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Initiative’s Research Makes Lehigh Valley a National Leader in Understanding Talent Issues

By Colin McEvoy on May 7, 2021

LVEDC Director of Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas addressing the Education and Talent Supply Council in September 2018.

LVEDC Vice President of Business Development and Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas addressing the Education and Talent Supply Council in 2019.

The knowledge that has been gained through the talent supply initiative of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has made the Lehigh Valley a national leader in understanding talent issues and building partnerships between employers and educators.

Access to talent is one of the driving influences when businesses consider where to establish new or expand existing operations. The COVID-19 crisis has only underscored the importance of this, as companies will require a skilled workforce as they seek to position themselves for post-pandemic recovery.

That is why the LVEDC Education & Talent Supply Council has been actively continuing its work on creating and executing data-driven regional strategies that help the Lehigh Valley maintain a competitive workforce and talent supply. And that work is far from complete.

In the past year alone, the council hosted a virtual internship summit, created additional materials for companies seeking to establish internships, partnered with regional colleges and universities on an alumni survey, and published a new Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide.

Looking ahead, LVEDC and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV) have hired the firm Camoin 310 to conduct an in-depth analysis of the region’s talent supply challenges and other insights that will ultimately lead to a revised talent supply strategic action plan.

“The continued economic success of the Lehigh Valley will depend on our ability to provide a workforce with the education and skills that employers value,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Business Development and Talent Supply. “The research we are gathering will provide us with deep insights from employers, educational institutions, and other partners into the post-pandemic economy and talent needs in our region.”

Hot Careers, alumni survey

The cover of the new Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide.

Developed in collaboration with education and business partners from throughout the region, LVEDC released its second edition of the Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide, which covers essential information from major job sectors in the Lehigh Valley economy.

The 12-page guide provides a clear visual representation of career opportunities and provides a basis for meaningful career exploration based on individual interests. The occupations listed are among the most commonly sought by Lehigh Valley employers, such as advanced manufacturing, business services, health care, distribution and logistics, and more.

Additionally, LVEDC worked with the region’s colleges and universities to distribute surveys to its alumni and gauge their perceptions of the Lehigh Valley, as well as to explore their priorities related to careers and location preference.

“We chose to focus on alumni and understand alumni perceptions and priorities because we know from previous studies that people with the most familiarity with the region are most likely to stay, live, or work here,” Gelinas said. “The results of these surveys will directly affect our marketing efforts to continue to attract a strong workforce to the Lehigh Valley.”

The data collection for these alumni surveys is complete, and a report of the final results is expected to be released soon. Nearly 4,000 were completed, including 1,600 responses in the 18-to-45 age group that are considered the most likely to relocate, given the opportunity.

Internship summit, resources

The Lehigh Valley Internship Summit included speakers (clockwise from top-left) Alisa Lopano of Discover Lehigh Valley, Karianne Gelinas of LVEDC, and Stacy Halliday of Air Products.

Limits on social interactions due to COVID-19 have further complicated employers’ ability to create effective internships that connect them with the new talent they need for sustainable business success.

To help employers navigate these unusual challenges, LVEDC hosted a virtual Lehigh Valley Internship Summit for regional companies. Held over two sessions last summer, it focused on how to start remote internships, recruit interns, create a virtual experience, and operate internships in today’s unusual circumstances and into the post-pandemic economy.

LVEDC also published and released a Career Development & Internship Directory and a Lehigh Valley Internship Toolkit. The toolkit highlights topics like how to develop an internship, what types of internships exist, internship evaluations, virtual internships, and more.

Future talent supply study

Camoin 310, in partnership with the labor market analytics group EMSI, will update LVEDC’s & WBLV’s existing research, reassess employers’ talent needs, and validate the strategic approaches the region is using to address the most important talent supply issues.

As part of this effort, Camoin 310 will conduct surveys with employers across multiple industries in the Lehigh Valley. This will include a limited number of focus groups with regional companies, the education community, and other talent-impacting organizations to validate data.

“Lehigh Valley is a diverse economic region with excellent access to Philadelphia, New York City, and the East Coast,” said Jim Damicis, Senior Vice President at Camoin 310. “With strong institutions of higher education and supportive economic and workforce development organizations, Lehigh Valley has the resources to succeed.”

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