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posted: 5/15/2019 1:00 AM

Repeat after me: Workforce development is economic development

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Five years ago, during a meeting with 10 CEOs at a manufacturing facility, we were discussing the talent shortage and its impact on the economy. One of the CEOs stated, "Talent is my pacing item. Talent, or more accurately the lack of talent, is determining how much product we deliver, how many shifts we employ, and how fast we grow. It is not capital expenditures, financing, transportation, or rules and regulations. It is people."

Workforce development IS economic development!

Leaders have been looking at the talent pipeline for the past 30 years. Unfortunately, until recently, that work was usually temporary and the level of activity was tied directly to the unemployment rate: high unemployment rate = no trouble finding talent, low unemployment rate = no talent available.

Right now in the United States, 10,000 people are turning 65 every day. The Baby Boomers have finished their work life and are moving toward retirement. The largest generation ever -- Baby Boomers -- is moving out of the workforce. Generation X, representing millions fewer people, is filling in. Millennials, the new "largest generation ever" are beginning their takeover of the workplace, but don't own it ... yet!

Another factor for employers is the homogeneous nature of the Upper Midwest. States in this area are primarily a Caucasian population, and this population has a lower fertility rate. In addition, a lack of diversity also has hurt the region because it makes the recruitment of minorities a bigger challenge.

Migration patterns across the Upper Midwest show that the area is not faring well in attracting additional talent. Low birthrates, out-migration, difficulty recruiting minorities, aging population ... you get the picture.

So, no workforce = no growth = no economic growth. Workforce development IS economic development!

To combat the talent shortage and retain existing personnel to achieve economic growth, companies need to consider:

• Educating current student populations on opportunities available within their state

• Developing programs to improve education and training for at-risk populations in their communities

• Influencing the Federal government on immigration reform

• Working on their image and web and social media presence to attract millennials and be a preferred employer

• Using the recruiting and interview process to sell the candidate

Equally important, there are many things employers can do right now:

• View existing employees as recruiters

• Review hiring processes for efficiency

• Provide benefits that meet the generational needs of all employees

• Ensure onboarding processes are effective

• Conduct "stay" reviews to ensure employee satisfaction

• Provide skills training for career development and retention

Innovative employers will find talent by understanding the needs of their next hire. Failure to do so means limited growth. Workforce development IS economic development!

• Jim Morgan is VP, Member Experience at MRA -- The Management Association. Visit or follow MRA on LinkedIn:, Facebook:, or Twitter: @MRA_HR_Pros.