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How Communities Can Work Together to Manage Labor Shortages

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

December 20, 2022

It’s hard to find a business that isn’t struggling to fill open positions or to establish a healthy talent pipeline. Much of this is because our nation is dealing with pronounced labor shortages brought on by massive demographic shifts, declining educational output, and the re-shoring of many U.S. overseas operations. There don’t seem to be enough people to do all the work that needs to be done.

This problem will be with us for many many years, and its implications for postsecondary ed and the labor market are massive. As a result, we must learn how to cope and deal with labor shortages. We cannot rely on outmoded talent strategies that simply snipe talent from one business to another or just hope that the right people will apply for open positions. These approaches just exacerbate the issue, frustrate already struggling companies, yield poor results, and drive hiring costs through the roof.

To effectively develop talent, especially at the local level, firms must deploy more thoughtful strategies and partnerships that yield stronger talent pipelines. Much of this just comes down to how effectively we can connect a new generation of talent to the abundant opportunities that firms struggle to fill. Companies that develop these pipelines by building authentic relationships with students before they hit the labor market will win in the long run.

To establish strong early talent pipelines, businesses need to focus on the following two practices.

1. Improve alignment between local learning and employment

First, aligning local education and employment opportunities will improve learners’ cognitive development (the broad foundation) and skill development (the specific abilities firms tend to look for) and will propel students toward local opportunities more efficiently.

Think about your own career journey. Most of us bounced around in our early formative years. Yes, we ultimately found a good fit, but for most of us, that happened after a lot of trial and error. Firms in desperate need of people can reduce the length of that trial and error period for early talent by fostering better alignment between education and work. Further, local economic/workforce development organizations and learning providers can partner with companies to improve local pathways into the workforce. This first step will remove hurdles and make education-to-work transitions easier and more transparent.

2. Increase awareness

Second, and perhaps most importantly, we must make sure that early talent are more aware of local opportunities and have the resources they need to pursue them. They must have better, more effective ways to connect to opportunities. Each new generation of talent is concerned with how to find and connect to meaningful employment. Businesses and community-based organizations can do a lot to create such awareness. Regions that market local opportunities will help more young people stay in those regions, and businesses will start to see that they have more steady recruiting pipelines.

Regional Opportunity Portals

To support employers as they implement these practices, GoEducate has developed Regional Opportunity Portals. Regional Opportunity Portals (ROP) are digital bridges that make it easier for people to find opportunities and for opportunities to find people. They bring local learning providers, businesses, and people together to create the vital connections and relationships that are so key in addressing labor issues.

Each program that is brought into an ROP is mapped to a set of local careers and employers. When students express interest in these programs, they will also be able to see the types of work they might want to pursue and the businesses that are looking to hire for that work. Then, businesses can see which students have interests that are aligned with work opportunities they currently have. They can start to build relationships with those learners, providing resources and information that will help them feel more prepared to pursue those opportunities.

Essentially, ROPs directly address the major questions that all regions tend to have: (1) how to build adequate pipelines for high-demand positions in specialized industries, (2) how to align high school, postsecondary education, and local employment, and (3) how to properly apply local, state, and federal funding designated for these issues.

Here are a few key driving factors behind the portals:

1. Partnerships will scale the work. Developing early talent pipelines is not easy. It requires investment from everyone. As a result, ROPs are designed so that the critical stakeholders (chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, workforce boards, school districts, postsecondary providers, career training centers, and businesses) have a resource to bring people together around local opportunities in one place. They’re digital ecosystems that allow partners to align local offerings and to educate early talent in an honest, straightforward way.

2. Concentration of force. The success of any large, strategic mission requires the coordination of lots of people all rowing in the same direction. ROPs help regional stakeholders achieve this coordination. If we can bring businesses, colleges, chambers, and the vast array of community-based orgs together with a common task, we have a much greater likelihood of succeeding.

3. It’s all about students. Ultimately, if such efforts are going to be successful, they must be truly beneficial to a new generation of talent. Young people today struggle with how they will make money, how they will support a family and afford the high cost of living, how they will maintain their mental health, and how they will grow and develop professionally. Regional Opportunity Portals are squarely focused on helping early talent connect the dots at the local level so they can achieve personal success in each of these aspects of life. And the more that they can achieve success, the more that it will help local businesses and the economy.

If you would like to learn more or talk to us about how to set up a ROP for your community, please contact us here.

GoEducate connects educational programs, job postings, and student profiles to help communities address labor market inefficiencies and shortages.

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