It is with great sadness that we share that our colleague, friend, and mentor Kurt Shovlin has passed. He peacefully moved on to his next adventure on March 7. We have linked his obituary below.
Kurt was part of the Portland Metro workforce development family for more than 40 years, beginning with the Private Industry Council and moving to Worksystems in the late 1990s. Kurt’s knowledge, understanding, and compassion helped shape the system that we know today, and his impact remains visible through both the programs he supported and the people who worked with and for him.
Following his teaching and school administrative work in Hood River, Kurt began his workforce development career working with young people in the Private Industry Council’s Summer Training & Education Program (STEP).
STEP was a 15-month intervention designed to help reduce dropout levels among low-income and educationally disadvantaged youth by addressing academic performance and teen parenthood. STEP provided 14- and 15-year-olds with a paid summer job plus a stipend to attend summer school which offered math, reading, and the popular Life Skills & Opportunities course, which tackled sex-ed and life success topics. School-year support from one of Kurt’s STEP Youth Advocates ensured that “Steppies“ had a caring adult with them throughout the first year of high school, before beginning their second summer of STEP.
Portland STEP was one of five national demonstration sites, and Kurt worked closely with Public/Private Ventures and Andrea Baker of the NW Regional Education Laboratory to implement the program (see link to New York Times article from 1992 below). Early evaluations found improvements in reading, math, school success, and sexual responsibility knowledge which led Kurt and crew to expand STEP to serve youth in Washington County and East Multnomah County. STEP Advocates jokingly referred to their boss as STEP Daddy; Kurt’s work teams felt like family.
With the reorganization of the Private Industry Council, Kurt came to Worksystems to oversee the newly structured Dislocated Worker program which served laid-off workers, bringing his creative problem-solving skills to a new population.
Thinking about the needs of people laid off from their jobs and needing updated skills to compete in the current market, Kurt was instrumental in working with the local community colleges to develop the Career Pathways Program. The program restructured curriculum to allow students to learn new skills and gain needed credentials to compete in the job market in a timeframe that got them back to work more quickly. The Career Pathways program is statewide today, nationally recognized, and still serving that original purpose and Kurt’s vision.
In recognition of Kurt’s knowledge and skills, he moved up into the management team at Worksystems as Director of Adult Services, where he remained until 2009, overseeing the workforce programs offered through the WorkSource centers for adults and dislocated workers. Not surprisingly, Kurt wasn’t really ready to retire, so we continued to benefit from his knowledge and skills as he supervised the Dislocated Worker program until his full retirement in 2019.
Everyone has a personal story about working with Kurt; he had a lovely, yet wicked, sense of humor. He was a doppelganger of musician David Crosby, which was something people could just not seem to avoid commenting on -- including the crew member on one of his flights, which got them the response: “If I really was David Crosby, would I be sitting in coach?”
He will be missed -- but in his honor, his work will continue to move forward through all of us who learned from him how to do it right.
To commemorate Kurt -- and to remember him both here on Earth and in the heavens above -- we have arranged a tree to be planted in his memory, and for a star to be named in his honor.