Helping Students Map Career Paths
This post was authored by Robin Willis, Associate Vice President, Talent Pipeline Strategies at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.
As Chambers, we are all experiencing tremendous workforce strain in our communities. Just like you, we are hearing members express serious concern over finding and keeping skilled talent.
The Charleston metro region is the 75th largest metro in the county but ranks in the top 10 for job growth. We’ve evaluated the data and have projected there will be 35,000 new jobs in our region in the next 5 years.
Our Talent team works directly with school district leaders, guidance counselors and teachers. As we have communicated the local skills gaps data we noticed another cause for concern: students and parents were experiencing information overload. Instead of using the data to choose a high demand career path, they were lost in a sea of opportunity—hundreds of certificate or degree options in our market alone. Students needed simplified information that showed them there are multiple, but not infinite, pathways in high demand industries that can lead to a career with high potential for growth.
Enter a new publication called Mapping Your Path. It highlights several pathway options in six of our region’s high demand industries. Each pathway has been validated by 17 of the region’s leading employers. Students, or adults reentering or changing careers, can see starting and stopping points from Certifications to Associates Degrees through Masters Degrees.
School districts have embraced the information—giving print and electronic versions to students and parents as part of state-mandated planning meetings with school counselors. We envision producing an updated version with live online links, and ultimately the development of a mobile-enabled portal.
Childcare Matters: Improving workforce compensation is the key to quality and availability
This post was authored by Mary Manner, Great Start Coordinator, TraverseCONNECT
A new article about child care seems to pop up in the news almost every week, focusing either on the high cost of care or the shortage of quality care, or both. At their core, these issues are two sides of the same coin and the currency is workforce compensation.
In my home state of Michigan, as in many other states, the decline in the number of child care providers is alarming (find your state’s info here). As economic conditions here have improved in the last five years the demand for quality child care has increased yet the supply is on the decline, especially for infants and toddlers. On average, thirty providers close their businesses every month, and the reason most often given is to seek better pay and benefits.
If workforce compensation is fundamental to increasing the supply of quality child care, what can Chambers do to have an impact? The first step is to recognize child care providers as professionals who deserve to earn a livable wage for the important work they do educating and nurturing our youngest citizens, and the second step is to understand how families pay for care.
Fortunately there are some resources we can look to for guidance. The T.E.A.C.H. program, administered by the T.E.A.C.H. National Center, provides support for child care providers who want to access higher education. A related program, WAGE$, is a wage-supplementation program designed to increase quality through higher educational attainment of providers. Both programs depend on significant public and private investment at the state level to achieve the goals of raising quality and establishing compensation parity between early care professionals and kindergarten/elementary educators. Find out what your state is doing to raise workforce compensation and how you can support the effort.
How families pay for child care is the flip side of compensation. With child care nearly as expensive as college tuition, quality care is already out of reach for many low- and middle-income working families. Raising prices enough to elevate wages is not an option, but there are other ways to capitalize the system.
One solution is to infuse more cash into the system by increasing the utilization of the child care subsidy. Eligibility for the subsidy, paid out of a combination of federal Child Care Development Funds (CCDF) and state funds, varies widely by state. The national goal is make subsidies available to families earning up to 85% of the state median income (find your state’s data here), however many states still have a long way to go to meet that goal.
Recently I asked several center directors to calculate the per-child cost of their programs. The results were disheartening. Providers are charging about forty percent of the actual cost of providing high quality care and making up the difference with summer camps for older children, corporate underwriting, and/or fundraising. Given this business model, it’s hard to see how this path could toward increasing workforce compensation and program sustainability without additional inputs.
Shared services is one promising approach to improving child care business practices and cutting administrative costs, thus freeing up time and money to improve program quality and compensation. The state of Texas has a put together an excellent review of how shared services works for child care. Chambers of commerce may be uniquely able to support local shared services initiatives and provide business expertise.
In my conversations with local child care providers, the one question that keeps coming up is why the Chamber doesn’t do more for them, yet few are chamber members. Maybe it’s the cost, or believing that membership is only for big businesses, or simply being too busy, as owner/operators, to participate. Whatever the reason, perhaps it’s time that we do more to reach out with support and encouragement. It will benefit all of us.
For more information feel free to contact Mary Manner
The New Strategy for Afterschool
Over the past few years, chambers have increasingly focused on using afterschool as a strategy for career awareness and to decrease the skills gap in their communities. Afterschool has traditionally been used as time to do homework before parents get out of work, but it can be so much more. Afterschool can be the time when students are exposed to career opportunities, learn in demand skills and apply what they learned in the classroom to real life scenarios.
Chambers that have seen the potential of afterschool as a talent strategy are capitalizing on their investment in the workforce of tomorrow. Greater Spokane Inc, is taking advantage of afterschool opportunities to raise awareness of STEM possibilities and continue education past the bell. Check out the webinar featuring the Greater Spokane Inc’s work here. The Casper Area Chamber offers afterschool programming to improve students’ soft skills. Whether your chamber provides direct programming or supports other existing programs, there are many helpful resources at your disposal.
If you are considering your next steps for developing deeper partnership in the afterschool space, you may find ACCE’s afterschool partnership model helpful. This model illustrates how chambers can evolve a new partnership into a mature, effective collaboration. You can find other helpful resources on the Afterschool STEM Chamberpedia page.
Linda Barton of the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance, Erin Helms of the Casper Area Chamber, and Elissa Ruckle of Elevate Wyoming presented a webinar titled How Afterschool Can Shape Your STEM Workforce. This webinar also included perspectives from aftershool experts Ron Ottinger from the STEM Next Opportunity Fund and Kari Pardoe of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.
Do you use afterschool as part of your career awareness and closing the skill gap strategy? We would love to hear from you. Email Amy Shields (email@example.com) to let us know what you are doing.
Creating a Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators
This post was authored by Stephanie Newland, Vice President, Workforce Readiness, Shoals Chamber of Commerce.
Students ask, “Why do I need to know this?” and “When will I ever use this again?” Do educators really know? They may know about doctors, nurses, lawyers, engineers and teachers, but what about machinists, CNC operators, multi-craft maintenance and so many other technical professionals who have high-demand, high-skill, high-paying careers? Would they know to advise their students to consider these jobs? Most likely not. Hence, our nation’s current skills gap!
We never discourage anyone from getting as much education as they desire or need to reach their goals, but we have found that many students do not know enough about technical careers to choose them as a goal. We want students to marry their interests and passions with available career opportunities and get as much training and skills in those areas as they can. We encourage all students (directly and through their teachers) to gain a marketable skill and preferably to earn certification(s) in high school.
We believe students should learn how to do something that employers will value and which will benefit their ultimate educational and career goals. If they are not financially able or choose not to go directly to college, they can still make a living. Then, maybe their employer will pay for their continued education. If not, they can still save for school, or work through school and have less, or possibly no, student loan debt. It is simply a win-win to have a marketable skill no matter what you plan to do after high school.
Since 2008, the Shoals Chamber of Commerce has hosted a summer program now called Workforce Readiness Institute for Educators. During this program, 25 – 30 regional educators (classroom teachers, counselor, administrators, youth workers, etc.) spend seven days touring local industry and the technical programs at Northwest-Shoals Community College, learning how the academics they teach in the classroom tie into jobs in business and industry.
Our target audience is middle and high school math and science teachers and counselors, but if we have space, we accept any interested educators. At the conclusion, they write career-related lesson plans, so students better understand the “why” and “when” of what they are learning. We then provide links to the lesson plans from our chamber’s Education/Workforce webpage and invite other educators to use them, which increases the ROI for the program. Those not on contract during the summer are paid a modest stipend ($75/day), which is funded by grants, sponsorships and donations. Participants are also eligible to receive professional development credit, both CEUs / Contact Hours for classroom teachers and a state-approved PLU for administrators.
Businesses who participate love sharing their workforce needs and challenges with the educators. Educators are amazed at all the businesses they never realized were even in the area, on “that street” they had never ventured down, as well as the great career opportunities for so many of their students who may not be interested in a 4-year degree … at least not yet. They learn how their math, science and English concepts are used daily within these businesses. They also see how important soft skills are, such as taking responsibility and pride in your work, being on time, critical thinking, teamwork and respecting others. They usually rank the WRI among the best, most relevant professional development opportunities they have ever encountered.
We are encouraging those at the state level to implement this type of program at colleges of education so student teachers will have a better understanding of the end result of the academics and skills they teach before they ever enter the classroom. An educator's goal should not only be to get students from Math A to Math B, but to make sure their students have a working understanding of how Math A can be used someday in various careers and why it is important that they can use it in the real world.
Attracting Summer Talent to Rockport-Fulton
Rockport-Fulton is rising with a positive and quick recovery after Hurricane Harvey’s eye hovered over that community for more than 13-hours just 20 months ago. Employers of the Rockport-Fulton needed workers to fill positions in their community.
For the summer 2019, the Chamber ran a campaign called Build Your Resume at the Beach. Using their website, social media and other collateral, the Chamber encouraged job-seekers to apply for summer jobs on the coast. Job types include hotel staff, waiters, waitresses, breakfast clerks, cooks, general managers, massage therapists, landscapers, etc. A full chart of available jobs can be accessed through the link above.
“We are recovering at an impressive pace and are having a great summer. Our employers need to bring on more staff. We are encouraging anyone interested in summer jobs on the coast to get in touch with our employers,” said Diane Probst, President/CEO of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber thought this campaign would be attractive to young adults wanting to build their resume while still enjoying a great summer locale. Rockport-Fulton is surrounded by water on three sides, there is a mile-long beach, tons of outdoor recreation and lots of opportunities. In a tight labor market, finding new ways to sell your location to potential employees is important.
The Chamber provided both job listings and a listing of available housing on its campaign webpage. Interested candidates could then reach out directly to employers to set up interviews. Once they secured a job, they were able to easily find a place to stay for the summer. “It’s a great way to get some experience and help our employers get some relief at the same time,” said Probst.
For more information, visit Rockport-Fulton.org or call 1-800-242-0071 or 361-729-6445.
About the Chamber
The Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce is a 5-star Chamber as recognized by the US Chamber of Commerce. The mission is to work in partnership with businesses, individuals and governmental entities to promote commerce and tourism while maintaining the environment. The Chamber works very closely with small businesses. It is PLANE-ly focused on promotion, leadership, advocacy, networking and the economy.
Grand Rapids Area Chamber probes local business
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber recently released the results of its annual government affairs survey of member businesses. The survey results show that workforce and talent issues continue to rank as top priorities for employers, with parking availability also surfacing as an issue of concern.
“We use this survey as an opportunity each year to see where our members are seeing some of their biggest obstacles and opportunities,” said Joshua Lunger, director of government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber. “It’s an opportunity for us to investigate further into issues that we might not have been spending as much time on.”
The survey revealed business sentiment remains positive, with 96 percent of employers reporting a favorable or very favorable perception of the business climate in West Michigan. The biggest challenge, according to respondents, is finding qualified candidates to hire.
“We’re growing and creating jobs, but we don’t have enough folks to fill them,” said Lunger. “80 percent of companies reporting talent shortages say the cause is due to consistent business growth and job creation, rather than hiring to fill an existing slot,” he added. “This is actually a good problem to have.”
To address the talent shortage, Lunger says the chamber is focused on promoting skilled trades in public schools and through the Skilled Trades Training Fund, a statewide grant for employers, as well as encouraging greater investment in early childhood education.
“Talent and education policy is a very long game,” said Lunger. “You have to look at the whole picture, from access to high-quality childcare all the way to what’s in the curriculums of the schools.”
Another issue that emerged for the second year in a row was access to parking, with 28 percent describing it as a significant challenge. To address these concerns, Lunger says the chamber is advocating for increased supply.
“We had a group of members that met for a few months and came up with an eight-point parking and mobility plan,” he said. “Whether it’s parking a little further out and using a high-frequency transit service or improving our downtown circular, we want employers to have a whole list of options for how their employees can get to work.”
Lunger says that, while the survey revealed a consistently positive outlook among employers, the concerns raised regarding talent shows the business community can’t afford to become complacent.
“We titled the report: ‘Businesses like what they see, but addressing talent is critical to continued growth,’ and we think that really sums it up,” he said. “We have a lot of positives, but we can’t sleep on this talent issue. We need to put it front-and-center, and I think that’s true for most places in the country right now that are growing.”
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