LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council Looks to the Future

By Colin McEvoy on November 21, 2019

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to the Education and Talent Supply Council at Northampton Community College in Bethlehem.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) Education and Talent Supply Council gathered this week to discuss its accomplishments over the past year, and to look forward to the year ahead.

The council is a partnership of Lehigh Valley educational institutions, major employers, and economic development and workforce agencies focused on creating and executing regional strategies that help the Lehigh Valley maintain a competitive workforce and talent supply.

“We had a very tall order and lofty goals for what we were looking to accomplish in 2019, and that was all largely done thanks to the members of this council and the work groups created therein,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research.

“We are appreciative to all of you for your dedication in putting in the hard work and offering experience in specific areas to bolster the talent pipeline of the Lehigh Valley,” Gelinas said to more than 50 attendees at the council meeting, which was held at the Northampton Community College campus in Bethlehem.

Priorities for 2020

Among the council’s priorities for 2020 will be understanding local high school talent trajectories, Gelinas said, which will enable LVEDC to identify trends in college enrollment, majors, and final graduation institution.

“We expect to use this information for targeted marketing, to tell these kids we have jobs for them in these fields here in the Lehigh Valley, and to recruit graduates who have left and encourage them to come back,” she said.

Other 2020 priorities will include:

  • Conducting a survey of alumni of Lehigh Valley colleges and universities to understand their career-related priorities and perceptions of the region
  • Producing an updated Lehigh Valley Education and Talent Supply Study, the last of which was done in 2018
  • Conducting a survey to increase understanding of the regional workforce’s perceptions and priorities on housing

The LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council is expected to convene again in the Spring to discuss their progress on these initiatives.

Accomplishments in 2019

George Lewis, LVEDC Director of Research & Analysis, discussing the talent research gathered as a result of the council.

At the start of 2019, the council broke into five work groups to focus on specific areas of expertise: attracting and retaining talent, career pathways, employability skills, talent research, and internships, apprenticeships, and mentorships.

The efforts of these groups resulted in several successes this year, including Lehigh Valley’s first-ever internship summit, a new networking event for young professionals, and the creation of materials highlighting hot careers in Lehigh Valley, which are to be distributed to to regional schools so that students can consider local job possibilities.

George Lewis, LVEDC Director of Research & Analysis, discussed the talent research gathered as a result of the council, including the gathering of talent pipeline data collection from Lehigh Valley colleges, universities, and career and technical schools.

This data revealed that Lehigh Valley colleges and universities graduated 10,754 students, an increase of 4.1% from the previous academic year. Technical schools had 1,429 completers from area high schools, and an additional 1,756 adult learners completed certificate programs.

“The work of this council has vastly increased our knowledge of the talent market of the Lehigh Valley,” Lewis said. “Through each of these working groups, we’ve gotten a lot of answers, but to our credit I think we’ve come up with just as many questions, which leads to the need for additional research.”

Jack Silva, Assistant Superintendent & Chief Academic Officer with the Bethlehem Area School District (BASD), supported the council’s career pathways work group. He noted that less than half of the graduates of Bethlehem’s two high schools immediately attend a four-year college.

As a result, the district has been reorganizing academic offerings to guide students in planning for their futures in practical ways that include both career and college readiness. This means helping students understand what jobs are available and what it takes to get those jobs.

At BASD, students participate in a highly structured curriculum that offers exploration in specific career pathways in which the Hot Career Guides released by the council will be a critical component.

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