United Way is a community problem-solver, committed to addressing the root cause of local issues. Over the last few years, United Way of Washington County hosted county-wide Community Conversations to identify urgent and emerging community needs. The overwhelming response found that employment issues are the top need in Washington County. Additional focus groups and a survey of local HR professionals revealed the top barriers to hiring and retaining qualified workers:

1. Inadequate soft skills/Not work-ready
2. Poor attendance
3. Lack of specific skills (welding, mechanical, etc.)
4. Alcohol or other drug abuse
5. Criminal background (including OWI)

In response to this information, a team of local employers, educators, case managers, and community professionals joined forces to develop a strategy that will address this high-priority issue. The result is Inspire Washington County, an innovative cross-sector partnership that unites educators and employers to address youth career- and life-ready skills gaps, establish a talent pipeline for local businesses, and build awareness of career and employment opportunities in Washington County. Inspire Washington County will engage and inform local students about the career, vocational training, and educational options available to them; linking today’s employers with tomorrow’s workforce.