Grow Your Talent Pool

Some of us have been around long enough to remember what a tight labor market looks like. It’s certainly better than the alternative. A carefully crafted talent strategy can be the difference between winning projects and being left on the sidelines.

Building Construction 3The first step in a talent strategy is to determine who to collaborate with on implementation. You will need expertise and resources and no economic development agency has enough of either. Colleges, universities and workforce development agencies are obvious partners, but here are a few others you might consider:

  • Public sector – communities can’t grow without jobs and investment
  • Private sector – they have as much to gain as you and they might be willing to provide funding
  • Recruitment agencies – they need talent, too
  • Military branches of government – they offer a ready supply of returning veterans
  • Faith-based organizations – they have great networks
  • Public and intermediate schools – school counselors can guide and influence graduating seniors

Business Professionals2The easiest win in the talent attraction game is commuters. They drive out of your county to pursue higher pay within the region or jobs that aren’t readily available in your area. In a tight labor market, wages typically go up. Companies are desperate for talent and will provide better pay and benefits. The key to this strategy is awareness. Try posting advertisements on well-placed billboards or in newspapers outside the county to announce local job opportunities. Electronic billboards can be an affordable way to post your next job fair or list a company’s hard-to-fill engineering job.

Recruiting talent outside of your area is difficult and can be expensive. First, partner with real estate brokers to develop listings and welcome packets. You’ll need housing if you are going to recruit workforce. Second, identify markets similar to yours where available workers are located. Place advertisements in their local newspapers that point people to a jobs board or website where job postings are available. Companies might help to pay for these ads, so remember to ask.

Emerging Leaders for WebsiteOn average, about 30% of high school graduates are not going to college. This is your workforce of tomorrow. This is a great partnership opportunity for educators, the private sector and economic developers. Professional days, facility tours, company profiles on MI Bright Future and summer camps can help to educate young people regarding employment opportunities. They won’t have a lot of work experience, so promote internships and job shadowing.

These are just a few of the strategies you can employ to recruit talent to your community. As you talk to your partners, you will discover other strategies and programs. Remember that if you do nothing, your talent might be someone else’s target. So be aggressive and you can win the talent war.

Authored by: Dan Casey, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County. Dan is a Member at Large on MEDA’s Board of Directors.

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MI Bright Future Helps Support Student Career Awareness Year-Round

lisaOn Oct. 2 – designated as National Manufacturing Day 2015 or MFG Day – more than 100 manufacturing facilities opened their doors to more than 5,000 students across Southeast Michigan, giving them a real-life look at what it is like to be in the manufacturing industry.

MFG Day is a nationwide event that celebrates modern manufacturing and seeks to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. MFG Day serves as a way to help students understand what manufacturing is and is not, debunking myths and preconceived notions, and educating students on the wide-range of skills required in these jobs.

High school students primarily from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties toured numerous manufacturing facilities from automotive to aerospace. Participants, who included counselors and educators, met with workers to learn about high-tech jobs and the type of training needed to land a promising position.

With support at a local and regional level, MFG Day 2015 was coordinated in collaboration with multiple organizations, including the Michigan Economic Development Corp., the Detroit Regional Chamber and the Workforce Intelligence Network for Southeast Michigan, as well as partners in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties and the city of Detroit.

Tours and festivities surrounding MFG Day stirred excitement: Students gained hands-on experience relating to potential career opportunities, for example, virtual reality automotive assembly activity using lightweight metals and demonstrations of virtual welding tools for production.

Connecting students and employers through opportunities like MFG Day is critical to sparking students’ interest in high-demand careers, but it is important to have ongoing exposure throughout the year so that students’ interest does not fade. MI Bright Future offers a way to continually connect students and employers willing to offer these exploratory activities.

MI Bright Future is a Web-based software that connects students and employers to provide hands-on experiences like job shadowing, mentoring, internships and apprenticeships that will immerse students in high-demand fields. There is a widening skills gap in manufacturing across the region: In the past year, there were more than 87,312 manufacturing-related job openings but only an estimated 15,822 individuals who completed training and education relevant fields.

Following the model of sites nationwide, MI Bright Future’s hands-on approach has been found to result in attitudinal shifts for students, such as feeling more prepared to make college and career decisions and realizing the relevance of their classes to their career path. This model has also been found to serve as an effective dropout prevention tool.

MI Bright Future involves employers, K-12, higher-education institutes and workforce-development agencies that are committed to bridging the skills gap and addressing gaps in the talent pipeline. The initiative will launch in four counties this fall (Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair), with the potential to reach more than 168,000 students.

Beyond MFG Day, MI Bright Future serves as a way to educate the future workforce year round. Working together, the Southeast Michigan community can support student career awareness, help them make better investments in their future education, and bridge the skills gap. Participating in this effort will allow companies to ensure that their workforce is future-proof.

To learn more, visit MIBrightFuture.org. For more information on Manufacturing Day 2015 and how to be involved in 2016 MFG Day efforts, visit manufacturemyfuture.com.

Authored by MEDA Member Lisa Katz, Executive Director, Workforce Intelligence Network

This article originally appeared on Lisa Katz’s “Jobs & workplace” blog on www.CrainsDetroit.com. You can view this article and other posts from Lisa’s blog here.