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Lehigh Valley Talent Supply Initiative Heralded as a Best Practice

By Colin McEvoy on December 12, 2022

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) talent supply initiative has once again been recognized as a best practice on a national level, having been included in a report highlighting the most effective talent programs in the country.

LVEDC’s program was one of five talent initiatives from around the nation to be included in a workforce partnerships report written by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the world’s largest and most prestigious organization serving economic developers.

The cover of the IEDC workforce partnerships report. (Image courtesy International Economic Development Council)

The report highlights how economic developers are addressing the persistent shortage of workers and specific skills, and points to the Lehigh Valley program as an example of how to best help meet businesses’ talent pipeline and training needs.

“The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s focus on data, career guidance and internships reflects leading practices we are seeing in supporting both employers and the job-seekers of today and of the future,” said Nathan Ohle, IEDC President & CEO.

The full report can be found online here.

This is not the first time Lehigh Valley’s talent initiative has received national recognition. Last year it won an IEDC Excellence in Economic Development award for best Talent Development and Retention initiative in the country.

It also won the Economic Development Program of the Year award from the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, and was selected by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) as the best in the nation for use of data to support collaborative community and regional initiatives.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by our peers as being one of the best in the country but, even more importantly, we serve the economic needs of our employers in the Lehigh Valley with the best possible effort to understand employers’ needs and build partnerships that address gaps and fortify our talent pipeline,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies.

The Lehigh Valley’s regional talent supply initiative began in 2015, when LVEDC and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV) commissioned a study on how to improve collaboration between employers and educators.

One outcome of this was the formation of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, comprising regional schools, employers, economic development, and workforce agencies. The council meets regularly to discuss the Lehigh Valley’s skills gaps and workforce needs, and to help match supply and demand and strengthen the region’s workforce.

The work of the council led to an additional, more in-depth study of the region’s talent supply, the promotion of internship programs to support employers, and the production of a regional career pathways publication to help students and educators guide career choices.

In the report released last month, entitled “Effective Economic Development Roles in Workforce Partnerships,” the IEDC cites the Lehigh Valley talent initiative in identifying roles and recommendations for economic development organizations seeking to boost talent development in their communities.

These roles and recommendations include providing data and insights, tracking collective impact, facilitating funding, catalyzing change, convening and communicating, and building capacity and filling gaps.

“To attract, retain and expand businesses in today’s tight labor market, it’s critical that economic development organizations help meet employers’ talent pipeline and training needs. The most effective way to do that is through partnerships,” Ohle said.

LVEDC was one of only five economic development organizations from around the world that IEDC interviewed for the report. The others were the Greater Memphis Chamber; JAXUSA Partnership in Jacksonville, Fla.; Norfolk Works in Norfolk, Va.; and Firelands Forward in northern Ohio.

Each of the economic development organizations featured in the report aim to have systemic impact on local workforce issues, plan actions based on data, and include explicit equity goals, according to IEDC. In addition, they are part of networks of local or regional stakeholders in workforce and economic development, and may also serve as lead champion and external communicator.

“To attract, retain and expand businesses in today’s tight labor market, economic development organizations are becoming more involved than ever in partnerships to help meet employers’ talent pipeline and training needs,” the IEDC report reads. “This report examines case studies of five award-winning workforce development initiatives in which an economic development group had a central or convening role.”

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