New Workforce exec loves her job

EVERETT — Four words are painted outside of Erin Monroe’s office.

The bold white letters on the ocean blue wall spell out, ‘Love what you do.’ Monroe does that on a daily basis as the new chief executive officer of Workforce Snohomish.

“From when I first started working here I have been happy every day and you know you’re in the right place when you love your job,” she said. “It has its challenges but I love what we do and our mission.”

Monroe started her new role at Workforce Snohomish on Sept. 15. She takes the place of Sue Ambler, who retired in August after serving as the nonprofit’s CEO for eight years.

The organization located at 808 134th St. SW, focuses on preparing and supporting the current and future workforce within Snohomish County. It also invests government and private funding to help people gain employment and oversees WorkSource centers in Everett, Mountlake Terrace and Monroe.

The county’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10 percent to just more than 5 percent in the last two years and Monroe said she gives a lot of credit to the WorkSource centers for the decrease. The lower rate also led this year to a $750,000 cut in Workforce Investment Act funding.

“We had a decrease in our funding of 20 percent this year,” she said. “What that means is we’re doing our job to get people back to work because the funding follows unemployment and the rate and that’s just part of the calculations, so whenever we get that cut we know we did our job.”

As CEO, Monroe oversees a budget of nearly $9 million. She has started working with the nonprofit’s close to 50 different partners so current and future employment needs in the county can be fulfilled.

Monroe got her start with the Workforce Snohomish in 2009 as the director of finance. Four years later she became the chief financial officer at the nonprofit. Monroe is a certified public accountant who worked previously as a state auditor, an accountant for the City of Edmonds, and an internal auditor for PEMCO Insurance Co.

Monroe understands the complexity of the whole organization and has a proven track record of team building, said Jeff Tomson, chairman of the Workforce Snohomish Board.

“She also is very good at building relationships and partnerships with the community and our selection choice to have Erin come on board was a culmination of all those positive attributes,” he said.

Monroe has a personable, engaging style and can carry on from where Ambler left off, said Ed Petersen, executive director of Housing Hope.

“She’s got the historical context and has been there long enough to know how the system works and who the players are,” he said. “She’s been out in the community a lot. I love her energy.

Moving forward, Monroe wants to help grow the My First Job program, which was started last spring to connect employers with youths. She also plans to put together a case study about how Workforce Snohomish hired 89 people after the March 22 Oso mudslide. Those hired were considered long-term unemployed and work alongside Snohomish Parks and Recreation Department personnel on trails and other renovation projects until the end of October.

She is also going ahead with an idea proposed by Ambler to start a for-profit company to develop sustainable funding for the Workforce Snohomish. The company, Infralign, is expected to be incorporated in December, Monroe said.

“It’s a slow process,” Monroe said. “There are not very many nonprofits that are opening for profit arms. We’re not rushing into things we want to make sure it’s done right.”

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