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New LVEDC Report Assesses Regional Talent Market, Identifies Strategies

By Colin McEvoy on July 4, 2018

LVEDC released the final report from its talent supply study at the Blue Grillhouse in Bethlehem.

This story originally appeared in the August 2, 2018 issue of “Quarterly Connections,” a quarterly newsletter LVEDC distributes to municipal officials in the Lehigh Valley.

Earlier this month, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) unveiled the final report from a year-long study to assess the regional talent market and identify wide-ranging strategies to grow, recruit, develop, and retain talent in the Lehigh Valley.

This region-wide study involved interviews, focus groups, and surveys with businesses from targeted industry sectors and other stakeholders across the Lehigh Valley. We believe it will allow for the region to blaze new trails in how we grow, recruit, and retain talent.

As part of our external communication and outreach efforts, we want to ensure that the findings from this study are available to the leaders of each of the municipalities of Lehigh and Northampton counties.

A 20-page summary of the report findings can be found digitally here, and hard copies can be made available upon request. You are welcome to share and distribute this report to others within your municipality.

The study was commissioned by LVEDC and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV), and was conducted by MDB Insight. The complete 218-page report by MDB Insight can be found digitally here.

Attracting and retaining people

LVEDC began its exploration of the talent market by convening an Education and Talent Supply Council in 2015. Availability of skilled labor is a challenge not just here, but in growing economies across the United States.

“LVEDC’s mission is to infuse the region with new jobs, good jobs, jobs that pay family-sustaining wages,” LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham said at a public unveiling of the report earlier this month.

“To compete successfully with other regions, we must focus on attracting and retaining people as strongly as we focus on attracting and retaining companies,” Cunningham said. “We need information that’s Lehigh Valley-specific, and we need more of it. That’s why this study is so important.”

A clear message from the study is that Lehigh Valley companies are hiring. Among employers surveyed, 91 percent said they have hired in the past 12 months, 89 percent expect to hire in the next 12 months, and 90 perceive a skilled workforce as essential to growth.

Finding the right people

The challenge for these employers is finding the right people for the jobs they offer: more than 70 percent of respondents reported difficulties in recruiting, hiring, and retaining workers.

The study revealed an additional challenge for the region: over the next five years, replacement demand – the sum of job growth, expected retirements, and people transferring from one job to another – is expected to be about 100,000 workers.

“We have a lot of work to do,” said Nancy Dischnat, WBLV Executive Director. “The good thing is: we have the ability, relationships, and partnerships to build – and to execute – a workforce strategy, and a strong pool of talent from which to draw.”

Recommendations

The study resulted in a strategic action plan with 36 recommendations to improve the talent market, create approaches for developing workplace skills, and prepare job seekers to be successful in high-demand careers. LVEDC and WBLV identified the highest priorities recommendations, including:

  • Increased collaboration on job-readiness tools such as internships, apprenticeships, mentoring programs, and business tours.
  • Creation of an accessible, easy-to-use Lehigh Valley database on jobs and training opportunities.
  • Development of “employability skills” programs to improve job readiness and retention.
  • Additional research into Lehigh Valley residents who leave the area for college or jobs, and how they may be motivated to return to the region.
  • Creation of consistent brand messaging that can be used broadly by regional organizations to showcase the Lehigh Valley’s economic assets, opportunities, and quality of life.

“The report confirms that talent alignment and effective talent strategies are of critical importance to the Lehigh Valley’s long-term economic health,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Director of Talent Supply. “This study, and our ongoing talent supply initiative will help us sustain a world-class talent pipeline and establish the Lehigh Valley as a region that other communities look to as a leader in understanding talent supply.”

Funding for the study and LVEDC’s ongoing talent supply initiative, which started in 2015, has been provided in part by grants from Pennsylvania’s departments of Labor and Industry, and Community and Economic Development.

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