During a nearly 20-year career in human resources, Anna Yates has played a key role in the recruitment, hiring and training of employees at two leading companies in Portland.
So it’s only fitting that Yates would bring that perspective and passion for workforce development as an increasingly influential voice on the Portland Workforce Alliance board of directors.
As director of people operations at Swift, Yates supervises all aspects of human resources management at the creative agency based in Northwest Portland. At PWA, Yates serves as board vice president and is a member of the executive committee overseeing strategy, governance and finances for the nonprofit agency.
Since joining the board four years ago, Yates has established herself as an enthusiastic supporter of PWA’s work: helping local high school students explore different careers while teaming up with schools and businesses to meet the region’s future workforce needs.
“I didn’t have a lot of career exploration during high school,” Yates says. “I grew up in a small community and most of the adults I had exposure to were teachers or blue-collar workers. The internet was not a part of my educational experience, so I really think I had a limited view of what careers were available.”
With that in mind, she says, “I know how important it is for kids to have the opportunity to explore career paths early.”
Personal: Yates is a native Oregonian who grew up in Junction City, near Eugene. She attended Western Oregon University in Monmouth, intending to become a teacher like her parents and grandparents, but shifted over to a business major. After graduating, she took an administrative job at Walsh Construction, which turned into an HR position and led to a career.
Fun Fact: Yates is an avid trail runner who completed her first 50K last July. (That’s about 31 miles, folks.)
Involvement with PWA: She got involved as a mock interviewer at the NW Youth Careers Expo while working for her previous employer. “I stopped by the Expo and saw what was going on and went back to my manager and told her that we (Walsh) needed to be involved. The construction industry especially is going to experience a shortage of workers and I recognized that the event could be a great way to connect with students and help guide their career path early.”
She joined the PWA board in January 2014 and was elected vice president last July. Since joining Swift, her focus for the past three years has been to help build the Arts & Communication zone at the Expo.
Helping Students: “I’m super invested with PWA just because I have an almost 12-year-old son. I’m really thinking about what his future is going to look like and making sure kids have an opportunity to be exposed to all different types of careers, especially now that not everyone is college-bound.”
How I want to strengthen the organization and help PWA grow: “I love the work we do and I’m super passionate about the Expo, so you’ll find me harassing people to get them to sign up to be volunteers. Even if they tell me no, I’m still going to ask every year because at some point they will say yes!”