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Demand-Focused Workforce Solutions

Virginia's approach to regional, industry-focused workforce development has largely been ad hoc, with little formal tracking to document partnerships designed to align workforce supply with demand. Our latest addition to the Workforce System Report Card is aimed at getting a better handle on just what regions are (or are not) doing in terms of tailoring their workforce solutions to area job needs.

To help address this challenge, staff from the Governor's Office, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, and state agencies are working to establish a methodology for regions to use in creating industry-sector approaches to workforce development. A new report card indicator -- Demand-Focused Workforce Solutions -- will then capture regional progress in developing sustainable, collaborative approaches to workforce development for in-demand occupations in a key industry sector.

Proposed Stages of Regional Business-Driven Workforce Solutions

Stage Definition
Pre: Minimal
  • There is minimal effort in the region to develop a partnership with the business community to close workforce skill gaps for a key industry sector.
Stage 1: Convening
  • A workforce intermediary (an organization with a deep understanding of employer and workforce issues within a particular industry) takes the first step in engaging a stakeholder group around workforce issues for a key regional industry. Stakeholders should include economic developers, business leaders, educators, and workforce trainers.
Stage 2: Understanding
  • The regional consortium or partnership conducts a gap analysis of timely and accurate labor market information and other data to identify occupations with the greatest demand. Additionally, the regional consortium or partnership engages the business community and education and training providers to identify the gaps between available training and employer identified competencies.
Stage 3: Planning
  • The regional consortium or partnership develops an approach to address gaps by identifying the strategies, including the partners and funding resources, needed to create new or revise existing programs and curricula.
  • The resulting plan has a clear, business-driven vision. Each partner identifies how they can collaboratively contribute to the overall achievement of the vision.
Stage 4: Implementing
  • The regional consortium or partnership works together to implement the approach to address employer demand by redesigning curricula, aligning programs, and redirecting resources.
Stage 5: Ongoing
  • The regional consortium or partnership continues to meet with representatives of the business community; to revise demand assessments periodically; to adjust strategies based on performance outcomes; and to collaboratively contribute resources to the work of the partnership.
  • Based on lessons learned from the initial industry sector partnership approach, the region has initiated a similar approach for another industry sector, creating a systemic change in the region's approach to workforce.
NOTE: These stages as described are meant to be illustrative, not prescriptive. It is also expected that they will be refined and updated further.

Background

As a first step to developing this new method of assessment,regions were asked to submit information on their efforts to close workforce skill gaps for occupations within a key industry sector.

A small work team identified six key elements for regional, demand-focused approaches to workforce development:

  • Identifying workforce skill gaps
  • Business engagement in the development of programs, courses, and curricula
  • Tangible outcomes for the business community
  • Serving a broad population of learners with coordinated education and training opportunities across providers
  • Marketing and outreach
  • Sustainability and collaborative funding

Members from the Virginia Board of Workforce Development and several state agencies then reviewed the submissions from each region to test the validity of the above elements for future work.

Regional Examples and Best Practices

The examples below showcase some of the practices used by our regions and help identify the variety of ways their work can illustrate each stage.

Greater Peninsula Healthcare Workforce Partnerships

The Greater Peninsula Healthcare Workforce Partnership and the Hampton Roads Healthcare Workforce Partnership have identified gaps for entry-level allied health careers in the Peninsula region and higher-skilled health careers throughout the entire Hampton Roads region. These two consortiums include healthcare employers, postsecondary education institutions, and economic and workforce development partners such as the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development and Opportunity Inc. The region's approach to identifying workforce skill gaps for key occupations combines an assessment of labor market trends with direct employer surveys on their projected growth and current and future workforce needs. Finally, the approach aligns identified needs against training capacity in the region for key occupations.

This skills gap assessment aligns with the current definition of Stage 2: Understanding.

Shenandoah Valley Energy Partnership

The Shenandoah Valley Energy Partnership -- a consortium of business, workforce, and education partners -- coordinated training and education opportunities across one industry association, three technical education centers, three community colleges, and one university. The partnership has also awarded grants to high schools and technical education centers in an effort to connect young students to careers in advanced technology and manufacturing.

Strategic plans with this level of coordination across the entire enterprise help identify a region that is in the Planning stage: Stage 3.

Southeast Maritime and Transportation Center (Tidewater Community College)

The Southeast Maritime and Transportation Center at Tidewater Community College provides a number of marketing and outreach materials for career and training programs in maritime and transportation-related occupations. Most notably, they have published career pathways; an information sheet highlighting the pay scale for maritime and transportation jobs with related education/experience; student testimonials; and a maritime and transportation careers information packet with data on salaries, responsibilities, and skill needs.

Among other items, marketing and outreach materials such as these are important to identifying a regional partnership that is in the Implementing phase: Stage 4.

NoVaHealthFORCE

Many of the regional workforce partnerships reviewed collected performance and outcome data for their programs, although NoVaHealthFORCE's outcome data was particularly strong. Thanks to investments from the General Assembly and the area's private sector to expand training capacity for nursing in the region, Northern Virginia has seen a 33 percent increase in nursing student admissions and a 57 percent increase in the number of nursing graduates since 2006. About 80 percent of nursing graduates remain in the region after graduation. A founding business leader of NoVaHealthFORCE stated,"The partnership has stabilized, increased, and provided a steady supply of well-trained nurses and educators for the entire healthcare industry in Northern Virginia."

Strong outcome evidence, coupled with performance-based decision-making, are key factors in the ongoing, sustainable partnerships found at Stage 5.

Next Steps

Based on insights gained from our initial request for information, a standardized approach was created to allow regions to demonstrate their efforts for each phase.

Work is underway to implement this model as a new way to assess regional progress in developing a systemic approach for closing identified skill gaps within a key industry.

Page last modified June 28, 2017