Five Best Practices from Workforce Development Boards that Expand Local Employment Opportunities
"People Sitting in a Waiting Room" by amtec_photos is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Workforce Development Boards are in a unique position to spot industry- and region-wide trends – and to predict how these changes will impact local businesses and workers. By anticipating and identifying emerging sector and occupation categories, shifts in consumer behavior, new business delivery practices and soon-to-be in-demand skills, Boards can position themselves as proactive community leaders that buoy businesses in a rapidly changing workforce environment.
While many economic indicators are moving in a positive direction, one third of U.S. employers say the skills gap has increased compared to last year, and 80 percent of employers are having difficulty filling openings due to skills gaps as opposed to a year ago.1 To support both employers and employees, Workforce teams are quickly responding to these hiring concerns with programs that: help businesses retain and promote current employees, expand local training cohorts, build basic job readiness, and widen hiring models to bring in previously untapped candidates.
Here are some best practice examples that we’ve been seeing from Workforce Boards:
Profiling future needs
With workshops and other coaching sessions, many Workforce Boards are helping employers identify the specific activities and skill sets their businesses will need to succeed and grow in the next 12-18 months and connecting them with grants or other local resources they can use to create in-house training programs to meet these needs.
Acting as training matchmakers
At city, county and regional levels, Boards are coordinating with cohorts of growing, financially stable companies to develop new apprenticeship programs, regional training partners, industry sector networks, and curriculum/certification pathways for new occupations.
Building ground-level support
In coordination with education partners and staffing agencies, Workforce Development teams can help develop broad training courses that build important soft skills that will serve workers well in any field. For example, McKinsey & Company recently identified 4 kinds of skills – digital, higher cognitive, social and emotional, and adaptability and resilience – that “will be useful no matter how an employee’s specific role may evolve.”2
Casting a wider net
Similarly, Boards are working with business owners and HR managers to adjust their employment screening processes to allow for a larger number of “skills gained through alternative routes… [such as] community college, workforce training, bootcamps, certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning” rather than focusing on college degrees and specific job histories.3 This is a rather fundamental change in hiring protocols, but one that has been embraced by leading job sites, large corporations, and non-profit networks.
Finding hidden opportunities
Job fairs don’t need to be routine. Workforce Boards are expanding the roster for in-person and digital career events beyond the usual group of participating employers and broadening the scope and types of job opportunities available for different types of job seekers.
One thing all of these Boards have in common? Investing in top-notch data resources.
There are two types of data that Workforce Development Boards need to support business growth: big picture data for forecasting the industries and occupations that are cycling up and poised for growth, and boots-on-the ground data to pinpoint the key companies in these groups that are thriving and ready for investment. By working closely with the data – and their data partners – Boards are recognizing and responding quickly to workforce interruptions and making connections between the employment changes they see on the horizon and the potential real-world impacts to their local community.