Multnomah County’s future is dependent upon attracting and recruiting recent graduates and members of underrepresented communities into its ranks.

Currently only 14% of the county workforce is under 35 years of age compared to 59% of employees over 45. People under 25 years represented only 1.2% of the workforce in 2012. Recent college graduates from underrepresented communities working for the county are even rarer. These graduates are least likely to know about the many career opportunities the county has to offer.

With no personal frame of reference, they do not envision themselves performing these jobs much less know how to qualify for and secure them. Minorities represent 21% of the county’s current workforce and occupy only 23% of management and professional positions. At the same time, county services are being extended to increasingly diverse group of people and utilizing culturally-specific strategies, interventions and staffing is considered best practice.

Many of our students are members of college education support service programs but not all are. We appreciate the partnership with our higher education institutions and community organizations that refer students to us.

Also at play is the significant number of county employees and leaders who will be retiring. 31.5% of county employees were eligible for early or full retirement in 2013. They should be replaced with people with needed skill sets, leadership potential, commitment to public service and who share the cultures of the people the county serves.

The College to County Mentorship Program positively impacts these challenges. It helps broaden the pool of interested and qualified job candidates to include college students from underrepresented and low-income backgrounds. The program augments existing recruitment efforts by placing special emphasis on the recruitment, supervision and mentoring of promising college students in performing substantive work on county projects, systems and processes over their summer break. It assists in their understanding of the pathways to employment and leadership in various county careers. Finally, it clearly demonstrates management support for diversity and equity in county recruitment and succession planning and the extra effort required to achieve and sustain these outcomes.