By Janice Hamilton
Is your industry concerned about where your future workforce will come from? You're not alone. Many associations, especially those in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) industries, are facing a dearth of qualified candidates at a time when baby boomers are retiring at a faster pace than young workers can replace them. So in addition to research, standards, and certifications, associations can provide something else that's critical to its members: workforce development.
"Manufacturers have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the lack of skilled workers in manufacturing," says Jennifer McNelly, President of The Manufacturing Institute. "The manufacturing workforce is the single most important driver of innovation, and we need to ensure a highly skilled talent pipeline for the next generation of manufacturing leaders. At The Manufacturing Institute, we believe that skills and education opens the door to a successful career, and we are dedicated to providing educational and professional opportunities to the current and future manufacturing workforce," McNelly adds.
Career development education programs can run the gamut in terms of scope and cost. To get started, associations might consider a pilot test, which can then be developed into something on a national scale.
Reaching Trusted Gatekeepers
There are several reasons why good employees are so hard to find, but the best way to solve the problem can be through education outreach. It's a powerful way for associations to actively engage their audience through trusted gatekeepers—be it educators, guidance counselors, health care professionals, or other community leaders. In this way, messages are received in a way and in a place where a future workforce (and their parents!) will be most receptive.
High school and college students are actively exploring potential careers, something for associations to keep in mind when determining the target for their outreach efforts. And the classroom can be a perfect place for students to discover new industries and opportunities that they may never have dreamed of.
Programs in Action
Here are several great examples of workforce development programs:
- The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) is committed to cultivating a pipeline of well-trained, professional talent for the restaurant and foodservice industry. According to Ashley Mills, Director, Communications, NRAEF, "NRAEF's hallmark program, ProStart® is a rigorous two-year curriculum that brings the industry and the classroom together to give high school students a platform to discover new interests and talents, while opening doors to fulfilling industry careers." It reaches 95,000 students in more than 1,900 secondary schools in 48 states, Guam, and on U.S. military bases each year. Teaching both culinary and management skills, ProStart® features industry-driven curriculum and provides real-life experience opportunities. Offered currently in secondary schools, ProStart® students can earn credits that are recognized by many post-secondary and culinary schools nationwide.
In addition, since 1997, the NRAEF has awarded $15 million in scholarships to students and educators to provide continued industry education. In 2012, the Foundation distributed $1.1 million to fund 645 scholarships to students and educators to further their education through post-secondary studies and educator-focused training. More information is available at www.nraef.org.
The NRAEF's and ProStart®'s success comes from the industry working with the classroom to create a sustainable program that encourages students to consider career paths within the restaurant and foodservice industry, and equips them with the skills they need to access good jobs, and then advance.
- According to Scott Moore, Director, Student & Professional Pathways, American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), "We expose students to the profession in high school through our Start Here, Go Places website and provide educators with materials to help students explore career options in accounting. For those who go on to pursue accounting in college, we have another program called This Way to CPA. It helps undergraduates plan for the CPA exam and understand requirements for licensure across the country."
- In addition, the AICPA has a robust student membership that is free for qualified students and provides a great deal of additional resources, including Feed The Pig, an online program developed by AICPA and the Ad Council for tweens that helps instill a basic understanding of spending wisely, saving, and giving.
According to Moore, "We're fortunate that one of our biggest challenges is communicating all the career options the CPA unlocks. As a CPA you can do public accounting, management accounting, forensics, business valuation, personal financial planning, information assurance—the list goes on. And demand is strong. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 16 percent growth in accounting and auditing services."
The Manufacturing Institute is helping to close the skills gap through several initiatives, including Dream It. Do It., a youth-focused program, STEP Ahead initiative for women in manufacturing, and Get Skills to Work, a program designed to help veterans transition into manufacturing. Dream It. Do It is the grassroots authority on influencing the perception of manufacturing careers by leveraging local, regional and statewide strategic partnerships to attract and recruit a qualified manufacturing workforce pipeline," said Nicholas D'Antiono, Project Manager for Dream It. Do It. "It consists of a network of industry leaders that develop pro-manufacturing activities customized to their community's needs."
- Employment opportunities for U.S. college graduates with expertise in the food, agricultural, and natural resources sector are expected to remain strong during the next five years. In response, the U.S. seed industry has mobilized to address a need for qualified workers who come from allied higher education programs such as biological sciences, engineering, business, health sciences, communications, and applied technologies. To engage 21st century learners and dispel myths that jobs in the seed industry are all "in the field," the First The Seed Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the American Seed Trade Association introduced its GROW education initiative. Designed for high school and college students, the multimedia content focuses on the high-tech, scientific aspects of careers in the seed industry and highlights the critical role of seeds in providing global solutions for food, fuel and fiber. "Our GROW career development program is the first step in communicating and generating interest in seed industry careers among school counselors and college advisors" says Ann Jorss, Vice President, Finance/Administration, American Seed Trade Association.
Does My Industry or Profession Need a Workforce Development Program?
It's important to know the questions every association must consider when embarking upon the creation of a successful career development program.
- What will the industry's or profession's needs be in the next 5-10 years?
- What are the benefits and value of these career opportunities to future workers? Why should they care?
- Are there current lifestyle or popular culture trends the industry can piggyback on to generate greater interest among middle school or high school students?
- How can my association's current leaders contribute to this initiative? And will their involvement help promote it?
- What is the valuable information my industry can provide to its next generation workforce to both stimulate interest in the industry and position it well?
- How can I create a program that will be sought out and embraced by educators?
Five Steps to Guide the Process
Once you have answered the above questions, use them to guide you in the next phase, which involves the following steps for a successful education marketing campaign:
- Create an education marketing strategy plan. This should correlate to the overall marketing and communications plan.
- Identify specific goals and objectives. How will education marketing help to elevate the industry/profession? How will it support industry growth? What are the specific needs that the program will address?
- Alignment to national education standards. If the goal is to have your career development program distributed through schools and embraced by educators, it needs to be in alignment with national education standards. Reach out and engage firms that know the education market, what the needs and wants are and how to reach them. This will help you to determine the target audience, be it middle or high school students, college students, or industry professionals.
- Identify your budget range. Knowing the parameters will determine the scope of program materials from curriculum to web development to an app. Keep in mind that the content should be easily accessible on the platform(s) most used by your target audience.
- Determine success metrics. How will you quantify success? Reach and distribution of program? Survey results? Number of downloads (if program is online)?
"In our most recent skills gap report, 82% of manufacturers reported a moderate to serious shortage in skilled production labor," said AJ Jorgenson, Communications Director for The Manufacturing Institute. "As a nation, we need a new strategy for our manufacturing workforce, grounded in industry standards, with new and renewed cooperation with industry, education, economic development, and the public workforce investment system.
"The only way to address this monumental challenge is to align education, economic development, workforce and business agendas so they work in concert to develop the talent necessary for business success in the global economy," concludes McNelly.
Janice Hamilton is President of CarrotNewYork (www.carrotnewyork.com), specializing in education and consumer marketing. She can be reached at: Janice.email@example.com or 212-924-2944.