Building Your Future Workforce (or… How to Get the Workers You Need in Three Easy Steps) is an article written by Chris Engle, Vice President of Avalanche Consulting. It is featured in the July-August 2014 issue of Expansion Solutions Magazine.
Companies and community alike continuously ask the question, “How can I build my best workforce for the future?” In fact, according to our latest survey of 200 economic development agencies in the U.S., “skilled workforce availability” was the corporate site selection factor whose importance has grown the most in recent years. Simply put, our ability to educate and train our workforce will be the defining competitiveness factor of the 21st century for companies and communities.
In just the last year, “workforce readiness” has grown in awareness from government and education wonks to the mass media who frequently profile the plight of the low-skilled, long-term unemployed or the debt-laden students who graduate with degrees that don’t land them jobs. State and local governments are now joining federal agencies in their call for greater “workforce alignment”, i.e. ensuring that worker training and student education better prepares them for employment. Often, workforce agencies point to a lack of good information on skills and occupational demand by industry – information that is crucial to making a better career and education choices. In fact, many states have passed legislation requiring their local workforce agencies and sometimes colleges to provide better career information to students and workers. No longer will “What Color Is Your Parachute?” career planning techniques around life goals and personality profiles suffice. How many of us had the information we needed at an early age to make a thoughtful career choice?
Employers in traditional industries such as manufacturing or oil exploration, who now offer some of the highest salaries for individuals with one or two years of college training, would argue that career awareness must extend down to students in middle schools or even elementary schools. How many times have we heard manufacturers lament, “By the time students reach college or even high school, it’s too late to interest them in manufacturing jobs. They’ve been taught by parents and teachers that manufacturing is dirty or for people who can’t make it in college.” On the contrary, today’s jobs on the manufacturing floor are clean, technical, and complex, and all jobs require a worker with a wide range of knowledge and teamwork skills. Some of the most difficult positions to fill for manufacturers are at the technician level – those which require some type of industry recognized certification and typically require a much shorter time to complete than an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree.