This year’s annual conference for the Washington Workforce Association was held November 14 – 16 in Tacoma. Nearly 600 attendees came together to foster connections across the state’s workforce development teams, and to provide each other with vital information and resources for the future. The theme for this year’s WWA Conference was “Stronger Together” which was clearly evidenced by the energy and presence of attendees, and the resounding enthusiasm for the nearly 40 informative presentations shared during the event. See the conference schedule here.

A view of Mt Rainier from the event space in Tacoma, WA at this year's WWA Conference.

The first keynote speaker of the event was Darrell “Coach D” Andrews, who effectively motivated the entire room to reconsider our titles and think of ourselves as Generational Transformational Agents, lauding our individual and collective workforce development efforts for the critical impact they have on peoples’ lives.

Among the list of other esteemed speakers and presenters were Katie Condit of Workforce Central; Christian Page, Tacoma’s poet laureate; T’wina Nobles, Senator, 28th legislative district; and Cami Feek, Commissioner, Employment Security District.

Awards were presented this year to the following recipients:

Workforce Professional of the Year – Cynthia Garcia, Benton-Franklin Workforce Development Council

Employer of the Year – Mike Hagen and American Structures & Design

Workforce Partner of the Year – Chelsea Mason-Placek, Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO

WWA Chair Award – Oleksandr Burlakov, Bates Technical College

Amy Martinez in a red blazer and Lisa Romine in a black blouse with pink flowers, present a clear award to Chelsea Mason-Placek, who is smiling in between them and wearing an off white suit.

The closing keynote was given by award-winning Hall of Fame athlete and motivational speaker, Roger Crawford. Roger brought the room to standing ovation with his incredible experience, insight, and remarkable gift for storytelling. He encouraged us all to recognize where we have been, where we are going, and no matter where we are, to always remember the lagniappe.* (Pronounced lan-yap, lagniappe is a Cajun-French inspired noun that means “a little extra.”)

An event space full of people with a projector screen in the background that says "You are always stronger than you think."

Several members of the SkillSource staff were in attendance at this year’s WWA conference, along with five of our board members. Roni Holder-Diefenbach (Okanogon Economic Alliance), joined a panel presentation called Broadband Matters to the Workforce – Join your Broadband Action Team. The focus of the panel was to address the need for increased broadband access and digital literacy at a local level, and the significant geographic and socioeconomic barriers that must be overcome to improve workforce development in these areas. New board member, Nate Mack, LiUNA Local 348, attended the conference and a special convening with other Labor representatives and Workforce Development Board directors. Other directors in attendance were Pablo Villareal, Todd Wurl and Irasema Ortiz-Elizalde.

A red-haired, full-bearded Nate Mack smiles in front of a projected logo for Washington State Dept of Commerce.

We are incredibly grateful to the speakers, presenters, hosts, and sponsors for their time and dedication to making this year’s WWA Conference a valuable and uplifting event. We all took home new resources and connections that will help to fortify our efforts at building a robust and healthy Washington workforce!

A smiling group of seven staff members.

Thank you to the Presenting Sponsors: Employment Security Department and Washington State Department of Commerce; Gold Sponsors: Department of Health and Human Services DVR and Economic Services Division, Launchpad; Silver Sponsor: Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board; Bronze Sponsor: ACT WorkKeys NCRC, Career Path Services, CompTIA, Evergreen BizLink, Grant Associates, and Washington Health Plan Finder.

A standing vertical sign that says Thank You To Our Sponsors is in the front of a large and well lit conference room.