So far this year we’ve attended The Forum in DC; Young, Smart & Local in Philadelphia; and the 24th Annual Rural Development Conference in Tennessee. Each conference proved equal parts informative and inspiring. While each conference had its own focus and emphasized certain aspects of workforce and economic development, we were pleased to find that there were two common themes that prevailed at each convening—themes that we’ve incorporated into our own work.
The first commonality we saw was pervasive stories of growth, even in regions that often receive little media coverage. From rural Tennessee to previously underserved neighborhoods in Philadelphia, we were heartened to see great diversity in the growing communities, industries and demographics on display.
The other repeated topic of conversation was sustainability. We were pleased to learn that communities, as well as the employers and organizations that support them, are placing a strong emphasis not just on growth alone, but on sustainable growth in particular. Sustainable growth means ensuring that employers have access to a rich talent pipeline that continuously connects to education and training opportunities that “future-proof” prospective employees.
We like to think that our own work exemplifies these themes of growth and sustainability. Below, in our Helping Communities Grow section, you’ll see examples of projects we’ve undertaken in a truly diverse range of communities. When it comes to sustainability, our New Project section highlights how we’re helping dislocated workers crosswalk to new careers based on skills they’ve already obtained.
In March, we announced the five communities that we selected to be part of the inaugural cohort for the Inclusive Development Network.
After a thorough review of more than 35 applications, we selected the following communities:
A lead economic development organization within each community will assemble leadership teams that include representatives from local institutions, including government agencies, colleges and universities, employers and community organizations. Through a specialized planning process facilitated by CAEL, the teams will hone inclusive workforce development strategies to create education, job and career opportunities for all residents. Initial lead organizations include the Greater Cleveland Partnership, the United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance, the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance and Greater Spokane Incorporated.
We look forward to sharing further updates as we work with these communities. As the Network's work continues, these communities will devise and implement inclusive strategies to ensure that they are creating education, job and career opportunities for all residents.
For the latest updates on how each community is progressing, follow along at the IDN website, Inclusivedevelopmentnetwork.org.
When workers are dislocated, the whole community suffers. Fortunately, communities around the country are working to help people affected by plant closings, skills and education gaps, and other common causes of employment shortfalls. CAEL has been part of many of those efforts. Click here to read about our work helping dislocated workers in Indiana, for instance. With an exciting new project that assists more than one thousand dislocated workers, we will continue this work.
CAEL has partnered with Midwest Urban Strategies, the beneficiary of a WIOA National Dislocated Worker Grant, to help 1,034 dislocated workers—including those recently dislocated, those 55 or older, those without a high school diploma and underemployed workers.
Working with Partner4Work and its grant partners, CAEL will conduct occupational research and analysis to provide a foundation for clear career pathway guidance, both to leaders who are developing effective programming to transition dislocated workers into new economic opportunities, and to the workers themselves. CAEL will assist those workers by supporting informed decision-making for their next career and education steps.
In addition, CAEL will map details about the skills that workers acquired in occupations that have been dislocated and crosswalk those skills to areas with high growth potential in each regional economy. The analysis will highlight where gaps exist between past and future employment opportunities, and it will connect employees to relevant education and training opportunities in order to bridge skill gaps. The analysis will also highlight how long it may take for workers to become qualified for high-demand and growing pathways.
We all know successful workforce development is a challenging endeavor. Do we ever think about what makes it so challenging, but also so important?
One reason it can be difficult is because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. We can’t just plug and play. We have to suit the techniques to the unique regions, industries, institutions and populations we’re serving.
Recently, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Raphael Bostic delivered a speech in Birmingham during a meeting of the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Bostic’s speech focused on the place of workforce development in promoting economic mobility and resilience.
Bostic points out that the unique conditions of the Southeast require tailored workforce development strategies that are distinct from what might work in, say, New York City. The labor market is different, the industries are different, and the training and educational opportunities are distinct.
Additionally, Bostic points out that a workforce development strategy that only works for the most prepared workers doesn’t go far enough. Workforce development, in order to be effective, has to reach out to, and provide substantial supports for, those who face the greatest challenges entering, and remaining in, the labor force.
Lastly, alignment is essential. In order to build a talent pipeline that truly works for both workers and employers, training opportunities need to equip workers with skills that will actually enable them to participate in the local economy.
At CAEL, we’ve seen firsthand how successful alignment and inclusive strategies tailored to the unique needs of a particular region can have a positive impact for the area’s workforce and employers, and how this kind of campaign can benefit the entire local economy. In particular, we wrote about what we’re doing in Birmingham in our January newsletter.
We are actively engaged in projects across the country, helping communities grow and prosper.
Recent Posts from CAEL’s Workforce and Economic Development Blog, Talent CrunchNew Study Examines Impact of Underemployment
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) has played a major role in supporting economic developers across the globe. The breadth of IEDC’s work is wide and comprehensive, and their organizational expertise has been an instrumental asset for countless institutions over the years.
IEDC has been an important partner with CAEL as we’ve worked together to forward inclusive development strategies with the creation and implementation of the Inclusive Development Network (IDN).
We spoke with IEDC Senior Director of Research Swati Ghosh about IEDC, the Economic Development Research Partners (EDRP) program, and the importance of inclusion and equity in workforce development.
CAEL: Tell us a little about the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and your work.
SWATI GHOSH: IEDC is a nonprofit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers worldwide. We offer the full array of professional development services, from conferences and training courses to webinars, specialized research and direct assistance to communities.
As the Senior Director of Research, my work is primarily with the Economic Development Research Partners (EDRP) program, which operates like a think tank. We publish research on a variety of different topics, looking at pertinent issues from an economic development lens. Since EDRP began 12 years ago, it has published close to 40 reports on myriad issues, including globalization, leadership, organizational development, workforce development, infrastructure and inclusive economic development, among several others. I also work on special projects such as the Inclusive Development Network in partnership with CAEL.
CAEL: IEDC has long-recognized the importance of workforce development and its significance in economic development. How is this playing out for economic developers in today’s economy? What are some of the challenges your members are grappling with in their communities?
SG: Talent is now one of the top criteria for business location decisions, and it’s also the top issue for businesses looking to expand. Economic developers have become more aware of, and engaged with, the workforce development systems in their community than in the past. Furthermore, we have a trifecta playing out in the economy right now: historically low unemployment rates, technological advancements that require different skillsets than what many workers possess, and the issue of an unequal recovery where not everyone is reaping the benefits of a booming economy. Together, these three factors mean that some people are being left behind while businesses are reporting a shortage of talented workers, and it is keeping them from achieving even higher growth. In talking to our members, this seems to be the consistent theme no matter the size of the community or the region of the country. There are variations, but pretty much the same pattern.
So economic developers are playing a key role in making connections between the workforce development systems and the businesses. In most communities this includes working with the universities, community colleges and even K-12 schools. The challenge is that, historically, the economic development and workforce development systems have existed in silos; the pathways and connections are not clearly defined. I think at the local level, the silos are breaking down more and more, and that’s really promising to see. It is very clear to economic developers that workforce and economic development go hand in hand, and the partnerships need to be stronger.
CAEL: You mentioned our work together on the Inclusive Development Network (IDN). How do you see participation in the IDN helping communities effectively address some of our current challenges? Why was it important for IEDC to be a part of this effort?
SG: When CAEL approached IEDC about partnering on this project, there was no doubt in our mind that this work is crucial and can help make a big difference at the community level. IEDC has been highlighting inclusive development strategies in our work for the past 4 or 5 years. In 2016, we published a white paper, “Opportunities for All: Strategies for Inclusive Economic Development,” that showcased how workforce and economic developers are working together to devise inclusive development strategies. The theme of our 2018 Annual Conference was inclusivity. And we continue to explore this theme through webinars, newsletter articles, and other publications where we look at the complexity and interconnectedness of various issues that feed into this dynamic—the dynamic whereby some segments of the population didn’t benefit from the recovery. IDN takes this work a step further. It brings us closer to the actual development and implementation of inclusive development strategies at the community level. So we are very excited to be working on this initiative.
An important factor here is that it builds on the convener role that economic developers have come to play naturally. The model provides the ability to develop and design local workforce strategies that address business needs while focusing on the workers who have not been able to benefit from the economy. It is a win-win-win strategy.
CAEL: Is there anything else you want to share with us and the field?
SG: Although there are only five communities that are participating in the IDN right now, there is a lot of diversity that’s reflected in these communities and the challenges they are trying to address. I am looking forward to learning from the work of these communities and sharing the lessons learned with others.