-leading technical experts and talented hands behind the world’s best commercial airplanes—Boeing airplanes—live right here in Washington.

This aerospace workforce did not happen overnight. It did not happen by accident. It reflects decades of partnership between business, labor, government, education and our communities. Together, we built our globally competitive aerospace workforce. And this workforce is a tremendous advantage as we compete to keep Boeing here.

But what about tomorrow? What will be the new opportunities of the future? And how will we position our state to take advantage of those opportunities while also keeping the great industries and businesses we have providing family wage jobs for our children and grandchildren?

When I look at Emily and Dylan, I realize as all parents do that they will see and experience things I’ve never even dreamed about. Like all parents, Mona and I want to make sure we do our part to help them to a bright future. We want our children to have good career choices in a vibrant economy right here in Washington.

And like every state, we want to get through these tough economic times and lay the foundation for lasting prosperity.

That’s why we identified “Workforce Quality and Productivity” as one of our state’s top priorities in our Priorities of Government budgeting process. That’s why we are here today. And I am proud of the progress we are making in developing our state’s workforce.

Washington recently received a $3 million incentive award from the federal government. That award was for the fine performance of three important workforce programs:

· Career and Technical Education

· Workforce Investment Act; and

· Adult and Family Literacy

We received the incentive by meeting some very ambitious performance targets in all three of these areas. Congratulations to all of you who have contributed to these successes. Indeed many of your organizations have been instrumental in the state receiving tens of millions of dollars in awards in moving people from welfare to work.

We’ve made great progress in tackling some of our state’s skill shortages. We’re investing in industry skill panels in other key sectors of our economy like health care, marine, construction, and information technology. We’re identifying skill needs, sharing requirements with educators and craft programs, and working to meet these needs.

We’ve been addressing shortages in the critical health care industry with more leadership and energy than any other state.

We’ve been very active at both the state and local level. Helping young people see the great opportunities in this field. Reaching innovative public/private local solutions. Creating new programs to adapt to the ever-changing health care industry. Changing policies that have been barriers.

We must continue this high-energy approach to health care skills. That’s why I’ve directed that we use those incentive dollars to further our efforts to solve health care skill shortages.

We’re making progress in making our local workforce development efforts more effective. We asked cities and counties to work with the private sector in their communities in drafting strategic plans. The plans identify community workforce needs—and create solutions. I recently approved many of these plans throughout our state.

We’re also making sure the state holds up its end in helping people. Since I issued my Executive Order directing agencies to improve customer service, we’ve seen some innovative improvements in several key agencies.

Our Employment Security Department, for example, borrowed an innovation from the retail sector. Since last year, "mystery shoppers" have posed as job seekers, employers and unemployment insurance claimants. They’ve provided the department with feedback about customer service experiences. This feedback is used to define quality service, identify opportunities for improvement, and reward exemplary customer service. And customer service ratings have consistently improved. Office wait times have been reduced by 82 percent!

We are proud of these accomplishments. But we dare not rest on our laurels. As you’ve heard during this conference, demographics are changing. Labor force growth is slowing down. The population is aging. At the same time, the “Baby Boom Echo” is being felt. These developments are changing our workforce and must be considered as we look ahead.

These developments will present opportunities, especially for historically under-served groups. People with disabilities, people of color, and women will have more meaningful opportunities to assume an equal and prominent place in our workforce. We already know that diversity is our greatest strength. We’ll need that strength to sustain a qualified, capable workforce for the 21st century.

I believe we can build an opportunity culture in our state. An opportunity culture characterized by an inherent and strong sense of equality. A culture that encourages the pursuit of personal fulfillment and growth.

I believe our opportunity culture can deliver an important, realistic expectation: Anyone in our state can achieve a brighter future and better life if they are willing to learn and work hard. That’s what I mean by an opportunity culture, and it all begins with education.

We must continue to improve education. It is the key to a globally competitive workforce. It is the key to our state’s future. The key to achieving an opportunity culture so that our children have the education and skills needed by Washington employers so that Washington employers don’t have to hire people from out-of-state.

A strong public education system prepares our children for a lifetime of achievement. And higher education is an especially powerful economic development tool. Let’s harness higher education to develop tomorrow’s workforce and help drive economic growth.

Let’s continue to emphasize higher education programs that prepare students for high demand fields such as information technology, nursing, and teaching. Let’s continue to create partnerships with industry associations and labor organizations to identify future employment and training needs and the curriculum that will help meet those needs.

I am proud of all that we have all been able to accomplish these past few years despite the ups and downs of the economy. But we still have much to do. Continuing to improve education, sustaining our economic development momentum, keeping Boeing in Washington, and building tomorrow’s workforce will take every ounce of energy and resourcefulness we have.

But when we succeed—and we will succeed—we will have helped Washington toward a brighter future. We will be on our way to realizing an opportunity culture.

Washington state is a great place to live, work and raise a family. Let’s keep working to make sure it will stay that way for our children and their children.

Thank you.

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