By Tony DeLisi
In recent years, employers in Laramie County, Wyoming, have found it increasingly difficult to find workers to fill job openings. In July 2014, Cheyenne LEADS, the economic development organization representing Laramie County, came to Avalanche for help answering two questions at the root of the issue: “Does Cheyenne have a skills gap issue or a workforce shortage? And what do we do about it?”
Cheyenne LEADS wanted to help employers, but without better data, they were not sure where to begin. Avalanche began our process by conducting a comprehensive workforce analysis for Cheyenne and Laramie County. We found that economic success has been so strong in Laramie County that employment growth outpaced population growth.
Laramie County was less severely hit by the recession and has steadily created jobs since 2010. Strong employment growth drove the county’s unemployment rate to 4.5% in October 2014, resulting in a shortage of available workers that threatened to slow the growth of local companies.
Next, Avalanche contrasted occupation demand forecasts against educational output from Laramie County Community College (LCCC) and the University of Wyoming (UW). We found that despite new programs and flexibility at LCCC and UW, there remained a shortage of talent production in certain STEM fields.
Through our analysis it became clear that Cheyenne, like many other communities, had both skills gaps and workforce availability concerns. Addressing these challenges will help local businesses continue to grow and thrive in the community.
Avalanche’s final step in the process, the Workforce Strategy, provided Cheyenne LEADS with an action plan around the following three topics:
- Education Alignment. Local education and workforce programs should produce talent with skills that are relevant to employers’ current and future needs. Local educational institutions might prepare students for all the new jobs being created, but if those students leave to work in another community, the investment is lost.
- Talent Recruitment. For some occupations, local demand exceeds local degree production. In those cases, campaigns to recruit talent may be needed. For example, Wyoming has no medical school, but Cheyenne is a regional health care center. As a result, doctors and other healthcare occupations must be recruited.
- Lifestyle Improvement. Workforce development must consider quality of life as a factor of talent attraction and retention. Communities that offer vibrant and affordable lifestyles will be more likely to attract and recruit talent.
Over the past five years, workforce training and availability have become a top priority for businesses and site selectors. Every community faces its own unique workforce challenges. With a data-driven strategy in place, community leaders will have what they need to make informed decisions that address workforce skills and availability concerns.
Contact us to learn how Avalanche Consulting can help your community build a workforce for tomorrow.