The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) hosted its annual conference in Atlanta last month and we were there to take part in the exchange of new ideas in workforce and economic development. This year's theme,"Inclusive Economic Development: Fulfilling Dreams," highlighted a topic of great importance to us: Helping improve the lives of marginalized populations by uncovering pathways to meaningful work.
We know from experience working in diverse communities that to truly achieve our shared goal of creating equal opportunities for all people, inclusive economic development can't be an afterthought--it must be a deliberate focus that is kept at the forefront of the decision making process.
We also know that inclusive economic development not only puts all residents on a more positive trajectory, it also strengthens the region’s economy, as the World Economic Forum affirms.
Inclusive economic will continue to be a high priority in our efforts throughout the country, and we would love to talk with you about such efforts in your region. See below for more information about the Inclusive Development Community Fellowship we’ll be launching in partnership with other national leaders in workforce and economic development
We're proud to announce that we'll be working in partnership with IEDC and other national leaders to create a network of economic development entities and practitioners centered on inclusive workforce development. With support through carefully curated technical assistance from national experts and peer-to-peer learning opportunities, this network will help selected communities build their capacity to design and implement sophisticated, effective, and inclusive workforce development initiatives and model for the rest of the field vanguard approaches to workforce alignment.
What Will Selected Communities Receive?
Interested in learning more?
The RFP for this opportunity will be released later this fall. In the meantime, please visit idcfellowship.org to sign up to receive notifications and to stay up-to-date as additional details are released.
What makes a healthy workforce ecosystem?
A healthy workforce ecosystem is one where the range of providers all play their part in meeting the range of employer and target sector needs.
Download The Healthy Workforce Ecosystem to learn how you can create the conditions for business attraction, growth and retention.
We are actively engaged in projects throughout the country, helping communities grow and prosper. Here are a few of our recent projects.
Recent Posts from CAEL’s Workforce and Economic Development Blog, Talent Crunch
Located in New York State's Finger Lakes Region, the I-86 Corridor is home to the largest concentration of manufacturing companies in the Southern Tier area. In 2017, CAEL, in partnership with Avalanche Consulting, worked with the I-86 Innovation Corridor to create an Integrated Workforce Development Strategy to build a coordinated, aligned approach to regional workforce and economic develop. The strategy supported the vision:
"The I-86 Innovation Corridor is recognized as a destination business development location, distinguished by its concentration of multi-national anchor companies,advanced infrastructure to support innovation and technology, rich educational and research resources, specialized and skilled workforce and vibrant communities"
We recently spoke with contributing consultants Susan Payne, community and economic development consultant, and Betsey Hale, president of Three Rivers Development Corporation and steering committee/Work Group & Planning Advisory member, for their insight into the development of the strategy and the impact it will have on regional economic development. What follows is a transcript of that conversation, edited for clarity and concision.
CAEL: Can you describe an overview of the project from both of your perspectives?
Payne and Hale: Throughout 2016 and 2017 The I-86 steering committee determined that workforce development should be the number one priority of the I-86 Corridor initiative. The workforce coordinating committee, which was composed of major players in the area including academic institutions and economic development agencies, came together and did an internal assessment of the critical issues.
We wanted to understand the forecasted trends and where the major gaps were. It was clear that we needed a strategic plan to address those gaps that were particularly field-specific, like in health care and manufacturing. We issued a request for proposals, and in 2017 we engaged with CAEL, who worked with us to put together a strategic action plan that not only gave us an in-depth of analysis and assessment of what the issues and gaps were, but then also a road map that would guide us toward a strengthening of the workforce and creating a pathway for new employees, starting in the K-12 track, that would also include retention of the workforce and a new talent recruitment component. So, at the end of the strategic planning process, we had definitive action plan, which we’re now pursuing.
The region has come together along this issue and has identified talent attraction, retention and training as the biggest issues facing the three counties. Our training partners, our private-sector HR directors, employers, economic development and community members weren’t convening or even communicating around these issues as recently as January 2016. It really took the leadership of the I-86 Innovation Corridor coming together and saying, “These are our top priorities, and we need all our partners in the room to solve the issues affecting them.”
CAEL: What other challenges did you have to overcome while developing that strategy?
Payne and Hale: Financial resources. The plan calls for a lot of investment over the next three to five years. Much of that investment will be with the training partners. We’re working with them right now to utilize their existing resources and how to better direct those existing resources. Then we’re also seeking external funding resources in terms of grants. Applications have already been submitted.
When we initially started the conversation, we had an idea of what the model was going to look like. For a region of that size in a rural area, if you’re talking about staffing the initiative and staffing it correctly, giving it the right administrative support, then you’re looking at a budget anywhere from $350,000 to $500,000. If you’re truly going to have all the data and the real-time reports, everything that the plan calls for, that’s the budget.
The next big hurdle was having the workforce coordinating committee that we had look at that budget, then come back and say, “We just need to start starting.” We’ve had to have some really tough conversations over the last several months about turning back the budget so we could bootstrap this initiative for the first one or two years to build enough capital and get enough developed so that in the third year we could go back to our funding partners in the private sector, in the education sector and in the public sector to say, “Look at the results we’ve had. We really need to continue to add programs. These are the ones we would like to add. Would you be willing to fund them?”
For now it’s kind of that heavy lifting where we feel we have to prove that we can do what we said we were going to do so they’ll consider funding us further. There are lots of funding paths. There’s lots of organizations with money. We just need to be sure that we’re utilizing those resources and that there’s not duplication and redundancy.
CAEL: What did the implementation look like?
Payne and Hale: The plan was rolled out officially in May. We got the original workforce subcommittee to reconvene with a slightly smaller group: basically, the economic development agencies, representatives of the private sector and the training partners. We brought them together during the summer and worked on the development of an organizational structure, and that organizational structure helped us put together recommendations for next steps, which will be presented to the steering committee this month.
In the meantime, the group, which is now named the I-86 Workforce Coordinating Committee, is pursuing numerous activities. For example, they’re working with partners in the area to work on fast-tracking new noncredit certificate and training programs that meet the immediate needs of employers, specifically targeting health care, advanced manufacturing and hospitality. We’re also working with the academic institutions to address short-term skill development to grow that particular industry sector.
We also have begun focusing on promotion of career and job awareness. For example a workforce development board is utilizing their Facebook page and other social media to do that. We’ll be coordinating the same thing with the economic development agency.
BOCES, I have to say, is probably the most aggressive in undertaking the strategies that were outlined in the plan. They’ve taken off like a rocket. Greater Southern Tier (GST) BOCES is the umbrella organization for all K-12 school districts, as well as the adult education. In terms of the adult education, they’re currently reviewing all of the curriculum to make sure that it’s in alignment for current and future demand, and they’re also undertaking professional development for their educators. They’re also expanding their career development console to make sure that the target industries are represented, and to involve more employers with career days, job shadowing, career panels mock interviews and so on.
CAEL: What has CAEL has added to the process?
Payne and Hale: Several of our partners were familiar CAEL. They had attended some of CAEL's annual meetings, presentations, webinars and things like that, so they were familiar with some of the things CAEL does to help educators and trainers do better. So when we were able to come in for the conversation after we did our RFP, we knew we had to select one of the three proposals, and we already had a level of comfort with CAEL.
I think that familiarity from our education and training partners helped us build trust.
I think some of those folks could have thought they were being scolded, reprimanded or being told, “You’re not doing your job.” That’s not the approach that was taken. The approach was, “We have a problem folks, and we need to solve it. We all need to be in the room together, and we need to hire a credible entity to get that done.” I think the reputation that you have in that world helped the economic and community development private sector approach the table in a way that said, “We’re bringing in somebody who knows how important what you do is, and who knows who you are.”
We had identified the problems and CAEL helped us crystallize them. We needed an objective third party to do that for us. CAEL put it out there in black and white. CAEL has a national reputation in the workforce field, and engaging with them also lent credibility to the issue. We were able to use that as a driving force to bring everybody to the table.
I also knew CAEL could help us develop an action plan due to their knowledge of best practices from across the country. CAEL could bring ideas about how those best practices could be applied to our region. We knew we needed to do something was really going to help us prioritize. We needed to know what had to be done first, second, third and so on.
Our action plan has only five strategic objectives, and there’s only about five action items for each one, but they’re very specific and they’re prioritized so it’s clear who’s going to take the leadership and responsibility to execute each one.
Also, when we had very specific concerns CAEL had the willingness to go back and check the math. CAEL listened to the local experts and didn’t own the information.
CAEL’s also been very good at identifying everything that needs to be in our dashboard, paying very, very close attention to progress and monitoring that progress using multiple tools.
CAEL: What kind of advice would you give to other communities or organizations that are looking to build a similar strategy?
Payne and Hale: Make sure you focus on regionalism. Make sure you don’t fall backward into your own individual geographic section. Maintain focus on the region. Maintain a vision of the future at all times. Make sure your partners are being honest with themselves and with each other. Don’t over-promise.
Find some champions, too. We have champions in each town, and I think that really helps. So make sure that in the regional partnership, you’ve got champions in each of those key critical jurisdictions of the region that have come to the table committed and said, “This is an issue. We have to solve it. We’ll do whatever it takes.” They need to participate not only with their money, but to come to meetings, because we had a lot of meetings.
Particularly in the private sector, we had high-level executives and company owners who attended these meetings. That’s not always easy to do, but they believe in taking on this challenge. Our launch meeting was overwhelming. It was standing room only.
Communicate. Everybody should be in communication at all times. The four economic development agencies were the main drivers originally, and they continue to be the main drivers. The ongoing collaboration between economic development agencies is essential. The directors of each of those agencies are keeping their respective boards in the loop. They’re keeping them involved with knowing that this is a priority.
This is probably a 10-year effort, and then it’s probably ongoing. This is not a quick fix, and so communication is absolutely essential.
Fortunately the leadership of academic institutions in our area is fabulous. They’re not wedded to what’s traditional. They’re very open, and they want to know exactly what they can do. As soon as that action plan came out, the community college and the K-12 schools and the adult education stakeholders just jumped on it immediately. Right away they began executing things that were very specific assignments.