Industrial development will soon create hundreds of new jobs at the Port of Oakland. The challenge: finding enough skilled workers to fill them. That was the message Port officials delivered to a visiting delegation from the philanthropic Kellogg Foundation.
The Port said it wants to fill the skills gap with training for job candidates. It added that its aim is to put more local people to work.
“Our economic impact is inextricably tied to the jobs we create,” Amy Tharpe, Port social responsibility director, told visitors from the 87-year-old foundation. “The question we must ask ourselves is how does the Port's business activity translate into maximum community benefit?”
Officials from Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Foundation, along with some foundation grant recipients, travelled to Oakland to learn how the Port creates jobs for underserved populations. The Port listed the ways:
• A project labor agreement that establishes aggressive local-hiring goals and workforce development funding for capital construction projects;
• using project dollars to pay for job training to create a local workforce pipeline; and
• partnerships with developers and contractors interested in putting local residents to work.
“We find good tenants for Port property who drive good jobs,” said John Driscoll, Port maritime director. “These are skilled entry-level jobs with upward mobility.”
Major developments are under way at the port that provide jobs ranging from construction to warehouse operations. Among them: expansion of Oakland International Airport's International Arrivals Building and a 280,000-sq.-ft. (26,013 sq m) refrigerated seaport warehouse. A just-completed rail yard provided 542 construction jobs, said Tharpe. She said that 60 percent of those jobs went to local workers.
Driscoll said employers are searching for workers with skills such as truck driving or forklift operation. “We don't have a good base of fundamental skills,” he said.
Tharpe said the Port assists local agencies that train workers for skilled blue-collar jobs. She said developers pay into a job-development fund 30 cents for every employee-hour worked on a Port project.
About 73,000 jobs depend on the Port of Oakland, Tharpe said. She added that workers in the San Francisco East Bay where the Port is located fill two-thirds of those jobs.