NWC 2024-2028 Strategic Plan 

Stakeholder Engagement

A critical part of the Strategic Plan update process is stakeholder engagement. The first opportunity for public feedback and input was a survey, which was open from February 1 – March 31, 2024 for job seekers, workers, employers, workforce system partners, and organizations that serve job seekers and workers. The surveys were available in English and Spanish.

The second opportunity for public feedback and input was our virtual Community Forum on February 22, 2024.

The final opportunity for public feedback and input was the 30-day public comment period, which was from Friday, April 5, 2024 until Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Please check back here soon for the 2024-2028 Strategic Workforce Plan.

Strategic Goals

Lead the region’s one-stop career center system which:
  • Aligns education, employment and training services
  • Reinforces retraining and retention of the current workforce
  • Provides valued services and dependable results for business and the workforce
  • Embeds the principles of continuous quality improvement
Strengthen the regional workforce development system which:
  • Expands ways in which business is engaged
  • Tailors its services and products responsive to business
  • Leverages resources and aligns strategies of key partners
  • Partners strategically to strengthen regional competitiveness and job creation
  • Elevates support of workforce development issues, policies and initiatives
Champion a systemic approach to lifelong learning which:
  • Is responsive to business and industry needs
  • Enables workers to identify opportunities and pathways for career success
  • Offers workers opportunities to upgrade their skills in response to changing workforce needs and challenges
  • Promotes competency-based education and training programs
Strategically Partner with Regional Economic Development:
  • Identify opportunities to align education, workforce and economic development
  • Leverage resources to achieve common goals

Strategic Workforce Plan

The 2020-2024 Local Combined Workforce Plan

Northwest Workforce Council (Council), in consultation with local elected officials, oversees the WorkSource (one-stop) system programs and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title 1-B employment and training programs, coordinates local area workforce development services, and provides expertise and demand-driven workforce services to employers and job seekers in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, and San Juan Counties. Council members chart an important course to help local businesses, workers and communities realize a more prosperous future.

The combined plan is the first local plan in place since implementation of the WIOA. The plan was developed with local workforce development system partners and stakeholders and reflects system-wide goals and strategies to achieve optimum results serving our shared business and job seeker customers.

The plan is a “living” document. The Council and its workforce system partners consult it often, revise course as necessary, and mark milestones as we work to realize a shared vision for the region’s prosperity. The local combined plan assesses local industry and business talent needs and sets forth strategies for the region’s workforce development system that remain consistent with the state’s workforce system goals in “Talent and Prosperity for All: The Strategic Plan for Unlocking Washington’s Workforce Potential.”

The local combined plan reflects a deep commitment by the Council to the economic vitality of the community and a confidence in the ability to redesign and re-energize the workforce development system to meet evolving talent demands in local and global economies


Framework for doing Business

The Council is a powerful mechanism for comprehensive, community-wide workforce development planning and coordination. The Council promotes the alignment and integration of education, training and employment efforts coupled closely with economic revitalization strategies. The Council oversees a regional workforce development system that provides funding, direction, and a commitment of support where services exemplify the following shared principles, beliefs, and priorities:

Leadership is a catalyst for change and works to remove barriers to change processes. Leaders inspire, motivate, and encourage the entire workforce to contribute, to be innovative, and to embrace change. Senior leaders set direction, create a customer focus, establish clear and visible values, and build high expectations.

The system is driven by the demands of customers, particularly employer customers. Employment and training programs should meet an identified need. Time and resources are focused on matters that create customer value or build upon the system’s ability to do so.

The system strives to build capacity of communities to engage each other in partnerships that balance priorities, share resources and work towards improvements. As a whole, the system offers a wide array of services to those in need, whatever their need, accordingly. Time and resources are focused on matters that create customer value or build upon the system’s ability to do so.

The system must produce results to establish and maintain its relevance. The workforce system is driven by the Council’s comprehensive plan based on the needs of the local labor market and the system’s overall performance to meet outcome-based goals. Each component programs’ measurement of concrete results contributes to the performance of the workforce system but they do not define that system in and of themselves.

The system provides services of the highest quality. Feedback from customers is measured and acted upon to drive improvements in individual programs. Continuous improvement is achieved by challenging the status-quo and seeking a better way. Creative problem solving and shared learning are embraced, including continuous improvement of existing approaches and significant change or innovation.

The system (and all its parts) should be easily accessible, easily navigable, flexible, and adaptable to changing demand. It must be well known and “transparent” to all its potential customers.

The system management and oversight is independent of any single program or service provider. A single set of strategic goals, plans and objectives, standards and evaluation criteria apply to all the various component programs. These help keep service providers aware of and focused on overall service quality and overall customer satisfaction, and working together as an integrated system rather than as a collection of free-standing entities.


Service integration requires the ability for multiple systems – job training, education, candidate placement, business services, and public assistance – to find ways to communicate across agency lines about job seekers and businesses. This is done through integrating technology, assessment, Workforce Skill Standards, case management, business contacts, governance, programming outcomes, and accountability mechanisms. A fundamental strategy employed by NWC in the design of an integrated system of service delivery has been the identification and development of key system integrators:

QUALITY STANDARDS help benchmark service delivery to what customers expect and value. Integrated quality standards provide a common understanding between system partners of what it means to do our work well. They are the common continuous improvement measures the system is accountable to.

SKILL STANDARDS are identified as the Workforce Skill Standards, locally validated skills, attributes, and personal qualities local businesses expect of entrants to the labor market. They are used to integrate assessment, curriculum, and the ways in which we communicate with employers and job seekers.

PERFORMANCE OUTCOMES hold the system of workforce programs accountable to a set of shared indicators and standards.

ASSESSMENT is integrated using skill standards and common practices and procedures. A shared set of common definitions for assessment and a shared information database allow customer assessment information to travel and benefit the customer across the service system.

STAFF SKILLS AND KNOWLEDGE The more staff is trained together and become knowledgeable about how to conduct different functions, the more the lines blur between partner organizations. A set of Competencies for Workforce Development Professionals begins to define the expected staff skills required to produce stellar customer outcomes.

INFORMATION Agencies will share information through technology that assists jobseekers in improving skills and finding jobs and assist business in finding qualified applicants. Customers have direct access to information to make evidence-based career decisions.

BUSINESS SERVICES AND CONTACTS will be integrated to create a single point of contact through the WorkSource system. Customer feedback tells us employers want a single contact for both information and access to ALL the qualified applicants in the entire system at any given time.

TECHNOLOGY is a tool to enhance the use and efficacy of the common integrators. Technology assists in connectivity among and between partners to improve communication, information access, knowledge retention, and customer flow. Technology is also used as a common case management tool.