Dec 06 2023

Embrace the ABCs to Close Government Talent Gaps

State governments have made decisive moves to expand eligibility for hiring.

While the American economy remains on solid footing as it navigates challenging headwinds, today’s workforce development ecosystem is struggling to keep pace.

The global talent shortage has reached a 16-year high, with nearly 75 percent of employers — including federal, state and local agencies — unable to recruit enough skilled workers. At the same time, nearly half of American workers believe they’re underemployed or working in roles that do not fully utilize their education, experience or training. These simultaneous dilemmas pose significant workforce development challenges for many organizations. And unless they’re addressed swiftly and effectively, they will only become more acute.

A renewed effort to improve the workforce development ecosystem — a complex and fragmented web of employers, workers, industry groups and policymakers — can close talent gaps and provide sustainable economic growth. To get there, we should embrace adaptability, biodiversity and connectivity — the ABCs of a healthy ecosystem.

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Adaptation Requires Prioritizing Skills Over Credentials

A thriving workforce development ecosystem maintains an agile posture, regularly replacing outdated approaches with new and innovative methods. In today’s economy, that means prioritizing employees’ skills rather than their credentials.

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Josh Shapiro took action to address the commonwealth’s workforce challenges by signing an executive order on his first day in office that removed four-year college degree requirements for most state government jobs. This not only helped address Pennsylvania’s labor shortage, it also rejected the long-standing and outmoded notion that only college graduates can meet state job qualifications.

Governors in Maryland, Colorado and Utah have also implemented similar policies.

LEARN MORE: How tech recruiters can build a winning team.

Biodiversity Offers a New Way to Look at Workforce Development

Plants and animals have unique responsibilities in the ecosphere, and symbiotic relationships between disparate organisms help maintain a vibrant environment. The same can be said of a healthy workforce development ecosystem, which depends upon the critical and specific contributions of higher education institutions, job training providers, employers, policymakers and workers.

Government agencies can help catalyze this diverse ecosystem by facilitating apprenticeship programs. They can also encourage lifelong learning by working with higher education institutions, nonprofits and job training organizations to offer more opportunities for working adults to learn critical skills and competencies.

In South Carolina, the state’s Apprenticeship Carolina program offers a tax credit to employers that sponsor apprentices and help employees find recognized apprenticeship programs.

EXPLORE: Learn the importance of building IT skillsets through internal training.

Connectivity Unites Agency Efforts

Challenges that affect one part of the workforce development ecosystem tend to affect all parts of the network. Continued collaboration and sustained interactions can help the workforce development ecosystem meet these challenges and thrive. Government agencies can help sustain this connective tissue between organizations by convening forums to bring them together and help ensure that their skills development efforts match employers’ needs.

In Virginia, Network2Work collaborates with local employers to identify job needs and then works with local community and neighborhood leaders to identify low-income workers who may have transferrable skills to meet those needs. Network2Work connects candidates with job training programs at Piedmont Virginia Community College and provides additional resources — including childcare, transportation, legal assistance and health care services — to ensure that candidates have the resources they need to succeed in their new roles. Seventy-four percent of job seekers enrolled in this program over the past two years found jobs within six months of enrollment. On average, program graduates more than doubled their income.

Government agencies have a tremendous opportunity to spur, shape and maintain a thriving workforce ecosystem. By mastering the ABCs, public sector leaders can help create new and meaningful job opportunities, empower workers, support employers and grow local economies in communities throughout our country.

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