In today’s world there is a lot of emphasis on the economy and the global marketplace. Organizations are looking to expand services and production in communities that will best help them reach their organizational goals and remain competitive within their industry sector. In working with economic development recruiters and prospective businesses and industries seeking to relocate operations and/or begin initial operations, I have found that one common thread on the list of ‘must haves’ is a labor pool of qualified workers. I’ve heard several CEO’s and business representatives quote it this way: “We can build a building anywhere in the world we want to, but we can’t find a skilled workforce just anywhere.” So, it makes sense that communities seeking to grow their own economy and wanting to be successful in recruiting new employers to their region would have a strategic plan in place to increase the skills and the quality of their local workforce. This is easier said than done.
You can search online and read through newspapers everyday that give the latest statistics on education levels and the need to reduce the high-school dropout rate and increase college graduate rates. But contrary to popular belief, many organizations are more interested in individuals who have a good work ethic, possess some technical skills and can interact socially with co-workers instead of individuals who have a degree to hang on the wall yet lack basic work ethics and skills. Therefore, it is imperative for cities and counties to ‘compete’ for these organizations to locate operational structures within their community. Why? Because that will provide employment to local citizens, increase local tax revenue and boost the local economy to continue to grow and compete.
I am a firm believer that the traditional college education is not for everyone. And over the past decade, we have seen a transformation – especially within the community college systems – to provide specific, fast-tracked, technical training that will give individuals just enough skills to be marketable for positions that employers are looking for today. So, how can your community move forward in attracting and recruiting potential businesses and industries? You must market your workforce. Let them know what type of skills your citizens have and be prepared to show evidence of those skills. If the marketing of your workforce is done properly, then your community will get on the radar screen of these larger corporations. Now…you can understand the importance of not only increasing the high school graduation rates, but also continuing to build the skill sets of the local population by marking your spot in the competitive market.
There are many programs available within your region that will help increase the educational attainment of the workforce and improve training opportunities for those who choose not to go to college. Here are just a few…
- Learning Anytime, Anywhere Partnerships – Provides grants to partnerships of two or more independent organizations to ensure high-quality learning opportunities
- Vocational Rehabilitation Act – Provides grants to enable States to offer vocational rehabilitation services and training to persons with disabilities
- Veterans Educational Assistance Program – Provides benefits for degree and certificate programs and other skill training
- Workforce Investment Act of 1998 – Provides workers with information, job search assistance, education, training and support for Adults, Dislocated Workers and Youth
Look around for opportunities that can help in making your community ‘work-ready’ and be proactive by informing local officials of these opportunities to enhance the skills of the existing workforce and teach new skills to those just entering the labor market. Together your community can make huge strides in becoming ‘work-ready’ and in marking their spot by being in a more competitive position to recruit top employers to your region. How is your community getting ‘work-ready’? Leave a comment.