Workforce of Tomorrow: Industry, Education and Government Combine to Combat Workforce Challenges | Best States
As jobs becoming more tech-centric and are increasingly threatened by the rise of automation, cities and states – each with different populations, geographies and industries – are facing unique challenges that demand customized solutions.
In Vermont, an aging population and a labor market with more jobs to fill than there are qualified candidates are among the state’s biggest workforce worries, said Lindsay H. Kurrle, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor, at the U.S. News and World Report Workforce of Tomorrow conference Wednesday.
To combat those worries, Vermont has embraced partnerships between private industry and educational institutions, as well as those between government and nongovernment entities, Kurrle said.
One of Vermont’s biggest employers, semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries, recently upgraded the technology it uses, posing a problem for aspiring workers who simply didn’t have the advanced training GlobalFoundries needs. To address the issue, the tech company partnered with Vermont Technical College to create an apprenticeship program to train future employees with the kind of technology skills GlobalFoundries was looking for in job applicants, Kurrle said.
Other states, like Maryland, are also using apprenticeships to better prepare workers for the jobs employers are hiring for.
“Business and industry have really divorced themselves from training their own workforce,” said James E. Rzepkowski, acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Labor and Industry. “They’ve outsourced it to community colleges and other organizations, they rely heavily on K-12 (schools), and business and industry have really found themselves in a place where they’re expecting folks that come with degrees or certifications from either two or four-year universities to have all the skills that they need to compete.”
But they don’t always have those skills, Rzepkowski said. Maryland has expanded a “registered apprenticeship” program to include industries like cyber, technology, banking and insurance, along with the jobs that commonly have apprenticeships, like electricians, Rzepkowski said.
The Maryland government has also backed a program that brings together at least five businesses and a nonprofit that works with a specific population. The businesses communicate to the nonprofit what skills and traits they are looking for in workers, and the nonprofit can help equip those they serve. It’s working: The government has gotten an $18.32 per dollar return on investment on the program, Rzepkowski said.
But even if workers have the skills that employers need, it’s up to the government and private industry to make sure workers know about those jobs and can access them, Rsepkowski and Kurrle said.
Vermont has 12 career resource centers, but many parts of the state are so rural that people can’t access those centers, said Kurrle. Vermont is now trying to get those same career resources into libraries, because each community – even rural ones – has a library.
In Maryland, Rzepkowski said the state is working on supplying supportive services to workers – making sure workers can access job listings, have child care and can find transportation to and from a job.
“The workforce system is really darn good at putting money into training programs and getting individuals into training programs,” Rzepkowski said. “We need to improve in partnering our sister agencies to serve the entire customer. … We’re good at training, we’re not good at providing supportive services.”
Kurrle said that the issues facing workforces like those in her state are complex problems that demand comprehensive and varied – not piecemeal – solutions.
“We need to attract people to our state, we need to help the people in our state that are sitting on the sidelines that want jobs but are struggling to get into jobs, we need to help employers make sure their teams are keeping with the skills they need, so there’s a variety of need happening and no one thing is going to fix our need or our problem,” Kurrle said.