National Association of Counties honors five Multnomah County programs

June 25, 2014

Commissioner Loretta Smith (center) and former SummerWorks interns.

The National Association of Counties (NACO) has awarded Multnomah County a 2014 Achievement Award for its SummerWorks internship program in the category of “Children and Youth.”

“This is a great honor because it shows Multnomah County is a leader in finding ways to connect young people to jobs,” said Commissioner Loretta Smith, who has made the SummerWorks program a centerpiece of her tenure on the county Board of Commissioners.

“We have worked hard as a county to make this happen,” Commissioner Smith said, “and I’m thrilled the program and the hundreds of kids who have benefited from it are getting national recognition.”

Commissioner Smith established the internship program in 2011 -- teaming up with the non-profit Worksystems.Inc -- to connect young men and women ages 16-21 with quality jobs to prepare them for prosperous futures.

Since the program’s inception in 2011 with 25 internship placements, it has expanded fivefold to provide more than 125 internships for summer 2014.

Then and now, Multnomah County provides the platform for young people to gain professional development through a paid, 180-hour summer internship focusing on three sectors: health care, education and community services. Once placed in internships, interns go through job readiness training and are assigned a county employee to provide career coaching and supervision.

Since being introduced to Multnomah County in 2011, 91 percent of the young men and women have successfully completed their internship and received positive evaluations from supervisors.

Last summer, 101 young people employed through SummerWorks worked 16,181 hours and earned $144,822.

Multnomah County will formally receive the honor at the NACO Awards luncheon on July 13 in New Orleans. Commissioner Smith will be among those representing Multnomah County at the event.

“SummerWorks shows how government can be creative in meeting community and business needs, while filling internal employment gaps,’’ said SummerWorks coordinator Raffaele Timarchi. “The program has grown because it works. And we fully expect this program to continue growing so hundreds more kids can get the job experience they need to succeed.”

SummerWorks wasn’t the only Multnomah County program to be recognized by the National Association of Counties for its efforts in 2014.

The Multnomah County Purchasing Department received two awards for its recent innovations.

With the creation of a New Formal Solicitation Process, Purchasing earned recognition for the open continuous Request For Programmatic Qualifications (RFPQ) process it created to maintain a robust pool of vendors to provide certain services. Purchasing addressed a critical business need with a new, flexible tool that permits the creation of qualified contractor pools while allowing newer contractors to join rather than being shut out.

Purchasing also won honors for its leadership in making it easier for Minorities, Women & Emerging Small Businesses (MWESB) firms to conduct business with the county and other public agencies across the state. Purchasing created and coordinated quarterly gatherings of decision makers from more than 30 agencies to discuss barriers to doing business with the county. Many initiatives emerged from these gatherings, including the first specific inclusion of Minorities, Women & Emerging Small Businesses objectives into the Oregon Business Plan.

Multnomah County’s Immigrants and Refugees Employee Resource Group won an Achievement Award from NACo for its work in creating safe space for immigrants and refugees employed by Multnomah County, enabling group members to share personal experiences, and to support and suggest opportunities to improve their experience in county offices. The Employee Resource Group is the first of its kind in the United States and it serves as a teaching tool for other counties to increase awareness about immigrant and refugee experiences in a work environment. The group also provides a valuable link to diverse communities so the county can understand and serve them more effectively.

The Department of County Human ServicesIdentifying Inequities: Improving data practices to address racial disparities was the final Multnomah County program recognized by NACo. The program originally set out to quantify the percentage of Department of County Human Services (DCHS) clients who are people of color. The workgroup quickly realized the data didn’t exist to answer that question, and there were many weaknesses in how the department collected client race/ethnicity data. The workgroup created a new standard that allows clients to “check all that apply” to improve the identification of multi-racial clients. Training was provided to internal staff and staff of community providers. The workgroup also developed a toolbox of written materials, an e-learning video in collaboration with the county’s Talent Development division, and provided in-person training to support staff in asking about client race/ethnicity.