LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council Featured in Lehigh Valley Business

By Colin McEvoy on July 29, 2016

This two-page spread appeared in Lehigh Valley Business’ “Business Profiles 2016” issue regarding the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council

This two-page spread appeared in Lehigh Valley Business’ “Business Profiles 2016” issue regarding the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council.

The LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council is the centerpiece of a special business issue released on July 25 by Lehigh Valley BusinessBelow is a reprint of the story. 

Just a few short months ago, an unprecedented partnership began in the Lehigh Valley. Representatives from the region’s educational institutions, major employers, and economic development and workforce agencies gathered in the meeting room of the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board (LVWDB), rolled up their sleeves, and got to work.

This group included representatives from the Valley’s wide array of educational institutions including research universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges, school districts and career and technological schools and major regional employers like Ocean Spray, Mack Trucks, and Olympus Corp., as well as LVWDB and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

This inaugural meeting of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council may appear to be comprised of very different groups, but are all hyper-focused on a shared goal: developing current workforce supply and demand data, and creating and executing regional strategies that help maintain a workforce and talent supply.

“The availability of trained workers is now the number one factor driving company locations, even more so than the total operating costs,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of LVEDC. “The regions that best solve the talent supply equations are the ones that will score the big wins in economic development competition.”

Gathering Information

That’s why LVWDB and LVEDC partnered on the formation of the Education and Talent Supply Council, which itself stems from a Workforce and Economic Development Strategic Plan the two organizations commissioned last year from Oxford Economics, a New York City-based economic consultant.

“That study, and now this council, are part of an ongoing new Lehigh Valley-wide effort to ensure greater alignment of the education talent supply and employer workforce needs of the region,” said Nancy Dischinat, LVWIB executive director. “Developing data-driven, innovative and cost-effective workforce strategies has always been a priority for us.”

Oxford Economics conducted a detailed analysis of workforce supply and demand, training completions, and skills gaps. Overall, the study found the region’s workforce and talent development system is well-aligned to meet the needs of employers, and projected that 22,150 new jobs will be created in the Lehigh Valley over the next five years.

But the gap analysis identified several occupation and career areas that were either underserved by the existing current education and talent system, or, in some cases, where there was a supply surplus. Specific occupations that warrant an increase in post-secondary education and training are centered primarily in manufacturing, transportation, and finance, the study found.

Moving Forward

The LVEDC Workforce and Talent Supply Council held their inaugural meeting in November 2015.

The LVEDC Workforce and Talent Supply Council held their inaugural meeting in November 2015.

Armed with these new insights, the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council has begun to identify areas of focus to prioritize, discussing such topics as establishing internships, standardizing terminology in job descriptions to ensure more candidates are found, cleansing and verifying workforce data, and creating more intensive employer engagement.

Mark Erickson, president of Northampton Community College (NCC) and chairman of the council, and Moravian College President Bryon Grigsby, also a council member, are working to communicate with each of the region’s college presidents to lend the resources of their institutional research and career services departments.

“The objective is to get each school to release information on the pipeline of talent preparing to enter the local labor market,” Erickson said. “The first step in understanding the gap between the education talent supply and workforce needs of employers is to gather accurate and timely data, and to code that data in a way that is consistent across institutions. The second, and most critical step, is to assess potential gaps, and ultimately assure alignment with the workforce needs of the region we serve.”

LVEDC and LVWDB will collaborate on the collection, aggregation, and analysis of existing data through public sources such as the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the U.S. Census, as well as private data services such as Burning Glass, LinkedIn, and others.

Communicating to Shareholders

This data will be assembled to update the Oxford Report findings and used to evaluate gaps in understanding. LVEDC will also coordinate with NCC’s PATH (Pennsylvania’s Advanced Training and Hiring) program to develop a list of pertinent questions for employers to help determine demand for labor.

The council will focus particularly on industry and sector targets identified in the Oxford Economics study, like manufacturing; transportation, warehousing, and logistics; healthcare and social assistance; finance and insurance; and professional, scientific, and technical services.

While much of the early discussion has focused on communicating data from the schools to the private sector, the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council also intends to develop a feedback mechanism so that information is provided from the companies back to the schools as well, which will assist them with developing their curriculum to better match workforce demand.

This will become a growing focus at future meetings, where the council will report on their progress so far and start to develop a plan to report out that information so it can be utilized by the schools and other stakeholders, according to Melody Bradford, LVEDC Director of Business Outreach.

Who We Are

The mission of LVWDB is to ensure an employer demand-driven, world-class workforce system aligned with economic development, education, and the community, focusing on targeted industry clusters. Its vision is a world-class competitive workforce for the Lehigh Valley to support economic growth.

That goes hand-in-hand with LVEDC’s vision of a Lehigh Valley with a diverse economic base that enables businesses to flourish in order to create jobs and opportunities for all residents. To that end, LVEDC’s mission is to market the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley and to serve as a regional shared services and resource center to help businesses come, grow and start here.

With those mutually inclusive goals in mind, LVEDC and LVWIB jointly applied for and won a Pennsylvania JOBS1st grant last year to fund the Oxford Economics study. The resulting LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council marks the first time higher education and technical school educators have worked in conjunction with economic development agencies to share information to better link supply and demand.

“Our partnership is serving as a model for workforce and economic development, not just for the state of Pennsylvania, but for the entire rest of the nation,” Dischinat said. “The road to economic prosperity requires quality workforce, education, and training programs, and that’s why this council is so important.”

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