Spokane Journal of Business

New workforce portal grows in Spokane, statewide

Platform links employers, interns to provide real-life workplace experiences

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We’re entering internship season, which is both an important time of life for students entering the workforce and a key opportunity for employers. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to help make finding these experiences easier and more successful, whether you’re a student looking for an internship or an employer looking for a sharp new summer hire.

Internships are a great way for employers to connect with new talent and give them exposure to the workplace. And for students, an internship is an ideal way to build job-related soft skills and form professional relationships that are often the bedrock of a successful career.

With summer around the corner, students are starting to plan where they are going to stay and where they are going to work. Whether your workplace has a formal internship program or you’re just looking for summer help, now is a great time to start advertising any open work-based learning opportunities so students can learn about your company—and you can connect with the next generation of talent.

The Washington Workforce Portal launched in Washington state two years ago with only a handful of students and employers. There are now more than 200 employers signed up with the portal and about 800 students have created accounts. About 800 work-based learning opportunities have been posted.

The Washington Workforce Portal, www.washingtonworkforceportal.org, is an online resource where employers and educators may post an unlimited number of internship opportunities and have free access to a student-candidate database.

A project of the Association of Washington Business Institute, the Washington Workforce Portal is a platform that connects young people across the state to real-world, work-based learning opportunities. Originally launched in Spokane and Tri-Cities, it is now statewide. Students can now find opportunities across the state and businesses have access to a much larger potential talent pool.

Posted opportunities now include remote work, apprenticeships, job shadowing, and teacher externships. Teacher externships open business doors for educators, giving them real-world experience to bring back to the classroom.

Creating a profile only takes a few minutes, and students can receive text message updates when a relevant opportunity is posted.

The Portal’s success is due in part to the local chambers of commerce that help facilitate opportunities and connections in the community. Chambers across the state, including those in the Spokane area, have a designated staff member who regularly checks internship postings, works with businesses on their workforce challenges, and serves as a liaison between the businesses and education communities.

Our partners at Greater Spokane Incorporated tell us that they’ve seen how industry and business leaders play an essential role in assisting local students as they explore vocational opportunities—turning excitement about a potential career into the skills and knowledge so essential to becoming employable.

Matthew Himlie, a career-connect specialist at GSI, says, “A student who learns on the work site becomes a confident and competitive candidate, and industry gains an entry-level employee who already knows the ropes.”

Spokane in particular is home to a number of summer programs hosted by various industries that offer opportunities to learn at the work site and earn high school credit. The Workforce Portal helps extend those connections past high school.

“Many careers offer multiple paths in, and depending on the path they choose, a student may go to college or take an apprenticeship,” says Himlie. “Even though they are vastly different, an internship and an apprenticeship both give a person a chance to earn money while they learn in a classroom and gain experience in the workplace.”

The workforce of tomorrow is already here. The missing link to bring them on board your business is here too, at the Washington Workforce Portal.


Laura Lawton is president of Lawton Printing Inc., of Spokane, and chair of the board of the Association of Washington Business. Paula Linnen is principal of cybersecurity agency The Foster Institute, and the immediate past chair of the Association of Washington Business.

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