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LVEDC Entering Final Stages of its Ongoing Talent Supply Study

By Colin McEvoy on April 24, 2018

A meeting of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council.

A meeting of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is entering the final stages of its ongoing talent supply study, from which a final report is expected to be completed and released in the summer of 2018.

LVEDC and the management consulting firm MDB Insight recently wrapped up the data validation portion of the study, which followed the stakeholder engagement and data collection portions involving surveys, interviews, and focus groups with educational institutions, employers, and other regional organizations.

“The conversation was invigorating, and MDB Insight came away with a deeper understanding and additional ideas regarding talent supply and demand in the Lehigh Valley as a result of the feedback from our stakeholders,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Director of Talent Supply.

LVEDC Director of Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas

LVEDC Director of Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas

The talent supply study, which began late last year, seeks to identify talent supply and demand gaps in select target industry sectors, and bring together employers, educators, and regional workforce and economic development providers to create a plan to bolster the alignment of our workforce’s preparation to meet the demands of employers.

“This study will establish a strategy that results in a broader, ongoing understanding of the workforce,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President & CEO. “We’re seeking to ensure the Lehigh Valley continually improves on its ability to build, attract, and retain a quality workforce to sustain an aligned, world-class talent supply pipeline to meet employer needs.”

Mark Erickson, co-chair of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, added: “I am pleased by the progress we have made, excited by the data that has resulted from our talent supply council efforts, and even more thrilled to imagine the impact this work can have on helping us, together, address the Valley’s ‘skills gap.’”

LVEDC conducted four separate focus groups with more than 80 participants last week, who provided feedback on the data that has been gathered on the study so far, as well as reviewed strategic action tactics that are under consideration by the study to determine accuracy, relevancy, and feasibility. Additionally, focus group participants were asked to offer any other ideas that may have been overlooked but would benefit the development of the region’s talent pipeline.

Earlier in the course of the study, MDB also conducted an employer survey of more than 300 randomly selected regional employers in five priority sectors: advanced manufacturing and food/beverage production; transportation & warehousing; health care; high value business services; and bio/life sciences.

The report will highlight challenges facing employers and job seekers, as well as the projected fastest-growing and most-declining occupations for the region, and the number of recent graduates in various degrees and related programs within each of the five priority sectors.

The study will also make several recommendations of tactics for ways to improve collaboration across employers and academia, create enhanced relevant training programs, rebrand modernized job perceptions, promote talent attraction activities, and create an increased understanding of the talent landscape.

“This study will result in a deeper understanding of our talent supply and demand and recommend strategic action items that will involve a regional collaborative approach to ensure we have a competitive talent pipeline moving forward,” Gelinas said.

Among the research observations from the study so far is that 75 percent of employers across all five target industry sectors plan to hire over the next 12 months, and 71 percent of those same employers have experienced challenges recruiting, hiring, or retaining talent for specific occupations over the past 12 months.

The study also indicates the Lehigh Valley has an aging workforce, and with it a large expected cohort of retirees. Fourteen percent (or more than 90,000 people) of the Lehigh Valley labor force are between ages of 55 and 64, and  the region could be short about 10,000 workers in the next ten years if current patterns prevail. Specific necessary skills and high-demand occupations as reported by target industries are also revealed.

Additionally, the report expects to highlight common regional challenges, including a limited understanding of the migratory patterns of Lehigh Valley residents who leave for post-secondary education, and a limited understanding of the research skills and occupations of regional residents who leave the region for employment.

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