In Case You Missed It: Workforce Dialogue Sets Foundation for Assessment

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Workforce has been a cornerstone of the APEX work plan since 2013. Low unemployment, anticipated retirement rates and increased workforce demand have created the perfect storm for employers in need of talent. To address the challenges and spark conversation around solutions, APEX has dedicated a significant amount of staff time and resources to several efforts, including a three-part Workforce Solutions Series with regional partners.

The last sessions in the series were held May 16 in Duluth and Grand Rapids and featured Nancy Lyons, CEO and entrepreneur. Lyons discussed the intersection of leadership, entrepreneurialism, technology and the human-centered approach to business. She pushed participants to think differently about recruiting strategies.

Additionally, the May APEX Board Meeting included roundtable discussions regarding workforce challenges and gaps within the region. The impetus for the discussion was to garner input for the Workforce Skills Assessment being planned for late 2018/early 2019. Interviews with potential research partners would be conducted in June and APEX wanted to determine which categories, in order of importance, are of primary concern to APEX investor-members – attracting workforce, retaining workforce or developing strategies to engage those not currently participating in the workforce.

The last sessions in the series were held May 16 in Duluth and Grand Rapids and featured Nancy Lyons, CEO and entrepreneur. Lyons discussed the intersection of leadership, entrepreneurialism, technology and the human-centered approach to business. She pushed participants to think differently about recruiting strategies.

Additionally, the May APEX Board Meeting included roundtable discussions regarding workforce challenges and gaps within the region. The impetus for the discussion was to garner input for the Workforce Skills Assessment being planned for late 2018/early 2019. Interviews with potential research partners would be conducted in June and APEX wanted to determine which categories, in order of importance, are of primary concern to APEX investor-members – attracting workforce, retaining workforce or developing strategies to engage those not currently participating in the workforce.
May 3, 2018 APEX Board of Directors meeting at the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth

May 3, 2018 APEX Board of Directors meeting at the Kitchi Gammi Club in Duluth

 

Retaining Workforce
In terms of importance, retaining workforce was the front-runner from the discussion. Working to retain local high school and college graduates along with young professionals is key. Developing more individual specific pathways and “school-to-work” programs are needed as well as internship and apprenticeship opportunities.

Housing and childcare were two concerns tied to retaining workforce. As we’ve heard from several experts in the region, there is a dearth of childcare providers and market-rate and affordable housing in the region. As young professionals start their careers and take that next step in their personal lives, these factors impact their decisions of where to locate and settle down.
 
Another topic of discussion was the concept of strategic succession planning across all industries and its long term effect on workforce retention.

Attracting Workforce
The challenge of attracting workforce to the region was a very close second. The need for skilled candidates with good work ethics and quality experience was expressed. It was recommended to continue growing NORTHFORCE.

Conversation also revolved around a perceived wage gap when it comes to employee versus employer expectations – people coming from the Twin Cities, for example, expect the wages should be more comparable. In many industries, there are significant disparities. APEX investor-members drew the conclusion there is an opportunity to address how the demands and expectations placed on employers are not comparable either. Recent graduates expect high wages right out of college and are not shy to make other demands as well.

Trailing spouses and how to capture people who have an affinity for the area (grew up or went to school/college here) were two other components of the conversation.

Engaging Non Participating Individuals
Engaging non-participating or retired populations was the lowest priority in every roundtable discussion. However, investor-members did agree that engaging people who have been out of the workforce for some time, but who still possess marketable skills, is a source worth exploring. In addition, the conversation ensued encouraging further outreach to veterans, who stand as an underrepresented and highly skilled workforce population.
 
APEX leveraged the information gleaned from the Workforce Solutions Series and APEX May Board meeting to inform the interviewing process for the regional workforce development assessment planned for the remainder of 2018. APEX’s Workforce Development lead, Ian Vincent, had this to say about May’s board meeting, “It was absolutely crucial to take the time with our investor-members to truly understand what their workforce priorities are now and in the next 3-5 years. This input will prove invaluable throughout the Skills Assessment process.” Read more about the firm selected to conduct this work in the next issue of The APEX Pinnacle.

For any questions related to these sessions, please contact Ian Vincent.

Category: Workforce




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