The city’s strength of partnership has evolved over more than a decade and comes from a shared vision. In 2010, recognizing that only 55% of students were graduating high school, more than 40 partners signed on to an effort to increase graduation rates, with a focus on closing racial gaps in graduation rates. Today, through the communitywide Graduate Tacoma movement, more than 90% of Tacoma high school students earn a diploma. Most notably, the difference in graduation rates between Black and Latino students and their White peers is now less than 1%, compared to differences of 10% to 20% in 2010.
Knowing what the city is capable of, partners doubled down on their collaborative efforts to remove barriers for young people so that they can secure well-paying jobs after they graduate. Palmer Pathways Pre-Apprenticeship is building new routes into skilled trades for young people of color—well-paying, long-term career opportunities, such as carpentry, in fields that White men have historically dominated. Through the program, young people of color gain hundreds of hours of training and connections to apprenticeship partners who prioritize hiring students from the program.
Through Healthcare Pre-Apprenticeship Pathways, partners are collaborating to offer a robust, alternative pathway into healthcare jobs through an earn-and-learn model, where participants earn a living wage while gaining skills, from certificate to masters programs. This also expands the healthcare workforce. Partners include the local workforce development board, multiple hospital systems and healthcare providers, the state healthcare labor union, and WorkForce Central. This is an essential step to dismantling structural racism that harms patients and segregates Black and Latino healthcare workers into lower-paying jobs. “Equity and access are at the heart of workforce development,” shares Katie Condit, CEO of WorkForce Central. “We are building a future where every member of our community has an equal shot at success and the tools to make it happen.”