Three best practices for effective workforce and economic development collaboration | Expert column


By: Shawn Avery
May 15, 2017, Inside Business

Enhancing the economic vitality of our region is a shared vision across Hampton Roads. We are fortunate to have a number of organizations committed to workforce and economic development initiatives, which helps to ensure the prosperity of our economy.

More than ever, we are poised to facilitate meaningful employment for residents in Hampton Roads and highly-skilled talent for growing industry clusters; but, historically, we have missed the mark on effective collaboration. Every thought leader or decision maker takes a different approach to advance workforce development efforts, but with the same objective in mind – a flourishing economy.

To reach the proverbial tipping point, workforce and economic development organizations within our region must engage in strategic partnerships, and work alongside business, education and community stakeholders to develop a highly skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of 21st century jobs.

We have seen an uptick in collaborative efforts throughout our region, such as the recent establishment of the Hampton Roads Regional Chamber Alliance. The following offer three great examples of additional best practices we should consider moving forward.

“Zoom out” and think beyond sub regions

Earlier this year, Opportunity Inc., Hampton Roads’ Workforce Development Board, convened several partners, including the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development and Reinvent Hampton Roads, to spark conversation about how to best support the workforce needs of employers and jobseekers across the entire region, not just on the Peninsula or the Southside.

As a result of this conversation, the recently released Hampton Roads State of the Workforce report was completed. This study provides an assessment of the labor force and employment trends from a regional perspective.

Through this consortium of organizations, we gained a better understanding of our workforce needs to make more informed, data-driven decisions in our efforts to improve worker skill development, job creation and economic opportunities.

Collaborate with localities to provide more services for employers and job seekers

Norfolk Works, a city of Norfolk job center that provides resources for city residents, partners with Opportunity Inc. as one of 60 Career Access Network locations designed to connect job seekers to employment opportunities. In addition, both organizations have teamed together to support hiring efforts for several new businesses – helping to screen qualified applicants and schedule interviews for more than 1,500 job seekers interested in employment at companies such as ADP, Waterside Live, and Lidl.

This is just one example of the benefit with partnering with the cities and counties of Hampton Roads. Opportunity Inc. has similar programs in Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth, Southampton, Suffolk and Virginia Beach tailored to meet the individual workforce needs of those localities’ business and citizens.

Align workforce initiatives with education and training programs

 Gov. Terry McAulliffe recently announced a $25,000 grant to Tidewater Community College and Opportunity Inc. from the national Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. This pilot project is designed to expand the adult learner pipeline into postsecondary credential attainment for military students, as well as adult populations. Virginia’s TCC-Opportunity Inc. partnership is one of only four in the nation selected for the project, the others being Philadelphia, Miami and Seattle.

Integrating education and training resources with workforce programs is the real gamechanger to ensure talent to support increasing employer demands. Further, workforce and economic development organizations should continue to forge new partnerships with the education community to facilitate the training, education and certifications required for high-wage, high-demand jobs.

This is an exciting time of progress for workforce and economic development initiatives in Hampton Roads. The influx of new and the expansion of exisiting businesses presents greater opportunities for job seekers; and the projected growth of high-demand industries, such as logistics and warehousing, advanced manufacating, cybersecurity and life sciences also suggests increased labor force growth.

With this continued synergy among all parties invested in strengthening our regional workforce, the economic future for Hampton Roads is bright and full of promise.

Shawn Avery is president and CEO of Opportunity Inc., opp-inc.org.

 

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