Workforce and Economic Development is Everywhere
Today, stories about workforce and economic development make national and local headlines on a daily basis. We think this is a positive thing. We believe that stakeholders nationwide are being recognized for the great strides they’re making in recognizing opportunities to drive economic growth and for devising initiatives to create a robust workforce to lead it.
Often hidden in the stories of communities’ needs for economic revitalization, however, are the kinds of true success stories of economic alignment and workforce development that we witness firsthand. It’s our pleasure to share such successes in the hopes that they will inspire future development in communities nationwide.
The year is only half over and already we’ve seen tremendous progress from our partners around the country. But there’s still much work to be done, and we’re looking forward helping community stakeholders accomplish it.
As communities work to differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive global economy, the need for alignment between economic and workforce development has never been more important. Today, successful communities of all sizes, urban and rural, are building this workforce alignment proactively and through a coordinated, systematic approach that helps to drive economic growth.
In June, CAEL presented on this topic at the Mid-American Economic Development Council Best Practices Conference in Fort Wayne, highlighting common themes we’ve identified in successful communities, and detailing our work supporting effective and strategic alignment of workforce and economic development throughout the Midwest.
The presentation resonated with attendees, with participants showing great interest in a more strategic focus on not only workforce (labor market) data, but on actionable steps that can be taken once communities gain that accurate line-of-sight on their economy and talent supply.
Session participants also assessed how their local, regional and/or state talent ecosystems are, or are not, set up to meet the needs of target sectors and support successful business retention, expansion and attraction efforts. Many other presenters, including those that were not workforce focused, also highlighted how critical workforce and education systems are to business decisions on expansion, relocation and development.
Very few of the communities represented by attendees had degree completion initiatives and career awareness efforts, though they all resoundingly noted the importance of these efforts and know they need to think about building them locally.
In the end, this is the significant takeaway from CAEL’s presentation: While not every community is adequately prepared to foster the conditions for the workforce and economic development alignment needed to drive growth, an overwhelming majority of communities are aware of that need and have demonstrated a willingness to make that alignment a reality.
CAEL works in communities throughout the country to foster workforce alignment. To learn about how CAEL can help your community, click the link below to get in touch with one of CAEL’s workforce and economic development experts.
We are actively engaged in projects throughout the country, helping communities grow and prosper. Here are a few of our current projects.
Recent Posts from CAEL’s Workforce and Economic Development Blog, Talent Crunch
For the sake of Illinois’ economic success, the Illinois Higher Education Commission on the Future of the Workforce determined that the region’s workforce needed greater access to educational programs.
CAEL heard the commission’s call, responding to it by overseeing workforce study programs in four regions throughout the state—Madison County, Winnebago County, Greater Egypt and Rockford. Partnered with the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and aided by a USA Funds award through its Completion with a Purpose initiative, CAEL assessed the regions’ present educational offerings, and addressed the scope, range and type of skills demanded by targeted employers.
CAEL worked with National Corn-to-Ethanol Research Center (NCERC) at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville to assess Madison County’s workforce. We recently spoke with Courtney Breckenridge, NCERC’s Assistant Director of Communications and Client Relations, about how the initiative has benefited the region’s workforce.
CAEL: What brought the NCERC to the table for this project?
Breckenridge: Through a U.S. Department of Labor TAACCCT grant we had already formed the Building Illinois’ Bioeconomy Consortium to provide career pathways and training opportunities in an array of industries under the umbrella of what we call the bioeconomy. We wrote the Future of the Illinois Workforce grant between the conversations we were already having with workforce development in this area, closely aligned with our workforce investment board.
CAEL: How was this initiative promoted to stakeholders?
Breckenridge: We worked closely with the Madison County Advisory Board, which is made up of industry representatives from regional energy employers and who had already been getting together to talk about common challenges that they all have been facing. For instance, one of the more common issues that would come up pertained to regulation. In a state like Illinois, which has stringent regulatory requirements, there had been a lot of discussion on the subject of permitting.
So, we connected this initiative by responding to the pressing issues members of the board would raise. We positioned the initiative as providing one more tool to get information about our region and to leverage outside knowledge. Everyone was very supportive.
CAEL: What feedback have you received from stakeholders?
Breckenridge: The feedback has been very positive. In fact, it has already lead to new projects. For example, the Madison County Community Development Group’s Model Innovation Community summit featured a session in which the results of the (CAEL-led) workforce workshop were shared, and the forum was very well received. It really got employers interested.
There has been a lot of talk in the region about incubators and about how to spur them to develop a whole ecosystem for growth. Because we were all at the table together at CAEL’s session, we’ve been participating in those conversations as well.
CAEL: What role has CAEL played in making this initiative a success?
Breckenridge: Sarah [Miller] and James [Reddish] were very informative and very quickly and effectively communicated broader trends and best practices from other regions that would be useful, while still managing to stay focused on Madison County and the particular strengths of our region. They were also critical in keeping things organized, helping bring people together to the table.
U.S. cities with populations over 30,000 are invited to participate in the 2017 Mayors Challenge, an initiative designed to help city leaders strengthen innovative ideas to solve their communities’ largest challenges.
Applications are due August 18, 2017. The application can be accessed here.
CAEL has helped communities nationwide develop and implement successful workforce and economic strategies like those that may help cities receive the 2017 Mayors Challenge grant. From the grant application process to the implementation of comprehensive strategies that support growth, CAEL is committed to helping cities take advantage of this unique opportunity.
Contact Sarah Miller, Associate Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development, to learn more how CAEL can help your city develop an innovative solution that will get results.