New Report Will Help Ensure Lehigh Valley’s Talent Pipeline Remains Strong

By Colin McEvoy on November 14, 2022

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s talent strategies have been recognized as one of the best economic development programs in the nation, and many of its initiatives and efforts were inspired by a 2018 talent study jointly commissioned by LVEDC and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV).

The cover of the Lehigh Valley Talent Study Report, which can be downloaded online or made available in hard copy upon request.

To update the findings of that earlier report and to ensure a continued understanding of the needs of Lehigh Valley employers related to the attraction, development, and retention of talent and the challenges facing them in a post-pandemic economy, the two organizations have partnered for a new study.

“The Lehigh Valley is committed to building partnerships and strategies to ensure employers have the talent they need and the community understands the skills needed to be successful,” said Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies. “The data from our talent studies is foundational to driving action.”

The new Lehigh Valley Talent Study Report is available for download here, and hard copies can be made available upon request. It includes insights from employer surveys, focus groups, and analysis completed by Camoin Associates and EMSI Burning Glass (now Lightcast), as well as additional information about the Lehigh Valley economy and talent landscape.

The release of the study comes as LVEDC’s talent initiative has also released two other key resources: the Internship Resource Guide, which provides employers best practices for creating and maintaining internship programs, and the Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide, which helps educators, students, and parents understand the region’s most in-demand occupations.

These reports and the talent supply initiative are part of the work of the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, a coalition of the region’s education, training, workforce community, and employers working together to address the Lehigh Valley’s skills gaps and workforce needs, and to help fortify the region’s talent pipeline.

“The Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, designated as one of 22 workforce development regions in Pennsylvania under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, is held accountable for data, workforce intelligence, adults, dislocated workers and youth talent supply, and labor exchange by ensuring the Lehigh Valley has a workforce development system providing education, training, and upskilling for all to explore career pathways leading to employment opportunities,” said Nancy Dischinat, WBLV Executive Director.

The study culminated in a strategic recommendation that will guide future efforts in fortifying the talent pipeline. This will include attracting, developing, and retaining the workforce that will drive the Lehigh Valley’s economy into the future, Gelinas said.

In particular, the study made four key recommendations as part of the action plan:

  • A focus on skills, including employability and “soft skills,” technical skills, and expanded STEM skills
  • The development and adoption of digital tools for job seekers, students, and the community
  • Bringing all ages into the workforce, including younger workers, and increasing efforts aimed at diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • The continuation of stakeholder engagement and collaboration, particularly through the Education and Talent Council

The study included a labor market analysis, survey of local employers, interviews, and focus groups comprising business leaders, educational providers, and community partners. Specific focus was given to growing industry sectors with a strong presence in the Lehigh Valley.

These sectors included manufacturing, business services, life sciences, health care, and transportation & logistics. They were identified based on current employment level, growth in employment, and the potential for future growth.

The study noted that 87% of Lehigh Valley employers surveyed say a workforce with the right skills is important for future growth. Employability skills, also known as soft skills, remain a priority for employers surveyed, a majority of whom believe there needs to be improvement.

Hiring challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were highlighted in the study. Eighty-nine percent of employers surveyed say they have a difficult time recruiting, hiring, or retaining employees, a challenge that is compounded by the fact that business is growing.

The pandemic also accelerated the shift to digitization, creating greater use and acceptance of remote learning and work. Businesses and schools have quickly adapted and continue to evolve under the new paradigm, according to the study.

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