(Photo: Worksystems_

Focus on Beaverton, Oregon: Small changes are making a big impact

Mayor Lacey Beaty: 'Government traditionally hasn't always had a role in childcare, but that doesn't mean we don't need to.'

All jobs are local. The employment needs of communities are different, as is how local leaders, employers, educators, and nonprofits approach filling the talent pipeline. When they are successful, what they have in common is that they are actionable, proactive efforts to prepare local people for the jobs in their communities today and tomorrow.

In the return of our “Focus on” series, WorkingNation’s senior correspondent Laura Aka takes you to cities and towns around the country to share the ideas and initiatives that are creating jobs and putting residents on the pathway to family-sustaining jobs and economic mobility.

Laura is speaking with the mayors about job creation, training programs, and in-demand industries in their communities. In this article in the series, we Focus on Beaverton, Oregon.

Among her many titles, Lacey Beaty is a mother, spouse, and a military veteran. She is also the mayor of Beaverton, Oregon, taking office in 2021 as the city’s first woman mayor.

“My husband is an active-duty military officer and we have moved 10 times in 10 years. Beaverton is our chosen home, and we call it our daughters’ hometown,” says Beaty. “This is the best job on the planet. I get to shape the future that my two daughters are growing up in.”

Beaverton is a town of about 100,000 just a short distance west of Portland. The mix of industry is diverse, as is its population. Now in her second term, Beaty embraces the idea that the actions of local governments can make the biggest differences in people’s lives.

“Cities are the government that is closest to the people. If we voted based on what was the most important and most impactful to your life, your mayor, your judge, your school board members, they would be at the top of the ballot, and they are making impacts.

“I often ask staff, ‘What’s the meaningful next step? What’s the next step we can take?’ We don’t have to solve [a problem] in its totality. We can take a step towards solution and we’re going to be a step closer to the problem. These small changes make big impactful changes for our community.

“We have a less than 2% commercial vacancy rate right now. We have thriving restaurants that were open during a global pandemic that are surviving. We’re punching above our weight class around childcare expansion, seeding entrepreneurship. We’re doing all of the things right.”

Beaverton is the ‘Silicon Forest’

Among the top employers in the city are the massive Providence Health System and sports apparel and equipment giant Nike, which is headquartered in Beaverton. But tech is also a huge part of the economy. With good reason, the region around the town is known as the “Silicon Forest.”

“We have a lot of microchip manufacturing here. Analog Devices is located in Beaverton.” Last year, the company invested more than a $1 billion to grow its semiconductor wafer fabrication operations. [Analog is] saying it’s going to be hundreds of new employees that they’re already hiring,” explains the mayor.

To meet that demand, the company has partnered with Portland Community College for a quick start in microelectronics technology program.

“They’re also creating their own structured eight-week accelerated bootcamp called Semiconductor Advanced Manufacturing University – SAMU is what they’re calling it – that combines classrooms and hands-on learning to prepare technicians for fabrication,” she adds.

“College isn’t the path for everybody, and this gives people a meaningful opportunity to make a family-wage job.”

Focus on Beaverton, Oregon | Mayor Lacey Beaty

All jobs are local. The employment needs of communities are different, as is how local leaders, employers, educators, and nonprofits approach filling the talent pipeline. When they are successful, what they have in common is that they are actionable, proactive efforts to prepare local people for the jobs in their communities today and tomorrow.

Genentech: Forging Strong Community Partnerships

“In Beaverton itself, we don’t have a lot of industrial space like the cities around us, so a lot that people work in other cities, but choose to live here,” says Beaty.

One such company is Genentech, a biotechnology firm dedicated to discovering and developing medicines for people with serious and life-threatening diseases, located in nearby Hillsboro. The company attracts a lot of Beaverton commuters.

“We recognize that the Portland/Hillsboro area is not synonymous with biotech like Genentech/Roche hubs in South San Francisco and Basel,” acknowledges Baoshu Zhao, vice president and site head of Genentech’s Hillsboro Technical Operations.

“We know we need to grow interest and talent in our community, and that’s why we’ve forged strong partnerships with our local school districts, especially our local high school in Hillsboro and the nearby Portland Community College – and we’re excited to be participating in the apprenticeship program that Oregon Bio is launching this summer,” says Zhao.

In a statement, the company adds, “We’ve built a strong pipeline through partnerships in our local communities. In and around Hillsboro specifically, we provide grants to educational foundations associated with our nearest school districts in Hillsboro and Beaverton, which have funded diverse science needs for K-12 students.”

Genentech says many roles, with the exception of senior leadership positions, are open to people without postsecondary degrees. The company notes, “For a designated set of roles, we prioritize hiring for skills versus credentials, and our workforce development plan enables us to identify potential talent with those specific skill sets for those types of roles.

“Examples of this include manufacturing technicians, automation and robotics engineers, and quality control analysts, specialists and engineers.”

The company states, “Our goal is to present qualified candidates to hiring managers through various channels, including the use of diversity recruiting software that employs inclusive language in job descriptions, enhances representation in talent pools, and addresses unconscious bias in the hiring process.”

Genentech, Hillsboro Technical Operations (Photo: Carolina Guillen)
Entrepreneurship: “A meaningful pathway for a lot of different backgrounds”

Not everyone wants to work for a big company. Beaty says the city partners with the Oregon Startup Center on an initiative called the Beaverton Startup Challenge.

“It’s an entrepreneurship pathway in Beaverton. It’s very strong in the continuum of support from our city’s economic development team as well as partners like IMPACT Beaverton, a program through our Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce. They assist entrepreneurs along the way with mentorship, with learning how to write a business plan, how to follow through. We’ve had multiple multimillion-dollar businesses exit out of the Startup Center, which is awesome.”

Beaty says that the city is one of the most diverse in the Pacific Northwest, with one in five residents having moved to Beaverton from another country. Entrepreneurship, she says, is a “meaningful pathway for a lot of different backgrounds, including immigrants, veterans, and people of color.

She recounts her own father – who, as a young boy, was placed in foster care when his immigrant parents died – chose to take the entrepreneurship route, “He found his pathway through owning a business because a lot of people wouldn’t take a chance on him.”

Beaty says, “I was just at a McDonald’s ribbon-cutting with this couple that owns three of them. They were born in India.

“I said, ‘Congratulations on your American dream.’ And they stopped me and said, ‘No one has said it to us like that before.’ I do think business ownership, entrepreneurship, the ability to create the life that you so desperately came here for is the American dream.”

Addressing Beaverton’s ‘Childcare Desert’

“This job was not created for a woman. I gave birth last year while serving in office and had to go back to work a week later because there was no structure in place for me to take paid family medical leave,” says Mayor Beaty. “I’m a mom and I’ve been pushing our staff to figure out a way to help with the childcare desert that’s been happening here in Beaverton.

“A lot of times government is its own worst enemy. We try to solve issues in their complete totality and miss these opportunities to take meaningful first steps. Government traditionally hasn’t always had a role in childcare, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need to.”

“One of the things that I think is true, nationally, is that childcare businesses are among the hardest hit in terms of the business community from the pandemic,” says Patrick Gihring, the chief program officer at Worksystems, the workforce development organization for Washington and Multnomah Counties.

Patrick Gihring, chief program officer, Worksystems

He says demand for services is high, with parents of children under the age of six comprising 12% of Oregon’s workforce.

“We did lose one in five preschool workers in Oregon during the pandemic, and they didn’t come back. So, the workforce shortages are pretty severe.”

Additionally, in June 2023, Washington County Health and Human Services – in partnership with other organizations including  Community Action Organization, Early Learning Washington County, and others – conducted a childcare workforce and infrastructure analysis in an effort to “estimate current early childcare and education capacity within the county.”

To better determine provider capacity, the survey asked providers about waitlists. Seventy-one providers (42%) noted they had a waitlist and 90 (54%) indicated that they did not – while 7 providers (4%) chose not to respond to the question.

Gihring explains, “Working with Washington County and the City of Beaverton, and using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funding, we developed the West Side Works program to support the economic recovery and workforce needs of preschool centers.”

The program matches students in Portland Community College’s Early Childhood Education program with eligible preschools and childcare centers and are hired by the program. However, that means the students don’t count toward the state-mandated ratios of instructional staff to preschool children.

“We provide a few months’ worth of paid work where we are the employer. After that, if it’s a good match for the paid worker and a good match for the business, of course the preschool business can hire that worker permanently.”

West Side Works Overview

Want to learn more about this program? Visit https://arpa.worksourceportlandmetro.org/westsideworks/students/ West Side Works is an ARPA-funded collaboration between Worksystems, Washington County, the City of Beaverton and Portland Community College.

Gihring explains many of the workers in the childcare facilities are women, with a high proportion of people of color. A lot of the people in the program are English language learners and immigrants.

“These are low-income people that need to work in order to meet their household needs. While they’re studying to be a preschool worker, they’re working in a preschool. And we have found that that’s better from the standpoint of them getting the experience, the context to put on their resume, the exposure to employers, and all the skills that they learn on the job.”

Fifteen people have participated or are now participating in the program. Six have completed and five have been hired by preschool centers. “Our goal is to recruit and place 60 workers into childcare and preschool centers by June 20, 2025. We knew that startup would be slow due to severe worker shortages, but we’ve reached a solid pace to meet the 60 placements,” says Gihring.

While acknowledging the need for fair wages in the industry, he says, “The other consideration is affordability of preschool services for parents across income levels. We have tried to pay as high a wage as we can without creating a situation where the preschool could not match the wage that we were paying for the internship period.”

Looking ahead, Gihring says, “We serve both of these counties (Washington and Multnomah) as a workforce development board. Multnomah County has passed a ballot measure called Preschool for All, which is the first effort in the country to universalize preschool for children.” The measure affords access to preschool education for all children and stipulates wage requirements for school staff.

Beaty notes, “I was driving by a daycare facility and looked outside. It was all women of color looking out for these kids. We do have to do this work to make sure that they’re paid a meaningful salary. I mean, they’re taking care of our most important commodity that we have. As a mom to two young kids, picking a daycare provider was more stressful than choosing a college.”

‘The children of the world are our children’
Allegheny Mata, West Side Works participant

Allegheny Mata is a current student participating in the West Side Works program. She moved to the U.S. five years ago from Venezuela and has a six-year-old child of her own. “My story, like everyone’s story, is filled with ups and downs and I was just a young mother trying to get by. It just didn’t fulfill me.”

She learned about West Side Works and was excited to participate in the program. “The children of the world are our children. You don’t be a mom of just your kids. You feel love for other kids, and you take care of them as your own.

“When I’m working with the kids in my classroom, I give them that attention that they’re seeking and learning. That has impacted my child as well because I’ve been able to provide better care for her.”

Mata – who expects to complete her internship hours at Little Einsteins before summer’s end – says it has been an amazing opportunity to be in the program, “The care is aligned with my values. The education and the tools they gave me all puzzled together.

“I had this nurturing, caring nature and I didn’t know how to channel it. And the education gave me the tools to understand the point of view of the child from the brain development, from the support that I can give.”

In the future, Mata says, “I would love to open my own childcare that will maybe lead me to a center and at the same time keep developing my skills to have an associate [degree] in education. I think that will equip me with better tools to reach other types of developmental levels of children and young adults. Psychology is something that is calling my name, but let’s see.”

She gets tearful as she adds, “Some people have done great things and will let me also do the same and carry that. I’m sorry, I’m sentimental over here. I just love this.”

Balancing Leadership and Compassion

Beaty says she’s a problem solver who doesn’t have all the answers, “What I’ve done as the mayor has often acted as the convener of really great conversations and bring people together in a room.

“I would tell people there’s no shortcut to relationship building. The reason I’ve been able to compel this amount of people in the room is 80% of my job is nothing but relationship building. When I do ask somebody for something, it’s not the first time they’ve heard from me.

“The Army taught me that people in their most vulnerable times need compassion as much as they need leadership,” says Beaty. “It’s been a struggle to balance those two things. What does compassion look like in the world that we’re creating today? I think compassion means an opportunity for people to access government.”

WorkingNation producer Deidra White contributed to the reporting for this article.

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