Employer Engagement

Six Strategies Growing the Talent Pipeline Movement

JaimieFrancisBy Jaimie Francis, Director, Programs and Operations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation started the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative with the support of Strada Education NetworkSM, then known as USA Funds®, in 2014. Since that time, we have seen continued buy-in by the business community of applying supply chain management principles to workplace talent acquisition.

Business leaders gravitate to this six-strategy approach because it makes business sense. Their willingness to engage has fueled our goal to inform the employer community about this new model and demonstrate how employers can operationalize TPM within their companies, industries and regions.

Demand-driven process
Employers recognize that TPM exemplifies what it means to be “demand-driven” because employers lead the charge. Historically, business was just another player at the table in education partnerships.

TPM, however, puts employer partners in a room with one another to have conversations driven by their needs, in what we call employer collaboratives (Strategy 1).

These collaboratives focus on identifying what factors or unfilled positions are inhibiting them from growing their businesses (Strategy 2) and what kinds of skills are needed to fill those positions (Strategy 3).

The collaboratives also examine where employers are getting their talent and whether those training and education partners have the ability to fill the needed demand (Strategy 4).

From there, the TPM approach notes how to use the talent pipeline data collected to encourage their training partners to become more responsive to employer needs (Strategy 5). The process ultimately provides a smoother and more successful transition to employment for learners.

TPM Academy
The demand-driven approach of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Talent Pipeline Management initiative features six strategies.

The strategies were not created in a vacuum. The original TPM network of business-led organizations tested our theories and provided the invaluable feedback that led to the creation of the TPM Academy. The Academy is a train-the-trainer model that unpacks the TPM strategies into a curriculum that participants can apply to projects in their own communities.

Since October, USCCF has welcomed 44 participants from across the country, representing chambers of commerce, economic development agencies, and trade associations. These business-facing leaders are interested in solving skills gap challenges in industries like health care, manufacturing, energy, transportation, food production — you name it.

Curriculum and online tool
In concert with the curriculum and in response to our original network’s feedback that a central platform was needed to execute these strategies, we have created an online tool that will allow the host organization to easily communicate with its employer partners.

The curriculum and the web tool will be available to the public this summer because USCCF and Strada Education are strong believers in sharing resources and getting feedback on how to improve. We hope providing this information will build our arsenal of business-led examples demonstrating how to improve pipelines and benefit learners, training and education provider partners and employers.

TPM has demonstrated the ability for employers to take a heightened leadership role in managing their relationships with each other and with training and education providers. But we don’t claim to have found the silver bullet or that, once executed, TPM will be the answer to all of our prayers. It is a process meant to be re-evaluated and modified based on the assumption that employer needs will change, and with those changes will come the opportunity to create more crystal clear pathways for learner success (Strategy 6).

And we won’t stop here.

Plans for the future
Next up is an opportunity to build statewide TPM academies. This step will expand our reach while taking into account state policies that impact employer-led initiatives to close the skills gap. We will have the opportunity to test this approach with a number of states that have bought into the process and are ready to share the knowledge with their employer partners.

TPM has spurred our thinking about how employers can share with the public information about providers of education and training that successfully prepare learners. We also are interested in establishing a central platform for employers to communicate their changing competency and credential requirements via a job profile registry.

The future is bright for the evolution of talent pipelines. Stay tuned.

Employer Engagement

Partnership Addresses Kentucky’s Talent Pipeline Needs

Derrick RedelmanBy Derek Redelman, Vice President, Research & Policy, USA Funds

Engage with any chamber of commerce in the country these days, and you’re certain to hear its members’ concerns about the workforce.

In my previous role, heading up education and workforce issues for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, no issue was more persistently at the top of our agenda. Sure, a lot of our members would identify some other issue as their highest concern — whether it was health care, a range of regulatory issues, labor rules, taxes or something else. But on the whole, across any state or regional business community, no issue was more persistent than their concerns about education and the workforce.

Moreover, those concerns have real consequences — real numbers that affect bottom lines, employment and, ultimately, the economy as a whole.

Just last year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were nearly 6 million unfilled jobs in our country. And numbers like that seem to persist, to a significant degree, regardless of overall economic conditions. During the height of our recent “Great Recession” — when unemployment rates in some states, like USA Funds®’ home state of Indiana, were flirting with double-digit numbers — 40 percent of the employers in the state reported they could not find qualified workers to fill vacant positions.

More recently, as unemployment rates declined, the Indiana Chamber reported that percentage had increased to 45 percent.

So it should be little surprise that those representing businesses, including chambers of commerce, have taken such a keen interest in education and workforce issues. At the national level, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has been a leader on such issues, from preschool to academic standards to workforce issues and more. The Manufacturing Institute, a branch of the National Association of Manufacturers; the Business Roundtable; and the Business-Higher Education Forum are among other organizations focusing on education and the workforce.

Affecting change
At statehouses across the country, chambers of commerce often are the most consistent, and sometimes the loudest and most effective, advocates of education reform and improved higher education and workforce systems. Moreover, their political action arms often are responsible for electing the legislators who drive these reforms. And in many states, chamber foundations add to these efforts with research and other special initiatives.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce ranks among the most active and effective chambers in its work on education issues.

So it is with great anticipation that USA Funds is providing a grant to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce to help establish a Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center. Through that new center, the Chamber will engage the business community to help advance several initiatives for addressing the needs of employers. Among those efforts are:

  • Creation of additional business collaboratives, in concert with the Talent Pipeline Management initiative that USA Funds is supporting with the U.S. Chamber.
  • Assistance to employers who serve on state and local workforce boards or participate in other workforce or educational leadership roles.
  • Increased focus on data, including the supply/demand tools that USA Funds has helped to initiate through our college value-focused work.
  • Engagement of government and education leaders to help ensure better communication and cooperation between suppliers of talent and those who hire their trainees and graduates.

Announcing our partnership
On Jan. 25 I had the pleasure of attending and speaking to the Kentucky Chamber’s 2nd Annual Workforce Summit in Lexington. The capacity audience included an impressive group of workforce training and education providers, small-to-large employers, and key government leaders. Presentations and discussions focused on:

  • Workforce trends.
  • Employer needs.
  • Improving opportunities for military veterans.
  • Employer engagement.
  • Workplace learning and apprenticeships.
  • Improved use of workforce data.

USA Funds announced our commitment to the Chamber’s efforts at the event’s lunch, which also included the introduction of Beth Davisson as executive director of the new Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center. The Chamber recently hired Beth from a large pool of candidates, and she brings a terrific set of skills to this work. She previously served in both workforce and human resource leadership roles, and she has been recognized as a “Top Business Leader Under 40” and among the “Top 20 People to Know in Human Resources.”

Kentucky Chamber’s 2nd Annual Workforce Summit
Dave Adkisson, from left, and Beth Davisson of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce join Redelman at the Kentucky Chamber’s 2nd Annual Workforce Summit.

Developed in partnership with Anna Gatlin Schilling, USA Funds’ vice president for National Engagement and Strategic Communications, our investment in Kentucky also represents a new approach to investments in state leadership. Whereas previous state engagements have provided direct support to governors’ offices, this grant extends that work to a nongovernmental organization with direct connections to and support of a key education constituency: the state’s employers.

Importantly, however, the demonstrated partnership already developed between the Kentucky Chamber and the state’s new governor, Matt Bevin, played an important role in the decision to support these efforts.

As I told the attendees at lunch on Jan. 25, it’s quite impolitic in the middle of basketball season for a Hoosier native to speak so well of our neighbors to the south. But it is with great pleasure — and also high expectations — that USA Funds initiates this partnership with our neighbors in Kentucky.

Employer Engagement

Streamlining Veterans’ Path to College and Careers

Anna Gatlin, USA Funds

By Anna Gatlin, Senior Director, State Engagement and Relations, USA Funds

As Memorial Day approaches, our nation will pause to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

America’s armed services, veterans and their families are some of our country’s greatest resources. To ensure that veterans have a path to high-demand careers following their military service, USA Funds® has established partnerships  with states that are dedicated to providing veterans with innovative, affordable postsecondary education.

The experiences and talents that veterans bring to their education are worthy of acknowledgement and translation to classroom credit, to help them transition into civilian life as smoothly as possible. Imagine completing intensive military training and executing on your mission, only to be told that you must start your civilian education at square one.

That frustration is far too familiar for U.S. veterans.

Prior Learning Assessments

To streamline and shorten veterans’ paths to postsecondary education completion, USA Funds supports the creation and expansion of Prior Learning Assessments. Prior Learning Assessment awards credit and certifications for prior experience and training.

Research shows that graduation rates are two-and-a-half times higher for students who had Prior Learning Assessment credits than for those who did not. In addition, adult students who earned 15 or more credits to apply to their degrees through Prior Learning Assessment saved between $1,600 and $6,000 on tuition costs.

State initiatives

Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana greets students during a USA Funds grant announcement.

USA Funds is working with over a dozen states as they create innovative pathways to credentials and degrees for veterans. This work helps ensure that veterans have the ability to translate their service into academic success and a purposeful career beyond the military.

USA Funds is partnering with the state of Montana, the state with the second largest population of veterans per capita, to offer the following services:

  • Support “Returning to Learning” workshops for veterans.
  • Provide training for faculty, academic advisers and front-line staff to guide veterans’ needs and create PLA opportunities.
  • Develop enhanced online resources to support veterans in their studies.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has made a firm commitment to providing these resources to veterans in his state, and we are excited about the progress the state is making in creating additional support and opportunities for Montana veterans. Montana institutions have been working to learn more about implementing a newly minted PLA policy to support veterans.

Sixteen college campuses in Montana have held meetings to further outreach to local community veterans’ organizations. The Montana University System also is holding a series of financial literacy events, strengthening relationships between the campus-based veterans’ offices, the financial education offices, and current and potential students who are veterans.

Additionally, the state PLA Council in Montana is working to identify ways to connect veterans’ training with the state’s in-demand apprenticeship occupations.

USA Funds also is working with the Multi-State Collaborative on Military Credit (MCMC), an initiative of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact. This program is bringing 13 states together to translate into college credentials the competencies that veterans have acquired through military training and experience. By supporting this effort, USA Funds aims to:

  • Increase postsecondary degree completion.
  • Streamline pathways for licensure and certification for health care professions.
  • Support services during key educational transitions.
  • Create networks for supporting communications, technologies, and data collection and analyses.
Delvaux CWAPBlog052616
Col. Steve Delvaux of Army University speaks at the MCMC annual meeting.

I recently attended the 2016 MCMC annual meeting in Chicago, where representatives from all 13 participating states gathered for two days to share their experiences and meet with representatives from the armed forces.

Among the presenters were Col. Steve Delvaux, vice provost for academic affairs at Army University, and Frank DiGiovanni, director of force training, U.S. Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness. Event panels featured veterans who are current students.

I was impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of all 13 states to create scalable models for the consistent, transparent and effective awarding of credit for military training and experience. Representatives from every state expressed the desire to establish strong partnerships with postsecondary institutions and organizations, to reduce the cost and time required for completion and gaining employment in the civilian sector.

These partnerships, launched through $500,000 in USA Funds grants in fall 2015, are yielding promising results for veterans. The work is providing states with a way to:

  • Share best practices.
  • Overcome the challenges associated with innovation.
  • Spread the word to veteran populations about resources available.

During this weekend of remembrance, I am proud of the work USA Funds’ state partners are doing to recognize and reward the experiences of U.S. service members. I look forward to working with these states and others as they continue to innovate and advance opportunities for veterans.


Employer Engagement

Putting Talent Pipeline Management to Work to Improve Education, Training Results

Derrick RedelmanBy Derek Redelman, Senior Program Director, USA Funds

Last week, before a capacity crowd at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Hall of Flags in Washington, D.C., USA Funds® announced its second major grant in support of the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative. Over 300 attendees, along with a countless audience that watched via live Web stream, were told that USA Funds will contribute nearly $2.5 million to expanding the initiative over the next two and a half years.

State leaders discuss improving the talent pipeline during a March 23 U.S. Chamber of Commerce national conference.
State leaders discuss improving the talent pipeline during a March 23 U.S. Chamber of Commerce national conference.

Two and a half years earlier, the TPM initiative was the first major philanthropic investment under USA Funds’ new focus on Completion With a Purpose℠. As we sought to make better connections between educational outcomes and success in jobs and careers, TPM represented a significant bet on the belief that employers could and should play a greater role in determining the types of workers who appear on their doorsteps.

Today, the momentum behind this initiative is evident. At last week’s summit, it wasn’t just the number of attendees that was so impressive — but also their expertise and importance to the discussion. Included among the presenters were a sitting governor, three state secretaries of commerce, and two state chamber of commerce presidents, along with representatives from economic development organizations and some of our nation’s largest employers. The audience included state and local leaders and employers from across the country — not your typical Washington audience of government and association staffers.

TPM: The Concept
The concept behind TPM focuses on the principles of supply chain management — a concept that businesses know well and use extensively, except (surprisingly) in human resource and workforce decisions. The concept puts the end-user in an active role as customer.

The customer determines his or her own needs and communicates those needs to the supplier. The customer and supplier work together to design and implement the “production” process, and they share data on the outcomes of that process. Ultimately, based on how well the customer and supplier work together, the customer may identify preferred providers.

Contrast that with the typical hiring process, which too many employers say today is not working for them: The suppliers — colleges and other education providers — determine the products that they want to offer. The customer can choose from the supplier-determined choices; and, if that does not work, then the customer can make another selection (a different degree or credential) or, as often occurs, pursue a “higher end” product (for example, moving from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree). Little or no data are shared; and the customer continually shops around.

The original goal of the TPM project was to produce an ongoing series of white papers and policy guides, and, certainly, the U.S. Chamber and its partners have delivered on that initial goal.

Learning Networks
But a year ago, midway through our first grant period, USA Funds worked with our grantee to develop pilot sites where this new concept could actually be demonstrated. And today, the customer-based TPM process is being piloted in seven sites:

  • In Michigan, a consortium of utilities, educators, state and local government officials and representatives of labor has been researching current workforce needs of the energy sector and evaluating the competencies and credentials most in need for key positions within that sector. As part of these efforts, the Michigan Department of Education recently approved Energy as a “career cluster,” providing career and technical education students with a pathway to prepare for and pursue jobs in the energy sector.
  • In Arizona, the state Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working to improve teacher quality within the state through its project “A for Arizona” and also using the TPM principle of talent flow analysis to identify where the state’s best teachers are being trained.
  • In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the recipients of the first competitive grants designed to help close the skills gap in key industry sectors of critical importance to the Virginia economy and reward and encourage employer-led talent development solutions.
  • In Northern Kentucky, manufacturers and a local community college are collaborating on a new course to help students gain competencies needed for one of the critical technical occupations in manufacturing.
  • The local economic development organization in Vermilion County, Ill., has been developing guides that explain how TPM strategies can be used to help manufacturers locate, develop and hire talent in a smarter way.
  • Kansas is scaling up its Workforce AID (Aligned with Industry Demand) program, with a focus on the information technology sector.
  • The Greater Houston Partnership is working to better understand demand variations in the region for the construction industry to help employers plan for their needs, while also mapping where employers in the petrochemical industry are sourcing talent.

In each case, the employers, economic development and government leaders in the region report a renewed and effective enthusiasm for addressing their respective workforce needs. Education and training providers are also engaging, as they recognize the benefits of making better connections between their immediate customers (the students) and their customer’s customers (the employers). Although these initiatives just started in the summer of 2015, their progress is already being noted in their own areas and by policy leaders nationally.

Improving the Pipeline
Our new grant will help the U.S. Chamber and its partners expand on these early successes by creating a training academy, a train-the-trainer approach that will help the initiative expand more rapidly: The number of sites will expand to nearly 50 from the current seven; and the reach to employers will expand to nearly 1,000 from today’s 200.

As USA Funds continues its new focus on helping students to complete their education with purpose, the engagement of employers, the ultimate arbiters of that purpose, is essential. With our partners at the U.S. Chamber, that engagement is beginning to occur in a meaningful, customer-focused way.

Employer Engagement

Fulfilling the Promise of ‘College to Career’

Emily-KinardBy Emily Kinard, Research Associate, USA Funds

“College to career” has a nice ring to it, but for the 50 percent of recent college graduates who are unemployed or underemployed, it sounds more like a hollow promise.

I recently attended an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce exploring career development’s role in promoting career success. The sentiment at the gathering of business, education, government and nonprofit stakeholders was almost universal: Career advising is broken.

We know that students cite obtaining a good job as their top reason for attending college. Students deserve a positive return on their investment in higher education, but they are faced with an overwhelming number of options — from which school to attend, to which program to pursue, to which classes to take — and, often, receive little guidance in navigating these choices.

Career Development Discussion
Business, education, government and nonprofit officials addressed career development at a recent meeting.

Two of the biggest takeaways from the career development event were:

  1. Employers are failing to adequately communicate with educators.
  2. Career counselors are not receiving the resources or support they need to be successful.

USA Funds® is addressing both of these issues through our employer engagement and college value work.

Employer Engagement
USA Funds has partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to develop a Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) framework. Based on supply-chain management best practices, TPM calls on employers to unify around shared needs and proactively define and articulate those needs. For example, members of the TPM learning network in Michigan are using TPM principles to identify a set of core competencies critical for local energy sector employees. Similar efforts are underway in Virginia’s information technology and cybersecurity sectors.

In total, seven learning network partners implemented various TPM strategies to uncover best practices for connecting employers and educators.
Building the Talent Pipeline: An Implementation Guide” explores these strategies in greater depth.

College Value
USA Funds’ Completion With a Purpose℠ focus is based on the belief that students deserve a high-quality education that adds value to their careers and lives. But approximately 98 percent of chief academic officers at higher education institutions believe their schools are doing an effective job of preparing students for the workforce, while only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree.

This skills gap leaves prospective employees without the competencies they need to fill the jobs they seek.

College Completion Quote

To help students (and those advising them) better understand the expected return on their higher education investment, USA Funds is funding four projects that measure the value of postsecondary education based on state-level, program-specific and career-based metrics. This information will better equip advisers and students with the resources they need to be successful.

As participants made clear at the career development event, elevating employer engagement and improving information quality and dissemination are critical steps in promoting student success to and through college and on to meaningful careers and lives. USA Funds is hard at work in these efforts to bring Completion With a Purpose to fruition.

Employer Engagement

Familiar Tools, New Approach to Closing the Skills Gap

Emily-KinardBy Emily Kinard, Government Relations Coordinator, USA Funds

New Year’s resolutions typically involve a promise to improve and often require a new way of thinking. The Talent Pipeline Management initiative, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and supported by USA Funds®, promises to improve the match of employer needs and college graduates’ skills through a new way of thinking about the relationship between employers and educators.

Fortunately for employers, the TPM approach to bridging the “skills gap” builds on familiar principles already integral to many businesses: supply chain management best practices.

In my previous blog post, I looked at six strategies employers can use to implement the TPM model, including: organizing employer collaboratives, engaging in demand planning, communicating competency and credential requirements, analyzing talent flows, implementing shared performance measures, and aligning incentives.

Each of these strategies is based on the following supply chain management counterparts:

1. Joint Sourcing
Collaborating with fellow employers to identify and purchase high-quality products and services.

2. Planning
Identifying current and projected demand for products and services.

3. Developing Sourcing Requirements
Defining criteria for purchasing a product or service.

4. Developing Sourcing Networks
Establishing networks of preferred suppliers.

5. Managing and Improving
Overseeing product and service development and distribution to ensure value.

Career Value vs. Business ValueJust as well-managed supply chains deliver a high-quality product, well-managed talent pipelines deliver a high-quality workforce. Integration of talent strategy with business strategy allows employers to proactively address the skills gap.

Last month I attended “The Path Forward: Improving Opportunities for African-American Students”, a conference sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the NAACP. The conference featured employers who actively engage underserved populations. As I listened to panelists’ remarks, I was struck by one notion that was shared: Education is a vehicle to get to the starting line, but it does not guarantee a successful race.

An unsuccessful race is bad for business, it is harmful to the larger economy, and it can be devastating to a student. As USA Funds continues to pursue Completion With a Purpose℠, we are focused not only on supporting students on the way to the starting line, but also on getting them to the finish line and beyond.

TPM positions employers as key customers for educators, but in doing so, it also shapes educational content and delivery in a way that provides the greatest value to students. All of these are worthy goals.

They simply require a new way of thinking.

Employer Engagement

A New Guide to Close the Skills Gap

Emily-KinardBy Emily Kinard, Government Relations Coordinator, USA Funds

On the path from education to employment, many college students never make it to their intended destination. Although students cite getting a good job as their top reason for attending college, approximately 50 percent of recent college graduates are unemployed or underemployed. At the same time, the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce forecasts that 5 million positions will go unfilled by 2020. The “skills gap” — a fundamental mismatch between employers’ needs and graduates’ skills — is largely to blame. Yet a recent Gallup survey reports that 98 percent of college provosts believe they are preparing students for the workforce, while only 11 percent of business leaders agree.

As part of our focus on Completion With a Purpose℠, USA Funds® believes every student who invests in postsecondary education should expect a solid return. Closing the skills gap is critical to ensuring this return. The Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative is a collaborative effort between USA Funds and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) to tackle the skills gap head-on.

Modeled after supply chain management best practices already familiar to employers, the TPM methodology turns the traditional education-to-employment process on its head. By repositioning employers as end-customers and then working backward to shape educational content and delivery, TPM seeks to bridge the divide between education and labor to deliver value to students, business, education, and society at large.

tpm%20toolkit%20key%20graphicLast week, USCCF and USA Funds released an implementation guide outlining six specific strategies for putting the TPM model into practice. These strategies include:

1. Organizing Employer Collaboratives
Historically, employers have engaged in connecting education to business needs via a third party. TPM instead calls for collaboration by employers for employers.

2. Engaging in Demand Planning
Employers should identify positions that drive their competitive advantage and work with leadership across their organizations to determine how many workers are needed to fill these roles.

3. Communicating Competency and Credential Requirements
Using a shared language, employers should define and communicate the skills, knowledge and certifications requisite for open positions.

4. Analyzing Talent Flows
Back-mapping — tracing talent back to its sources and looking for patterns — allows employers to identify preferred providers and areas for improvement.

5. Implementing Shared Performance Measures
As end-customers, employers should take a lead role in working with government and education to develop measures of success across partnerships.

6. Aligning Incentives
Employers should establish common incentives both within their organizations and with external partners to lower costs and improve performance.

Stakeholders are already hard at work incorporating these strategies into their everyday processes. The TPM initiative includes a Learning Network of seven regional partners actively engaging in and refining the TPM model. At the same meeting introducing the new implementation guide, each partner had the opportunity to present its work so far. We look forward to further insights from the Learning Network as the TPM project progresses, and we will continue to share lessons learned along the way.