Monday, November 21, 2016

Election Raises Stakes for Native-Born Workforce

By Alex Pearlstein, Vice President

Regardless of your politics, it can be assumed that the results of last week’s election will likely not lead to an increase in foreign immigration to the U.S., and might have the opposite effect. For regions like Dayton, Detroit, St. Louis, and other places with little to no domestic inmigration that have launched talent initiatives targeting immigrants and refugees, this is going to make implementing these programs more difficult, or at least less viable for labor force replenishment.

Many American cities have already come out and pledged to remain sanctuaries for immigrants, but this would largely serve those already in the country. Regions that currently count on influxes of foreign migrants to satisfy employer demands in one or more industries – or those aspiring to better tap this source of labor – will have to identify alternative means to provide a competitive complement of available workers.

An unanticipated impact of the election could therefore be a new primacy on domestic talent attraction and tapping into local workforce development pipelines. Regions like Atlanta, which imports the vast majority of its workers from foreign and domestic markets, will have to replace its complement of international talent with native-born and local labor pools. This will make the competition for footloose talent even more intense and create pressure to invest greater and greater amounts in talent marketing and prospecting.

Decreases in availability of foreign-born labor will also raise the stakes for pre-K to 20 training systems and institutions. This will be due to declining international student populations and applicant pools and also a pure numbers game that is already being seen in cities across the country: more jobs are available than there is talent to fill them. An alphabet soup of programs and “cradle-to-career” coalitions is already in place to ensure students are being trained for college and careers in local demand. Complementing these are initiatives to make regions more competitive for talent by enhancing quality of place amenities. Companies will need to redouble efforts to develop relationships and connections to training providers to expose students to career opportunities and hire them for available positions.

All this is to say that current talent strategies will need to be reassessed and potentially adjusted based on new migration realities. Communities would be wise to devise proactive solutions to labor force capacity issues and reach out to partners across the full education and workforce continuum to design and implement effective programs and processes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How much does who you know depend on what they do?

By Matt DeVeau, Project Manager

In the course of facilitating community and economic development planning work around the country, one notices certain themes that are remarkably consistent from place to place. For instance, we commonly hear from executives and human resources professionals that it is difficult to get school-aged children in their community interested in a career in manufacturing. The story tends to the same in places large and small, in communities with a strong “blue collar” history and in service-based economies where manufacturing makes up a relatively small slice of employment.

I was thinking about this topic the other day in the process of developing a strategy and decided I would ask someone who works in manufacturing about how they got their start in the business. Then it hit me…

Wait, do I actually know anyone who works in manufacturing?!?

I thought for a moment and realized that, yes, I do but they are all professional contacts whom I have met through my work in community and economic development. Among my personal contacts, I couldn’t think of a single friend or family member who works in the sector. So next I did a nerdy thing that probably explains why my pool of friends isn’t bigger: I made a spreadsheet for fun.

I pulled up a list of every four-digit NAICS business sector and started placing tick marks next the sectors in which someone in my social circle works. To keep things manageable, I came up with a few conditions:
  • I had to be close to 100 percent sure about where someone worked in order to classify them.
  • I looked only at the roughly 160 personal contacts stored in my phone. Going through social media profiles of friends may have yielded better results but would have been too cumbersome through user interfaces.
  • I assumed that everyone worked in their parent company’s main line of business (not a narrowly focused business unit that might be classified in a different subsector) and I only classified people into “Management of Companies and Enterprises” if I knew their job was in a corporate headquarters operation for a large firm with many locations.

I ended up sorting 85 friends and family members into 32 business sectors. I’ve shown the top 10 sectors in the following table. 

Looking at the table, I can clearly see the impact of the social networks I formed through my education. From my time in Western Washington University’s journalism program, I have multiple friends in public relations (5418). From Georgia Tech, I know landscape architects and civil engineers (5413) and people who work for community development nonprofits (8133). (I also know a lot of public school teachers for some reason.)

But, there are no manufacturing sectors represented in that top 10 – or anywhere on my list for that matter. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise. My friends are mostly: 1) people who attended college with me, 2) people who attended college with my wife, or 3) people who are in a relationship with someone from those categories. Most are doing something related to our areas of study, none of which line up well with a career in manufacturing.

This is The Big Sort phenomenon to a certain degree – the idea popularized by Bill Bishop and Robert Cushing in their 2008 book. The idea is that Americans have “sorted themselves geographically, economically, and politically into like-minded communities over the last three decades,” and it now comes up around every big general election.

Beyond electoral politics, I think the “sorting” concept has interesting implications for community and economic development – too many to list here in fact. But, I wonder what would happen if we developed a social network visualization that somehow incorporated data covering the business sector in which each individual worked. I would assume that we would see a correlation between clusters of social connections and business sectors – most people probably have friends from work, at a minimum. But, might we see that certain sectors of the economy are fairly “isolated” from one another in terms of how connected their workers are to one another? Put another way, might data suggest that one of the reasons students are reluctant to consider careers in manufacturing is because their parents don’t know anyone in that field? I don’t know the answer, but it’s the type of thing I hope we can find out as new data analysis tools and techniques are applied to community and economic development.

Monday, November 7, 2016

K-12 Innovation

By Ranada Robinson, Research Manager

In December 2015, President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Recently, Market Street staff participated in a webinar hosted by Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives entitled “K-12 Innovation and Accountability,” which featured three panelists who discussed their professional experiences in transitioning to the new ESSA standards. According to Alliance for Excellent Education, the following features set ESSA apart from NCLB:
  • All students must be on a path to postsecondary education, and states have flexibility to design an accountability system that supports this
  • States set their own ambitious goals and short-term measures of progress
  • The Accountability System includes an indicator of “school quality or student success”
  • Interventions for low-performing schools are locally-tailored in consultation with teachers, stakeholders, etc., rather than federally prescribed
The focus of the webinar was on what chambers can do to help states improve education policy and outcomes. In our work, we’ve seen (and encouraged) more and more chambers and EDOs doing more in the workforce development space and helping to create and make stronger the link between what schools are including in academic curriculum and special programs and what businesses need. Christopher Shearer, the Education Program Officer at the Hewlett Foundation encourages chambers to do the following to help states:
  • Use their convening power to host stakeholder meetings for local education agency leadership and regional business leaders
  • Ask state leaders if the state plan includes a career readiness indicator
  • Discuss potential collaboration opportunities for work-based learning, internships for students, externships for teachers, guest speaking, mentorship, and job shadowing
  • Be open to other ways state officials might be able to include the business community in implementation
A few of the notable programs that were mentioned during the webinar were the Louisiana Jump Start initiative, described by Liz Smith, the Director of Policy and Research at the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, and the L.A. Compact, described by David Rattray, Executive Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. 

Jump Start – Jump Start Louisiana was rolled out in 2014 by state superintendent John White as a way to “restore the dignity” of career and technical education and to recognize that earning an undergraduate degree is not the only path to the middle class. Starting with the Class of 2018, there are two high school diploma pathways: (1) TOPS University, for students who want to attend college after graduation, prepares students to qualify for a TOPS scholarship, and (2) Jump Start Pathway, for students interested in college and/or career, which allows students to earn industry credentials that will help them attain entry-level employment after graduation and continue their education at a community or technical college. There are also opportunities for teachers, including externships, training for industry credentials, access to industry experts in any business sector in which they are interested anywhere in the United States, and stipends from the Louisiana Department of Education to develop course materials.

L.A. Compact – The L.A. Compact was first introduced in 2010 as a commitment by a broad range of community partners to focus on increasing graduation rates, ensuring that students are prepared for college, and providing more meaningful career opportunities to students. The partners included City officials, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, and 11 colleges and universities in the Los Angeles area. The Compact later won an Investing in Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its proposal entitled “L.A.’s Bold Competition – Turning Around and Operating Its Low-Performing Schools.” Since then, the initiative has developed into a collective impact initiative with goals, workgroups focused on major components of those goals, and measurement tracking. 

As the nation moves into transitioning to implementation of ESSA, this is an opportune time for the business community to become more engaged in the workforce pipeline—understanding that starting early by making sure Pre-K – 12 programs are strong and will prepare students for their eventual careers or for continued higher education only helps to support businesses in the long-term. Talent has become and will remain the #1 issue for economic development, and teamwork across community partners will be vital to the betterment of our children and future working adults.