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Talent Supply Initiative Links Employers, Educators and Agencies on Critical Workforce Issues

By George Lewis on September 18, 2017

The LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council met on Sept. 14.

The LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council met on Sept. 14.

Businesses need three essential ingredients to succeed: access to capital, a building to call “home,” and a ready supply of workers.

In the Lehigh Valley, and across the country, labor supply issues are growing more prominent as employers seek to hire and hold onto people who have the talents, skills, and attributes necessary for success in the workplace.

The LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council was established in the Lehigh Valley following a 2014 study, “Bridging the Workforce Gap,” analyzing the region’s labor supply pipeline. The council met Sept. 14 to learn about an initiative that will identify talent supply and demand issues and create a strategy that results in a broader, ongoing understanding of the workforce among employers, educators and others.

“We put a lot of effort into recruiting and retaining employers by marketing the Lehigh Valley’s economic assets,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “To continue the success we’ve had, it is imperative that we know our region better than other regions know themselves. That begins with understanding our challenges in the quantity and quality of our talent supply.”

Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Director of Talent Supply, explained that the initiative brings together employers, educators, and regional workforce and economic development providers to increase knowledge about talent supply and demand, and share that information on an ongoing basis.

“It’s not just about gathering and reporting data,” Gelinas said. “We are building a process that we will use to refresh information from employers and educators, and sustain a world-class talent supply pipeline.”

She introduced Trudy Parsons, Executive Vice President of MDB Insight, the Toronto-based company selected to lead the talent supply initiative. Parsons credited the Lehigh Valley for creating the Education and Talent Supply Council to engage the key partners needed to understand talent supply and demand.

“The Lehigh Valley has the structure in place to take the strategy that will come out of our research and roll up your sleeves to implement it, monitor its progress, and make adjustments,” Parsons said.

Within the next few weeks, MDB Insight will begin surveying and interviewing employers, educators, and others about their experiences and issues in talent supply and demand. MDB Insight will analyze publicly available data on the workforce, but believes that one-on-one conversations provide crucial details to gain a full understanding of the Lehigh Valley’s labor market.

Leaders of the Lehigh Valley’s largest employers have embraced the talent supply initiative, Cunningham said, but to be effective the initiative will have to reach the region’s many smaller employers  companies with 20 to 250 people that don’t have the internal resources for recruiting, hiring, and training workers that the big companies have.

He encouraged members of the Education and Talent Supply Council to reach out to smaller employers about the importance of this initiative and encourage their participation in surveys and interviews so that the concerns they have are reflected in the talent supply strategy.

The initiative will focus on selected target sectors: biological and life sciences, health care, finance and insurance, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing, transportation and warehousing, and professional, scientific, and technical business services. These sectors were chosen based on current employment levels, employment growth, and potential for future growth. They are important contributors to the Lehigh Valley’s $37 billion economy.

The Lehigh Valley talent supply initiative is being directed jointly by LVEDC and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board. It is a first-of-its-kind program in Pennsylvania that is being evaluated for applicability in other communities across the state.

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