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LVEDC Testifies Before Pennsylvania House About Workforce, Talent Supply

By Colin McEvoy on September 16, 2016

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham testifying before the Pennsylvania House Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham testifying before the Pennsylvania House Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was invited to provide testimony before a subcommittee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives about its collaborative efforts with educational institutions and major employers to address workforce and talent supply issues.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, along with Northampton Community College President Mark Erickson, provided testimony today before the House Subcommittee on Technical Education and Career Readiness about the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council.

That council – which is developing interest statewide as a potential model to be emulated – brings together economic development professionals, private industry, K-12 education, vocational and technical schools and community colleges to better connect the Lehigh Valley’s labor supply and demand.

“One issue of constant concern raised in conversations (with local businesses) is workforce: The availability of enough skilled workers, with the right training, located within a reasonable proximity to the employer,” Cunningham said during his testimony at the Steamfitters 420 Hall in Philadelphia.

“We have heard this concern raised so often that we were compelled to better understand our workforce and what employers need,” Cunningham said, “and we did so by forming an unprecedented partnership between the Lehigh Valley’s educational institutions, major employers, and economic development and workforce agencies.”

Erickson, chairman of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, said the 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, testing and verifying workforce data, and creating more intensive employer engagement.

The objective, Erickson testified, is to have each Lehigh Valley college and school provide information on the pipeline of talent preparing to enter the local labor market.

“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,” he said. “The second, and most critical step, is to assess potential gaps, and ultimately assure alignment with the workforce needs of the region we serve.”

During the testimony, Cunningham and Erickson recommended funding be provided for the development of a funded pilot program for the commonwealth, helping allow other regions in the state to emulate the council’s program of matching labor supply with labor demands.

The Education and Talent Supply Council was formed from a partnership between LVEDC and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board (LVWBD), who together applied for and were awarded a Pennsylvania JOBS1st grant. It funded a Workforce and Economic Development Strategic Plan the two organizations commissioned from the New York City-based Oxford Economics.

That study took a deep dive into the Lehigh Valley’s labor market, and recommended LVEDC establish a partnership with the Lehigh Valley’s educational organizations to establish a labor supply data clearinghouse, which would engage higher education institutional research departments and help develop tools for K-12 and vo-tech to supply data on their graduates.

“Understanding labor supply is only half of the issue; the other is to understand the specific labor needs of Lehigh Valley businesses,” Cunningham said. “The goal is to make sure the Lehigh Valley is supplying the right number of workers, with the proper skills demanded by present and future companies. This is a difficult task, but we have begun to put in place a process that we believe can be successful.”

LVEDC is also aggressively utilizing public information to better understand labor demand, Cunningham testified. The organization has been monitoring and analyzing public job postings, reviewing Department of Labor data on our labor shed, and looking at demographic information to detect labor market changes.

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