We've Got it Covered, Right?
Understanding and addressing the challenges of workforce development requires the collaboration of employers, workforce development officials and frontline staff, educators as well as policy makers at every level of government.
First, in general, workforce development is a difficult issue to tackle. We all know there is a problem and there are hundreds if not thousands of people, firms, institutions, agencies, and programs out there to diminish it, along with discussion and literature … but the problem persists.
The workplace is changing rapidly, the skills gap between the technical skills workers have and those needed by business and industry continues to grow. Work has become global; jobs are more virtual than ever. New technologies create an overly competitive market… for business, employees and job seekers. All need to keep pace with the times.
Workforce Development Boards, case managers and business service staff hear repeatedly from employers that they cannot find skilled workers for open positions. Jobs and careers do not work the way they used to, but this does not have to be a doomsday prediction. This could be a great opportunity for Workforce Development Boards to position themselves differently and get ahead of the challenges. In the end, it is everyone’s responsibility. Job seekers and employees cannot be let off the hook. We need to challenge our job seekers to keep changing personally and professionally to keep up with the changing workplace. This includes how they look for a job. Job search is not the same as it was 5, 10, 15 years ago. Workshops for job search need to reflect those changes and teach job seekers not only how to look for a job, but ways to keep up with workforce changes and challenges. We can teach them to become life-long learners, add value, make a difference, hold themselves accountable, and practice continuous improvement.
It is equally important to equip business services staff, case managers and job developers with the necessary tools to meet the demands of today’s employers and businesses. Just for starters, it is often necessary to understand that resumes, education and work experience do not always accurately reflect an individual’s potential, and some people may be held back by their past experiences, preventing them from being able to make informed career decisions that lead to a meaningful career. Training workforce development staff is necessary for them to be well prepared to reliably match people to optimal job and training programs. In order to provide the tools and resources to assure successful work alignment, strategies for career coaching are essential. These strategies can include recognition of the mindset and behavioral-based barriers of customers; assessment of skill gaps (both technical and soft); helping students recognize their strengths and social emotional skills; encouraging career exploration; and measuring the growth of individuals on their path to career readiness.
Workforce development staff must also be willing to establish and develop relationships and networks with large and small employers along with developing and understanding the nuances and needs of the primary sectors in their region. Understanding business acumen and how businesses think does not come naturally to workforce development staff. For many this is a learned attribute and therefore must be taught, observed, and rehearsed. Many staff entered workforce development to help people … primarily job seekers. It is a mind shift to consider that businesses are in need of our assistance. In addition, workforce development, education, and other stakeholders are learning that we have a great opportunity for business to join forces with multiple stakeholders and be the leader in how we approach workforce development.
In conclusion, alignment between the education sector, workforce development, employers, employees, and job seekers is crucial to meeting the job market needs of today and tomorrow.