Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bridging the Workforce Gap -Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board

Nancy Dischinat, Executive Director, Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board

A comprehensive new study assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the Lehigh Valley’s workforce, provides key strategies for how to improve upon them, and lays the foundation for a new council linking local educational institutions and economic development agencies in a way that has never been done before.

The study, commissioned by LVEDC and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Development Board (LVWDB), finds the overall forecast for the Lehigh Valley is very good. A total of 22,150 new jobs are expected to be created over the next five years, and the report found the region’s workforce and talent development system is generally well-aligned to meet the needs of employers.

But, like any region, there is always room for improvement, and the study’s skills gap analysis identified several occupation and career areas that were either underserved or overserved by the existing current education and talent system. These findings will inform the creation of the Education and Talent Supply Council, which will take action on some of the study’s recommended strategies.

“Our partnership is serving as a model for workforce and economic development, not just in the state of Pennsylvania, but for the entire nation,” Cunningham said. “The quality of a region’s workforce and talent supply has quickly become the leading factor in attracting and retaining companies and growing jobs. This requires that we understand both supply and demand.”

The study was conducted by Oxford Economics, a New York City-based economic consultant, and is entitled “Bridging the Workforce Gap: Lehigh Valley Workforce & Economic Development Strategy.”

Oxford Economics gathered empirical data on the skills and training gaps and strengths of the current Lehigh Valley workforce. Among the goals of the strategic plan were to examine the pipeline of training providers and workforce supply, catalog the region’s workforce support service providers, assess resource efficiency, and recommend implementation strategies and best practices.

“This is not a once-and-done effort; the workforce strategic plan was just the beginning,” said Nancy Dischinat, LVWDB executive director. “This council will ensure that economic development is working closely together with the region’s producers of talent, and that the pipeline of skilled workers in the Lehigh Valley is strong.”

The study was funded by a Pennsylvania JOBS1st grant that LVEDC and LVWDB jointly applied for and received. While LVEDC and LVWDB have always enjoyed strong collaboration and a common vision for a thriving Lehigh Valley, it is an unusual occurrence for an economic development organization and workforce entity to work together to gather substantial data about a region’s workforce gap.

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