Addressing Employer Needs

Addressing Employer Needs

Building employer investment and leadership in workforce development policies, practices, and programs

Bridging the gap between employers’ demand for an educated and skilled workforce and the supply of workers with the necessary skills for entry and advancement in the labor market.

Mary V.L. Wright
Senior Director, Demand Side Engagement and Analytics
617.728.4446 x211
mwright@jff.org
@MaryVLWrightJFF

  • U.S. corporations spend over $486B annually on staff development and training. The vast majority of this is spent on middle and upper management, rather than on entry-level workers.
  • State governments spend $306B annually on public postsecondary education. These funds are for degree programs at the Associate's degree and higher levels.
  • The federal government spends approximately $16B annually on job training. These funds are targeted at unemployed, underemployed, and underserved groups.
  • Building Trades unions spend approximately $750M annually on apprentice training. These funds are exclusively for union members accepted into trades apprenticeships.

Middle-skill jobs, which generally require more than high school but less than a four-year degree, represent nearly half of all U.S. employment and are growing in key sectors of the economy. Despite the fact that these jobs generally pay well and offer advancement opportunities, employers frequently have trouble finding qualified candidates to fill them. As a result, middle skill jobs represent an important opportunity to meet both employers’ needs for a skilled workforce and the needs of jobseekers for employment that offers advancement potential and family-supporting wages.

With nearly $900 billion a year being spent on workforce education and training, it’s hard to attribute the mismatch between employers’ needs and workers skills entirely to a lack of resources.  A primary challenge, instead, is that much of the education and training provided is poorly aligned with employers’ needs, particularly for mid-skilled workers, because too few education and training providers have the kind of strong relationships with employers needed to inform their program designs, and too few employers know how to shape workforce policies and practices to address their needs for a skilled workforce.

Employer engagement can range from participating in a job fair to co-developing programs of study, curricula, and work-based learning experiences. Strategic engagement between employers and workforce development providers is the result of strong relationships, usually built up over time and shared experiences.

Unfortunately, most employer engagement on the part of workforce development service providers, adult education providers, and community colleges tends to be episodic, inconsistent, and not sufficiently strategic. 

JFF addresses employer needs for a skilled workforce by facilitating effective employer engagement in the design and development of demand-driven education and training programs. JFF also works with employers and industry associations to upgrade employer policies and practices to support career advancement and credential attainment for their entry- and mid-skilled workers, building pipelines for hard-to-fill skilled positions.

JFF offers an array services to support local and regional partnerships that directly address employer needs while providing advancement opportunity for students, jobseekers, and incumbent workers. Services include:

  • Research and documentation on promising practices that demonstrate the improved outcomes resulting from strategic collaborations between employers and workforce service providers.

  • Design and implementation support for initiatives that incorporate design criteria for employer-responsive curricula development, work-based learning strategies, sectoral partnerships, and multi-employer leadership.
  • Technical assistance to employers, education organizations, and workforce intermediaries across the workforce partnership lifecycle, from initial planning, to establishing partnerships, and to sustaining ongoing collaborations.
  • Convening employers and education and training leaders to raise the visibility of policies and practices that support economic growth for employers and career advancement for workers.

Development and advocacy for public policies that encourage employer engagement and incentivize employer investment in education and workforce development.

GreenWays invested in the development of the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership, a collaboration among more than 43 manufacturing firms, 3 community colleges, the regional economic development authority, and a community-based workforce intermediary to develop new CNC (computer numeric control)manufacturing curricula and train 186 unemployed individuals for high-demand jobs as CNC manufacturing technicians. CGMP continues to operate beyond the grant’s expiration, and has increased both the number of community colleges and the number of employers participating in the manufacturing sectoral partnership.

CareerSTAT's steering committee of 40 executives from hospitals and health care systems has driven the publication of CareerSTAT: A Guide to Making the Case for Investing in the Frontline Workforce, that codifies effective practices among health care practitioners.

Credentials That Work is using real-time LMI to improve student placement, forecast business development, and establish performance and outcome measures for workforce education programming at Texas State Community College.

Jobs to Manufacturing Careers is developing new work-based learning courses in industrial maintenance technology that provides participating manufacturing firms with a way to advance the technical skills and degree completion of their workers with minimal disruption of the production schedules.

Minding the Gap, a two-day summit co-sponsored with the Manufacturing Institute and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, where employers and education and training providers worked together to identify effective training models from across the country that are already in place and successfully addressing manufacturing workforce needs.

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