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Communities are Heating Up--You just need to know where to look

Spring may be slow to take root in many corners of the country this year, but we’re seeing growth in even the coldest communities. Where trees and flowers remain dormant, local economies are heating up. What’s nourished the fruits of this growth? Significant investments in education and training designed to prepare workers for the jobs of today and the future; alignment between regional labor supply and industry demand; and strong partnerships between higher education institutions, economic development and workforce development organizations, and employers.

Wherever you are, whatever the weather, we hope that the contents of this quarter’s newsletter will inspire similar development in your community. Of course, you don’t have to go it alone. Drop us a line and we’d be happy to work with you to enhance your efforts, from building a competitive workforce to developing strategies to drive business attraction, retention and growth.


The CAEL Workforce and Economic Development Team

Building Pathways to Advancement for Retail Careers

Retail employment provides workers with the opportunity to develop foundational skills and abilities that are highly valued by retail and non-retail employers alike. Understanding the competencies workers develop within retail jobs and how these can lead to career advancement is an important part of any retail workforce strategy. Knowing those competency-based pathways can help businesses advise retail workers about future career opportunities.

With support from the Walmart Foundation’s Retail Opportunity Initiative, CAEL recently completed the development of two guides for retail workforce initiatives, such as those helping businesses build pathways for their workforce.

The first guide, Common Skills for Employability and Pathways to Advancement in Retail, provides a detailed look at specific skills that frontline retail employees develop and how these can lead to advancement within a retail environment. The second guide, Common Skills for Employability and Pathways to Advancement in Adjacent Industries, similarly identifies common skills that may help them move into careers outside of retail.

Both resources also include a user guide to help retailers effectively use the information to ensure that their employees possess the skills they will need to succeed.

To download either version of Common Skills for Employability and Pathways to Advancement or the user guide, click on the image below or click here.

Pathways to Advancement

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Helping Communities Grow

We are actively engaged in projects throughout the country, helping communities grow and prosper. Here are a few of our current projects.

  • Aligning entry and middle-skill worker requirements across healthcare employers in Chicago
  • Creating career awareness and advising support tools across Tennessee
  • Helping college/workforce board partnerships to facilitate credential completion in Miami, Seattle, Philadelphia and Norfolk
  • Mapping transferable retail skills to other demand sectors nationally
  • Facilitating transfer of military STEM skills into high demand civilian occupations in Seattle and D.C./Maryland
  • Helping colleges across Missouri to align their programs with national assessments and industry certifications
  • Helping colleges in Mississippi, Colorado, Illinois and West Virginia improve their prior learning assessment (PLA) programs and grant college credit for work-based learning

Here are a handful of upcoming workforce and economic events that may interest you. Will you be attending any of these events? Let us know!

Salt Lake City, UT | 4/30-5/1
Spartanburg, SC | 5/23-5/24
Washington, DC | 6/7-6/8
New Orleans, LA | 6/13-6/14
Atlantic City, NJ | 6/14-6/16
Buffalo, NY | 6/24-6/26
*CAEL will be attending
**CAEL is a sponsor

Recent Posts from CAEL’s Workforce and Economic Development Blog, Talent Crunch

How CAEL is Putting Prior Learning Assessment to Work in Philadelphia

Client Corner - JAXUSA Partnership

Since February, CAEL has been a consultant on a project to develop and implement a strategy to encourage positive economic and job growth in northeast Florida, and to enhance the region’s brand. This initiative, Elevate Northeast Florida, is aimed at reaching the following regional goals:

  • Economic growth: Elevate Northeast Florida will lead to increased economic growth in the region by identifying and capitalizing on regional and county-specific assets.
  • Talent development: Elevate Northeast Florida will lead to a more competitive talent pool and increased employment by connecting residents to jobs, especially in target industries.
  • Brand recognition: Elevate Northeast Florida will result in a marketing and branding campaign that raises awareness of the region’s assets to U.S. and international audiences.
  • Global competitiveness: Elevate Northeast Florida will lead to enhanced global competitiveness by focusing on strategic investments across the region.
    Source: ElevateNeFL.com

We recently spoke with JAXUSA Partnership’s Vice President of Education and Workforce Development, Tina Wirth, about the initiative and how JAXUSA has worked to bolster economic development throughout northeast Florida.

CAEL: Why is having a Workforce Strategy as a part of a regional Economic Development strategy critical for Northeast Florida in general and the JAXUSA Partnership specifically?

Wirth: In northeast Florida, like much of the nation, we are facing a low unemployment rate, which means that we are hard-pressed to create the quality of the workforce that employers demand if they are considering our market for expansion.

For JAXUSA in particular, it means that we need to be able to demonstrate an understanding that a quality workforce is a key priority now and into the future. Having workforce development embedded into economic development strategy is one tangible way to show current and prospect employers in the market that we understand that it’s the number one driver.

CAEL: You’ve been leading strategic efforts related to talent and workforce development since the last strategic plan. What have been some of your biggest success in this work?

Wirth: When we did our first strategic plan with CAEL, Innovate Northeast Florida, we had limited programmatic partnerships with our higher education institutions. We were heavily engaged with some K-12 programs and then we would pick up with colleges at the end of the pipeline, when students were graduating. But we were not in the space in the hand-off between the two, and that weakness was identified. So, we created a collaborative initiative called EarnUp, which was based around higher learning for higher learning. This brought together key players in K-12, higher ed, philanthropy and business leaders to address the fact that if we had higher 2- and 4-year degree completion rates we would attract more prospects to market. In the course of that convening, which began a year after our strategic plan, we had seen an uptick by 2.5 percent, in terms of our workforce going from 36 percent holding a 2- or 4-year degree to 38.5 percent, which represents 10,000 new degrees in market.

The second big success we’ve seen has been in our storytelling about what was working in market. We really made an effort to reach out to employers who were engaging in workforce development, either within their own organizations or with a K-12 or college partner, and we worked to elevate those stories. We used newsletters, blog postings—even a podcast that we started, all to help bring them to prominence so that other employers could see a good model and replicate it. This has definitely created employer interest—the interest by educators is always there to try to engage employers, but I think employers need examples of what is working before they’re willing to step up across the aisle.

CAEL: How will stakeholders in Northeast Florida benefit from the project’s completion?

Wirth: With this tight of an employment rate, our local stakeholders want to see how we elevate our game in a really competitive market. That’s really going to be contingent on how we collaborate together, how we improve the access of our existing workers into the workforce pipeline and how we improve the quality of our workers to meet employer demand.

CAEL: When Elevate Northeast Florida is completed in September, how will the success of the strategy implementation be assessed?

Wirth: We are very sensitive to this notion that plans happen and then they get shelved, and so with help from CAEL and Avalanche we plan to be very public with the recommendations and with our progress toward meeting those recommendations. So, we will have a publically accessible dashboard that lists what those objectives are, a timeline for completion and our progress toward completing them. This will allow our stakeholders, in real time, to be able to check in and determine how successful we are in implementing the strategies that have been suggested.

CAEL: What advice do you have for other regions looking into implementing a similar strategy?

Wirth: The transparency to internal stakeholders is important. The need to think differently about a really rapidly evolving set of demands on workforce is also really important. It’s at this point almost cliché to say that we’re trying to prepare workers for jobs that don’t exist, and yet the cliché stands because it’s true. So while all of our communities largely have data sets we can access that says what happened in the past that tries to model the future, we need strategic planning like this and the expertise of an organization like CAEL to help us understand the arc of what’s to come, but not necessarily through the lens of what was.

That’s the part that real people on the ground who have been to other markets, who are hearing the collective voice of employers, bring to our work. In particular industries, in particular communities, you may only have one or two large representatives for an industry. Yet CAEL is out there hearing in different markets the voices of many employers in similar industries, and so is able to weave together a more forward-thinking narrative than any one community can.

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