Targeting middle skill jobs for competitiveness

The demand for “middle-skills” jobs—those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree—remains high, yet the lack of a properly skilled workforce is hindering the ability of American businesses to compete globally. Similarly, a lack of relevant skills is hurting the average American’s ability to earn more and improve living standards. While business leaders, policymakers and educators recognize the problem, millions of job postings go unfilled even as millions of people remain unemployed or underemployed.

In this feature from the Harvard Business School, America’s business leaders are rallied to lead the charge to close the skills gap. By working in collaboration with educators and policymakers, employers can spark a revival of middle-skills jobs in America.

Cover image for Bridge the GapAccording to the report, Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills, employers say it’s a continuous challenge to fill middle-skills positions even though the number of people seeking employment remains high. The research is the first to analyze America’s middle-skills jobs market data with a focus on competitiveness, and provides a framework for business leaders to prioritize jobs that matter for their business, industry, community and region. To close the skills gap, business should first focus on middle-skills jobs that:

  • Create high value for businesses;
  • Provide not only decent wages initially, but also a pathway to increasing lifetime career value for many workers;
  • Are persistently hard-to-fill.

“For too long we have accepted the cliché that America’s jobs machine is broken. Someone has to take the lead in restarting it, and business leaders are in the best position to take decisive steps to end the misalignment in our economy—millions of job postings alongside millions of unemployed. This is the single most important issue to strengthen U.S. competitiveness—and bring back the American dream for our workers,” said Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Joe Fuller, lead author of the report. “I am very grateful for the support of Accenture and Burning Glass as research partners. Accenture has worked in skills development across the globe and provides invaluable insights into the needs for skills in U.S. businesses of all sizes and across industries. Burning Glass provides us with unprecedented access to unique data on the U.S. jobs market, helping us identify, for the first time, the middle-skills jobs that matter most for America.”

The report, which is part of Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, reveals the middle-skills jobs critical to competitiveness, guides business leaders about where to direct efforts and informs educators and policymakers about the need for closer collaboration with local employers. For example, the analysis shows that occupations in technical sales and sales management (e.g., financial services sales agent) are plentiful and often more rewarding than those that receive significantly more attention in the national dialogue, such as manufacturing occupations (e.g., machinist and tool-and-die makers). Narrowing initial efforts to these specific jobs provides a starting point to stem skills erosion, lift the middle class, and produce workers with in-demand skills.

“The majority of businesses have trouble filling middle-skills jobs due to many underlying issues such as inadequate training and lack of experience,” said David Smith, senior managing director – Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization. “Businesses must develop a better process to source, develop, deploy and retain middle-skills talent to ensure their long-term productivity and corporate performance.”

The report’s overarching recommendations include:

  • BUSINESS LEADERS must champion an employer-led skills-development system, in which they bring the type of rigor and discipline in sourcing middle- skills talent that they apply to their supply chains. This includes workforce planning to identify skills gaps, ongoing and preferred relationships with talent sources, especially community and technical colleges, and building robust internal training and internship/apprenticeship programs.
  • EDUCATORS from community and technical colleges must embrace their roles as employment partners helping their students realize their ambitions by being attentive to developments in the jobs market and employer needs.
  • POLICYMAKERS must actively foster collaboration between employers and educators, investing in improving publicly available information on the jobs market, revising metrics for educators and workforce development programs so that success is based on placing students and workers in meaningful employment, and championing the crucial role that middle-skills jobs play in a competitive U.S. economy.

“For too long, we have been working in the dark to address the skills gap,” said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. “Now that more sophisticated data is available, employers, educators, and policymakers can identify the most critical middle skill jobs, pinpointing the specific skills and qualifications we need to develop to keep America competitive.”

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 305,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeedcorporate citizenship initiative, Accenture is committed to equipping 700,000 people around the world by 2015 with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

About Burning Glass
Burning Glass’s tools and data are playing a growing role in informing the global conversation on education and the workforce by providing researchers, policy makers, educators, and employers with detailed real-time awareness into skill gaps and labor market demand. A Boston-based labor market analytics firm, Burning Glass provides tools for analysts track job market trends and for students to plan their careers and find jobs. Burning Glass collects and analyzes job postings from close to 37,000 online sources and then deploys advanced proprietary text mining to “read” each job description, allowing us to analyze the specific jobs, experience, qualifications, and skills employers are seeking in real time. www.burning-glass.com.

About the HBS U.S. Competitiveness Project
The U.S. Competitiveness Project is a research-led effort by Harvard Business School to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States – that is, the ability of firms operating in the U.S. to compete successfully in the global economy while supporting high and rising living standards for Americans. The Project focuses especially on the roles that business leaders can and do play in promoting U.S. competitiveness. Current faculty research focuses on improving PK-12 education; closing the middle skills gap; and improving America’s aging infrastructure for moving people, goods, and information. For more information about Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, please visit: www.hbs.edu/competitiveness & www.hbs.edu/competitiveness/survey.

A Coming of Age Story for Career Pathways

Pathways Explainer-cover-shotAt the recent National Dialogue on Career Pathways, many federal officials observed that the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) uses the term “career pathways” more than twenty times, signaling a coming of age for this powerful workforce development strategy.  This update from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) offers helpful background on the Career Pathways movement along with the emerging framework in synergy with WIOA.

The career pathway approach connects progressive levels of education, training, support services, and credentials for specific occupations in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals with varying levels of abilities and needs. This approach can benefit well-prepared students, but it’s especially beneficial for more vulnerable populations.

WIOA provides a comprehensive definition of a career pathway program and signals the move toward career pathway system building. While WIOA heavily features career pathway language, new and existing partnerships may still wonder what exactly is meant by “career pathways” and programs and partnerships may need a better understanding of the nuances of career pathways before they’re ready to receive help building systems.

To guide the work ahead, Career Pathways Explained, is brought to you by CLASP and the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a partner-driven initiative with 10 leading states that successfully developed a framework identifying criteria and indicators to define high-quality career pathway systems and metrics to measure and manage success. This visually engaging, web-based tool explains how the career pathways approach helps individuals with limited skills access education and training that leads to employment in occupations and industries that are in high demand. It also provides concrete examples of success in Alliance states. The tool is designed to explain career pathways to people in the field who appreciate this approach but are not steeped in it.

President Obama promotes Open Education initiatives

student using tablet on abstract screenOn the third anniversary of the Open Government Partnership with the U.S. and the leaders of seven other nations, President Obama announced additional commitments for promote Open Education initiatives, including specific references to an online skills academy coming soon through the U.S. Department of Labor. The White House announcement defined the initiative as the open sharing of digital learning materials, tools, and practices that ensures free access to and legal adoption of learning resources.

Also noted recently in the Ready to Work report and the task force outcomes under Vice-President Biden, Wednesday’s White House announcement committed funds for DOL’s Online Skills Academy. The Department of Labor (DOL), with cooperation from the Department of Education, will award $25 million through competitive grants to launch an online skills academy in 2015 that will offer open online courses of study, using technology to create high-quality, free, or low-cost pathways to degrees, certificates, and other employer-recognized credentials.

Other Open Education elements included in Wednesday’s announcement deal with partnerships and awareness in open education with entities such as the State Department, U.S. Department of Education, and the Office of Science and Technology. The State Department will conduct three pilots overseas by December 2015 that use open educational resources to support learning in formal and informal learning contexts. The pilots’ results, including best practices, will be made publicly available for interested educators. Learn more online from the White House press release.

 

 

Recruitment underway for WIOA committee on disabilities

The Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities is a key part of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which was signed into law by President Obama on July 22, 2014 to help job seekers—including those with disabilities—access the services they need to succeed in employment and match employers with skilled workers. The committee is mandated by Section 609 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by section 461 of WIOA. The committee consists of both federal officials and private citizens from specific groups identified in the WIOA legislation. People interested in being nominated for the committee are encouraged to review the Federal Register Notice and submit the requested information. Questions about the committee can be submitted via e-mail to IntegratedCompetitiveEmployment@dol.gov.

More than 260 attend workforce leader forums

Labor markets, employment, jobs, workforce development—these topics are at the forefront of many communities throughout the seven states of the Tenth District. However, how they play out in each state and community differs greatly.  This article from Steven Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor takes a look at trends and resources available.

The Kansas City Fed recently hosted forums in Albuquerque, N.M.; Denver, Colo.; Kansas City, Mo.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Omaha, Neb., to share new research on labor force conditions faced by low- and moderate-income (LMI) workers and gain insight into local workforce issues. More than 260 leaders from the community and workforce development, business and education sectors participated in the forums.

Melissa Robbins from the South Central WIB and Jasen Jones from the Southwest WIB participated in the Kansas City event in July. This article from Steven Shepelwich, Senior Community Development Advisor takes a look at trends and resources available.

The Kansas City Fed’s Workforce Development program provides community leaders and professionals with research and resources about local labor markets, effective policies and innovative programs. Integrating these efforts into employee training helps promote mutual growth between employers, the labor market and the community.

During the forums, findings from the Bank’s new research report, the Tenth District LMI Labor Force Report, provided a foundation for the discussions. This report presents analyses of trends in unemployment rates, employment projections for workers with training and experience typical of LMI individuals, and wage and job availability data.

An important contribution of the report is an analysis of unemployment rates by income group using county unemployment rates. This new method provides insight into the complex relationship of income and unemployment. Unemployment rates in LMI counties were found to be much higher than unemployment rates in middle- and upper-income counties.

A key contributor to this difference in unemployment rates is that LMI workers tend to have lower education levels and more sporadic work experience. The report reviewed national job projections and found that wages and salaries in all occupations requiring little education or experience would place a worker in the LMI category. Low-skill, direct-care jobs in the healthcare sector are increasing rapidly and provide employment opportunities for many with limited skills or experience.

Given the rapid increase in direct-care positions in the healthcare sector and their low barriers to entry, the Bank has developed partnerships focused on improving the outcomes of these positions for LMI workers. Through one partnership, the Bank is working with the New Mexico Direct Caregiver Coalition to define career paths that will expand opportunities for those who provide direct care. This approach strengthens connections among employers, education providers and support organizations to provide workers with greater access to resources and support.

In Oklahoma, the Bank is collaborating with the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City campus, and the Central Oklahoma Workforce Investment Board, to connect bilingual workers to high-demand jobs in the healthcare and public safety fields. This program focuses on outreach, assessment and establishing educational pathways to serve workers with limited education and work experience.

These engagements are based on the Bank’s understanding of workforce issues, its research and partnerships with local stakeholders. The Bank frames its work around activities of convening stakeholders, leading engagements with partners and developing resources for practitioners. See sidebar for a list of activities.

In each forum, participants discussed critical workforce development issues faced in their communities. The following were recurring themes:

  • Coordination of resources: Participants identified the need for holistic, community-based approaches to develop jobs and employees with the skills needed to fill these jobs. Coordination between workforce and economic and social development organizations needs to be strengthened to ensure that resources are leveraged and address local conditions.
  • Specific populations: Several LMI populations face specific barriers, such as reintegrating ex-offenders into the workforce, transitioning foster youth and individuals with mental and substance abuse into job training programs and careers. The populations often face unique challenges that limit their employment including drug use and failure to pass pre-employment drug tests.
  • Job readiness skills: Despite relatively low unemployment throughout the region, participants noted that certain groups face difficulties in becoming employed due to a lack of basic job readiness skills. Participants noted the general effect of low education levels, limited work experience and weak ties to career networks and mentors as hurdles.
  • Rural focus: Participants noted that in rural communities, workforce development approaches need to be tailored to specific workforce issues and opportunities. Limited infrastructure, sparse populations and larger geographic coverage areas increase pressure on service providers and can limit access to workforce services for clients. In addition, the types of jobs and availability often are more limited.

These issues represent significant challenges to ensuring that all individuals have access to gainful employment. The Kansas City Fed will continue to work with partners throughout the region to address these issues through its role in convening stakeholders, conducting research and developing programs and tools that support the development of a strong workforce.

 

 

Conference announced on transforming policy for the 21st century

The Federal Reserve Banks of KC and Atlanta teamed up with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University for a conference on transforming U.S. workforce development policies for the 21st century. Slated for October 15-17, national experts will share their perspectives on transformative workforce development and education strategies and policies. The official conference page contains registration and logistical info online. Some highlights include:

  • An esteemed panel of experts from McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University, W.E. Upjohn Institute, MDRC, Aspen Institute, Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, National Governors Association, Urban Institute, Annie E. Casey Foundation, National Skills Coalition, CLASP, AARP, and National Association of State Workforce Agencies will discuss measuring success through research, evaluation, and data in the workforce development field.
  • Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart and Kansas City Fed President Esther George will provide comments on the current state of the workforce system and implications for monetary policy. AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler will address transformative changes in the economy and in public policy.
  • Policymakers will give their perspectives on key issues facing American workers, education and training institutions, and local communities, and the policies they are embracing to respond to current labor market issues.

 

Ready to Work report debuts with WIOA signing

As President Obama signed the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act into law Tuesday, Vice-President Biden’s task force also released Ready to Work:  Job Driving Training and American OpportunityThe report reflects an across-the-board review of  America’s job training programs to ensure they share a single mission: providing workers with the skills they need to secure good jobs that are ready to be filled. Ready to Work identified three consistent themes.

  • EMPLOYERS can’t find enough skilled workers to hire for in-demand jobs they must fill to grow their businesses.
  • EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMS need better information on what skills those in-demand jobs require.
  • HARD-WORKING AMERICANS,whether studying, looking for work, or wanting better career paths, often aren’t sure what training to pursue and whether jobs will be waiting when they finish.

VPBiden-Workforce1107x400

Among the various case studies and rationale, the report contains a seven-point Job Training Checklist to guide administrative reforms to ensure that what’s working best becomes what all Americans can expect from federally funded employment and training programs. Each of these checklist elements is based on evidence of what’s working, summarized in What Works in Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence.

  • ENGAGING EMPLOYERS: Work up-front with employers to determine local or regional hiring needs and design training programs that are responsive to those needs.
  • EARN AND LEARN:  Offer work-based learning opportunities with employers – including on-the-job training, internships and pre-apprenticeships and Registered Apprenticeships – as training paths to employment.
  • SMART CHOICES:  Make better use of data to drive accountability, inform what programs are offered and what is taught, and offer user-friendly information for job seekers to choose programs and pathways that work for them and are likely to result in jobs
  • MEASUREMENT MATTERS:  Measure and evaluate employment and earnings outcomes.
  • STEPPING STONES:  Promote a seamless progression from one educational stepping stone to another, and across work-based training and education, so individuals’ efforts result in progress
  • OPENING DOORS:  Break down barriers to accessing job-driven training and hiring for any American who is willing and able to work, including access to job supports and relevant guidance.
  • REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS:  Create regional collaborations among American Job Centers, education institutions, labor, and non-profits.

The U.S. Department of Labor and many workforce development associations are eager to get to work on the opportunities ahead. DOL issued an administrative notice (TEN 5-14), Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Announcement and Initial Informational Resources, to get the ball rolling on conference calls, input channels, important deadlines, and more related to implementation.

Local Workforce Investment Boards in Missouri are proactive as well. Five WIBs joined forces to bring together a training event in Branson next week. Diving Into WIOA is slated for July 30-31 featuring Rochelle Daniels.

 


 

 

Congress passes WIOA

Overhaul of America’s Job Training Programs Headed to President’s Desk Following Strong Bipartisan Support from Congress

Press release from the Education and Workforce Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation to update the Workforce Investment Act, overdue for reauthorization for more than a decade, is headed to the president’s desk following overwhelming bipartisan support from both houses of Congress. The Senate and House authors of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) applauded the passage of the bill, which seeks to update and improve the nation’s workforce development system. The legislation was approved today by a vote of 415 to 6 by the House of Representatives; it was approved by the Senate last month by a vote of 95 to 3 and will be signed into law by President Obama.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, provides supports to people with disabilities to enter and remain in competitive, integrated job settings, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. In addition to winning strong bipartisan support in both chambers, the bill is supported by a broad array of labor, business, workforce development leaders, and disability advocates, as well as governors and mayors from around the country.

“Today is a good day for the American people. We’ve shown what’s possible when we work together toward a common goal and right now there is no greater goal than putting Americans back to work,” said Representative John Kline, Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “This bipartisan, bicameral agreement will fix a broken job training system, help workers fill in-demand jobs, and protect taxpayers. I am proud to have helped lead this effort and want to thank my Republican and Democrat colleagues in the House and Senate for their hard work. Let’s build off today’s achievement and continue working together on behalf of the American people.”

“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act modernizes our workforce development system to ensure that all our workers can prepare for and fill 21st century jobs, including individuals with disabilities. It also makes groundbreaking changes that will raise prospects and expectations for Americans with disabilities so that they receive the skills and training necessary to succeed in competitive, integrated employment,” said Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Access to education, training, and employment services is critical to helping our workers secure good jobs, gain access to the middle class, and become economically self-sufficient, and this bill is part of the solution to the challenges facing our middle class. This bill represents the best of what Congress can accomplish when we work together and I urge President Obama to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

“Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find jobs, and this legislation simplifies that maze. This bill will help our nation’s workers gain the skills to find jobs and give governors and local workforce boards the freedom and flexibility to make job training meet their local needs,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Ranking Member of the Senate HELP Committee.

“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will update and improve our workforce training programs by aligning them with real-world labor market needs. This legislation will better connect job training programs with the needs of local employers, helping workers to learn the most in-demand skills and to be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Representative George Miller, senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “I want to commend all my colleagues, and particularly Reps. Tierney and Hinojosa, for their commitment to and leadership on strengthening our nation’s workforce development system. For forty years, we have reauthorized these programs through bipartisan collaboration, and I am happy to see that tradition continue.”

“After receiving overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Senate, today’s vote in the House goes to show that both chambers of Congress are still capable of breaking through the gridlock and investing in American workers and the economy,” said Senator Patty Murray. “I’ve seen firsthand that federal workforce programs can change lives, boost our economy, and get people back to work, but we can’t expect to adequately train Americans for jobs at Boeing or Microsoft with programs designed in the 1990s. Today, we can definitively say that both chambers of Congress agree, and I’m thrilled that this long overdue legislation is now headed for the President’s desk to become law.”

“Today’s vote is the culmination of a long process of legislating the old fashioned way: discussion, negotiation and compromise. There is longstanding, bipartisan agreement that the current workforce development system is broken, and this bill turns that consensus into action,” said Representative Virginia Foxx. “The bipartisan, bicameral process through which The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was developed serves as an example of what we can accomplish when we work together. This legislation is important for the millions of Americans who are looking for work and for the employers who have 4.6 million job opportunities that remain unfilled due to the skills gap. Closing this gap will specifically improve the lives of many American job seekers, while generally helping our economy grow. I urge the President to sign this legislation without delay.”

“Workforce training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from promising careers in 21st century workplaces,” said Senator Johnny Isakson. “The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act will provide millions of Americans the opportunity to receive the training and skills necessary to find a job and keep a job. I am extremely pleased that my colleagues in the House acted today to pass this bipartisan measure with overwhelming support, and I urge the president to swiftly sign this bill into law so we can continue making critical investments in American workers to meet the modern demands of businesses in a global environment.”

“I am pleased to see the bipartisan support as well as the overwhelming support from business groups, labor unions, state and local elected officials, community colleges, workforce boards, adult education providers, youth organizations, and civil rights groups for this bill,” said Representative Rubén Hinojosa. “In my district in South Texas we have seen how these programs are successful in training our workforce and getting our residents back into good paying jobs. Importantly, this bill includes several key provisions from ‘The Adult Education and Economic Growth Act,’ which I introduced. In the area of adult education, this bill integrates adult education and workplace skills, authorizes the integrated English Literacy and Civics education program for Adult learners, and expands access to postsecondary education.”

WIOA represents a compromise between the SKILLS Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013 with bipartisan support, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013. A one-page summary of the legislation can be found here. A summary of key improvements WIOA makes to current workforce development programs can be found here. A full list of WIOA supporters can be found here.

National CWRC symposium heads to Missouri

savethedatecwrcoct2014ACT’s Work Ready Communities initiative selected Missouri for the second annual Best Practices Symposium. Affording Communities a Competitive Advantage is the theme for the conference, slated for October 7th and 8th at Crown Plaza Hotel in Downtown St. Louis.

Register Now

ACT launched the symposium to inform and educate participants on building common frameworks that link, align and match their workforce development efforts. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn more about how successful ACT WRC states and counties are leveraging the WorkKeys System and NCRC to build an economic development strategy.

Who Should Attend?

  • Economic developers
  • Business and industry leaders
  • Chamber of Commerce leaders
  • State, county and local policy makers
  • Educators
  • Workforce development professionals

Registration is now open. For more information, contact ashley.wilson@act.org.

KC Fed Reserve to host workforce forum

The Federal Reserve Bank out of Kansas City is hosting four regional forum events targeted to workforce leaders. In addition to events planned for Omaha, Oklahoma City, and Denver, the Kansas City event is set for July 29th from 11:30 to 1:30.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, this forum will present community leaders with information on employment and workforce development issues affecting low- and moderate-income workers. The Federal Reserve’s new research publication on the low- and moderate-income workforce will be presented along with an economic forecast for the region. Other Federal Reserve resources and initiatives that support workforce development goals will be discussed.

11:30 to Noon – Registration and Lunch Buffet

Noon to 12:10 – Welcome and Overview

12:10 to 12:45 – LMI Labor Markets and Regional Economic Forecast

12:45 to 1:00 – Workforce Development Resources and Tools

1:00 to 1:30 – Discussion of Local Workforce Issues

1:30 – Adjourn

This information will provide workforce professionals, community and economic development leaders and employers tools to support their organization’s mission. The forum is targeted to Leaders and staff of workforce investment boards, community and economic development organizations, community colleges, workforce readiness and employment programs, chambers of commerce, and employers. The forum is free though reservations are required. The forum is slated for the bank’s KC headquarters at 1 Memorial Drive Kansas City, MO.  RSVP to Annette Phillips by email.