Lehigh Valley Well Positioned for ‘Unprecedented’ Time in Talent Market

By Colin McEvoy on October 25, 2021

An executive with the consulting firm that is leading a regional talent market study said that nowhere in the United States has more effort been put into integrating workforce and economic development needs at the local level than in the Lehigh Valley.

Jim Damicis, Senior Vice President with Camoin310

“You have something truly special,” Jim Damicis, senior vice president with Camoin310, told members of the Lehigh Valley’s Education and Talent Supply Council at a council meeting on Oct. 22. “You have integration, collaboration, and sharing of data that is unique. The Lehigh Valley is well positioned in an unprecedented time in the labor market.”

Damicis shared with council members an update on the research project that his firm is leading, along with labor market analytics firm EMSI Burning Glass, to analyze the Lehigh Valley’s talent market. This study, a joint effort of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) and Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, is revisiting, verifying, and updating the findings of a study the two organizations commissioned in 2017-18 to assess the regional talent market and implement strategies that employers and educators can use to meet labor supply needs.

“Talent is among the top issues, if not the number one issue, across the country for employers today,” Damicis said. “There are many, many problems and no single solution.”

Based on a preliminary assessment of data and input that Camoin310 and EMSI Burning Glass has collected through surveys, focus groups, and interviews with employers, educators, and community leaders since the summer, Damicis reported that the issues affecting Lehigh Valley employers are not unique to this region. They reflect what’s going on in labor markets nationwide.

With so much uncertainty in the labor market, employers are trying anything and everything they can think of to attract and retain workers, but they’re still having problems.

“That’s why it is so important to have groups like the Lehigh Valley’s Education and Talent Supply Council to work on issues together and stay on top of challenges,” he said.

LVEDC’s Education and Talent Supply Council is a regional coalition, formed in 2015, that brings together leaders from business, education, and community organizations to identify talent market gaps, and implement strategies that direct people to high-demand career pathways in the Lehigh Valley and make sure they are prepared to succeed in those jobs.

“We are researching and analyzing data on education, training, and barriers to define the trends and shortfalls that enable us to provide a comprehensive analysis of the Lehigh Valley’s workforce. We are truly partners in economic growth,” said Gina Kormanik, Director of Community Planning for Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, a major partner with LVEDC in the Lehigh Valley Talent Initiative.

LVEDC Vice President of Business Development and Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas noted that the Lehigh Valley’s Talent Initiative has been gaining statewide and nationwide attention.

The region’s unique partnership to identify and address talent market needs was selected as the 2021 Economic Development Program of the Year by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association and won a Gold Award as the top Talent Development and Retention Program of 2021 from the International Economic Development Council.

“Determining the most pressing issues, leveraging the energy and expertise of our partners, and building feasible, implementable strategies was an accomplishment built on the strength of our coalition that benefits the entire community,” Gelinas said.

The Talent Supply Initiative and the work of the Education and Talent Supply Council are possible thanks to grant funding from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania secured through the leadership of State Sen. Pat Browne.

Damicis said the next steps in the study are to complete labor market analysis, launch a dashboard that will provide an at-a-glance view of the region’s most important talent market indicators, and release a final report of the study’s findings and recommendations by the end of the year.

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