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RECOMMENDATION: Area Needs STEM & Pharmacy Schools, Talent Pipeline

By LVEDC Staff on July 1, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: In A Blueprint for Success: A Sustainable Economic Development Strategy for the Lehigh Valley, Garner Economics notes that regional marketing efforts are only successful if the region has a strong “product” to sell. This product includes sites and buildings, transportation infrastructure, utility infrastructure, workforce development, leadership, and incentives. Here are a few suggested ways to improve Lehigh Valley.

Support efforts to create a STEM Early College High School

Observation

Degree completions in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are an important indicator of regional competitiveness and economic potential. STEM-related careers are among some of the best-paying jobs, typically having excellent potential for future growth.

Within STEM fields, the highest number of associate’s degree completions in Lehigh Valley is in computer science, and the highest number of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctor’s degree completions are all in engineering.

Recommendation

The multitude of school systems in the region (17 of them) should consider partnering with a like college or university to offer a STEM Early College High School (or schools) in the region, thus raising the bar for education options for public school students who academically qualify for admission. Early College High Schools allow students to graduate high school with enough college credits for either an associate arts degree or two years of credits for a four-year college.

Lead organizations(s): The 17 area school districts

Best practice example: Greensboro/Guildford County, NC

Facilitate regional efforts to grow the Talent Pipeline

Observation

Tomorrow’s companies will demand different skill sets. The next generation of Lehigh Valley’s workforce will need to be better educated, adaptable, and agile to meet growing global competition and serve the needs of the different types of businesses the region hopes to attract. While the Lehigh Valley has the fundamentals in place to begin to attract the target industries, it must also be able to produce the types of workers that will help these businesses thrive.

Data and feedback from the focus groups and electronic survey suggests that Lehigh Valley’s workforce often cannot meet business needs. Specifically, focus group participants representing employers of all sizes were adamant about the deficiencies in the skilled and technical workforce. Also, in the opinion of many of the employers, there may be a disconnect between what the end-user (the customer) needs and what is being taught in the schools.

Recommendations

Nurture and grow the talent pipelines to support sustainable growth in the region’s identified clusters. The utilization of career academies or career pathways in middle and high school with a curriculum that meets the needs of businesses in the identified clusters will help sustain and grow the talent pipeline.

Engage the K-12 school systems, the two community colleges, the workforce investment board, and the area four-year institutions to work with the area high schools so that each high school student has the ability and option to graduate from high school with an associate arts degree from an area community college or two years of credit hours from a four-year university (related to recommendation #3).

Create career awareness of cluster occupations through internships. In our focus groups with employers, a concern they identified was a lack of awareness of existing firms and specific job openings within the region. The various employment organizations need to feature these companies and employment opportunities with students, graduates and educators.

A best practice example is the “Intern to Earn” program sponsored by HIRE, an alliance of colleges and universities in the Louisville, KY region. It is a program for identifying internships opportunities. The program works to improve the talent pool of workers and young talent in the Louisville area by recognizing that interns tend to return to the communities in which they interned, if they leave the area in the first place.

The program is sponsored by the Greater Louisville Chamber of Commerce.

Lead organization(s): The LVEDC and its BRE program to serve as a facilitator with the many organizations that are engaged in workforce preparedness.

Advocate for the creation of a pharmacy school in the region

Observation

The region has a world-class healthcare system and two medical schools, but no pharmaceutical school. Currently, there are seven degreed pharmacy schools in the state.

Recommendation

The LVEDC should advocate for the creation of a pharmacy school at one of the private universities in the area to complement the suggested industry target of life sciences research and manufacturing. The development of a degreed pharmacy school will serve as part of the region’s attraction for companies engaged in pharmacology.

Lead organization: The LVEDC to serve as an advocate and catalyst

NEXT WEEK: The conclusion of this series features the conclusions of our economic development consultant.

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