Missing Pieces in Work Force Development

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Work force development is always a hot topic but it’s not as clear cut as developing some programs to retrain displaced workers and upgrade the skills of existing people in the work force, in hopes that they’ll be successful in the ever-changing workplace. There is a great deal of chatter surrounding the development of human capital and the collaboration between employer, government, and educational programs. This is all valid, but there are a few other pieces that are important to explore. There are several key stakeholders involved in work force development and they all don’t fall under the same umbrella and often, are not well integrated.

  • Employer Driven Training - Employers must take a critical internal examination of its human capital to identify what positions have high growth potential and where they experience high turnovers and/or shortages in qualified human capital. Due to most companies being technology enabled in some way or another, the proper training of its human capital is critical to ensuring that the required work is completed at a high quality level. It is important for employers to identify the key certifications and credentials that their team members need to do their job. In addition, having an understanding of what training activities can be led by internal resources and which ones should be managed by external organizations, will have a profound impact on final outcomes. At the end of the day, employers must focus on those things that drive their businesses and how to deliver for their clients. Companies should make training an integral part of their culture to convey the importance of it to the long-term success of the company.
  • Government Workforce Development Programs - Working directly with employers and educational institutions, government funding and administration of workforce development programs are typically mandated by both the executive and legislative branches of government. Using measurements that are data driven based on geographical asset evaluation and supply/demand issues, governments are pretty adept at partnering with employers and educational institutions. Return of investment (ROI) measurements are becoming more important as governmental entities face the reality of always having more needs than the funding available. While measuring unemployment rates and the number of people participating in skills enhancement programs are instructive, income levels and the number of people holding certifications/credentials is probably more important.
  • Educational Institutions - Educational institutions have a vital role to play in the development of human capital. Not only do they offer two and four year degree programs, but many of them are now delivering certification and credential programs to students and adults in the workforce. Understanding the supply and demand dynamics of what is going on in a region or state is very important to produce career-ready students and productive human capital. It is equally important to provide training opportunities for non-college educated population groups and chronically unemployed residents of an area. This creates the best opportunity for people to break the cycle of poverty and have a sustainable life. Employed citizens are productive, pay taxes, and contribute to a successful economy. Educational institutions are a critical leg on the stool to create great human capital and successful workforce development programs.

Measurement of Workforce Development

At the federal level, the goal of the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) was to make workforce development programs more outcome driven.  The hope is that it will improve ROI through the gathering of data on program effectiveness. Items such as; the tracking of job placement, job retention and wage levels all play an important role in the evaluation of programs.

There are a few additional factors that might be beneficial to address in order to potentially produce a better outcome when measuring the results of a program.

  • Unemployed Citizens - Chronically unemployed citizens are in need of remedial education, job specific training, and behavioral life skills in order to successfully transition into a new and successful career path. Examples of life skills are: the ability to show up on time, how to complete a job application and general math/reading/writing skills. In addition, understanding the importance of quality, having a positive attitude, and working as a member of a team are also vital to the future success of the person.
  • Social-Support Systems - This is a critically important but undervalued and communicated piece of the workforce development puzzle. Services available for childcare, healthcare and public transportation are vital. In addition, providing a pathway for an ex-offender who wants to contribute to society by re-entering the workforce is also very important. An understanding how and where to obtain services will be critical in order for workforce development programs to succeed.  Just training someone for a specific job will not work if the basic life skill pieces are not in place.
  • A great deal of the focus in workforce development is the collaboration of the employer and government entities. Identifying and examining the potential behavioral skills and social support needs of the unemployed population in a region is very important. Workforce development and social services programs are not typically thought of as linked, but they should be. It would be very beneficial for the leaders of these groups to develop cohesive programs that connect all of these services to one another to ensure the long-term success of a worker. By making the path easier for people, we can ease the financial burden on society and ensure greater long-term success for people.

Larry Gigerich is managing director of Ginovus.

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