Small Chamber Big Ideas
In northwest Iowa, there is a small town named Sioux Center with a population of 7,500. It boasts a small private university and a hospital, as well as several sectors of business, including genetics, agriculture, construction, and major employers like Pella Corporation and Smithfield. Like many chambers across the country, the Sioux Center Chamber heard complaints from member businesses about not being able to expand. Businesses couldn’t grow because there wasn’t anyone to hire; they needed new talent, and talent that stays. Businesses charged the Sioux Center Chamber, led by Barbara DenHerder, to help.
To address the issue of talent attraction, the chamber implemented the Homecoming Grant in 2017. This $6,000 grant pays off student loans for students who graduated from the local high school. The amount is paid over four years, and graduates must hold a job in Sioux Center. The grant is framed as a reverse scholarship that is given at the conclusion at the student’s education, instead of at the beginning. Twenty people have applied to date, and two people have been awarded the grant. The chamber is working to raise awareness about the program with the goal of continuing to encourage students to look for and get jobs in their hometown.
To address talent retention, the chamber started Leadership Sioux Center in 2015. Like many other leadership programs, 20 young professionals participate in the eight-month cohort program with a session once a month. This has created a talent pool of younger leaders who are the first to receive notifications for board openings, volunteer opportunities and local civic positions. Of the 100 people who have completed the program, only two have left Sioux Center, making it a very effective tool for talent retention.
To help expose students to the many career opportunities in Sioux Center, the chamber started Your Future@Work. The event begins with a keynote, followed by interactive breakout sessions and a business expo with 65 businesses. For the breakout sessions and the business expo, the chamber works with businesses to focus on the skills needed for working in that industry, rather than the benefits of working for that specific company. For example, a manufacturing company might do an activity with robotics to show students the types of skills they need to get a job in the sector. The event has grown and is now mandatory for the 500-600 high school sophomores in Sioux county. The chamber continues to work with the school district to maintain consistent post-event messaging.
With a staff of three, Barbara DenHerder has responded quickly to member needs. The strength of their chamber is largely due to the tremendous support of the businesses and their willingness to partner with the Chamber in many ways. With an entrepreneurial approach to closing the talent gap, the Sioux City Chamber continues to push for bigger and bolder solutions for its community.
Are you implementing some of the same programs as the Sioux Center Chamber? Do you have an innovative strategy or program that addresses significant issues? Please email Emily Counts (email@example.com) to share.
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