by Thomas Phillips and Sandra Rodriguez

With New England as clearly the oldest region in the country with an average age of 40.3 years,[1] there significant retirements are expected for the next 15 years that will have a profound impact on the size and quality of our labor force.

Yet, with workforce demand at high levels, the supply side isn’t sufficient to meet employer needs.  There are many reasons for this supply/demand mismatch.

CT perspectiveNOT ENOUGH PEOPLE.  The growth rate of the US population aged 18 to 64 is rapidly decelerating and will remain very low through 2030.[2]  That should translate into a continued difficult time in finding qualified workers, while the knowledge base within businesses and organizations is eroding.

NOT ENOUGH HARD and SOFT SKILLS. There is a perceived shortage of people with the hard and soft “essential” skills both required and desired by hiring professionals.  This may be why nearly half of those jobless in Connecticut and neighboring states are considered long-term unemployed.[3]  The technical skills these individuals possess are no longer applicable and essential skills get “rusty” when not used over a period of time.  For the younger population, these skills are often untested.

NOT ENOUGH INTEREST FOR THE JOBS IN DEMAND.  Demand is high for healthcare and manufacturing workers.  Construction employment has also been increasing in Connecticut[4] and is expected to continue to rebound over the next few years.[5]  However, according to The Hartford’s 2015 Millennial Leadership Survey (published by The Hartford), less than 7% of the younger generation interviewed responded favorably to wanting careers in Manufacturing or Construction.  Fortunately, 31% of the 18-34 year olds interviewed said their interests lie in healthcare, but percentage-wise, they are more interested Arts and Entertainment, Education and Technology.

NOT ENOUGH COLLABORATION. As Connecticut and the New England region is facing economic quotechallenges, an aging workforce, and lack of coordination and overlap in services, now is the time to create more public / private partnerships to drive success.

PROMISING APPROACHES.  The Supply/Demand Workforce mismatch can’t be solved by any one organization, with any one grant or source of funding, or with any one strategy.  In North Central Connecticut, Capital Workforce Partners and other collaborative organizations are stoking the pipeline with skilled talent, in areas of current or expected business demand through a web of integrated partnerships.  Here are just two examples:

MOVEUP! COLLABORATIVE. This is a collaborative effort among 26 adult education providers, workforce training programs and community colleges to improve adult literacy services in the Capital Region of Connecticut.  Move UP!’s partners envision a regional adult literacy system that offers a coordinated continuum of literacy services, childcare, counseling and other social service support, career pathways that lead to well-paying jobs and coordination within the community to get the work done.

HARTFORD OPPORTUNITY YOUTH COLLABORATIVE.  This Collaborative includes leaders in education, youth development, and workforce development committed to addressing the education and employment needs of 16 to 24 year old disconnected youth (not in school and not working or no high school diploma) otherwise known as ‘Opportunity Youth.’  With financial support from the Aspen Forum for Community Solutions, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and the Social Innovation Fund (as a subgrantee of Jobs for the Future), a full scale, multi-year comprehensive plan has been developed and several youth-centered programs are underway.

These initiatives share one common thread – partnership between business, workforce development, education, economic development and government.  In this new year of power shifts and workforce facelifts, it will take all community stakeholders together to ensure there are enough people, trained and ready to work in the jobs that are in demand today and will be in demand tomorrow.  It will take public/private partnerships to guarantee that the education system is preparing youngsters with the mastery they will need to be successful in their career pathways.  And it will take groups with differing ideologies and competing missions to continue to convene and collaborate until as much common ground can be identified as possible for progress.

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Thomas Phillips is President and CEO, and Sandra Rodriguez is Communications Director, at Capital Workforce Partners, which provides a range of services and training to job seekers and businesses.  Learn more at www.capitalworkforce.org

PERSPECTIVE commentaries by contributing writers appear each Sunday on Connecticut by the Numbers.

 

[1] 2010-14 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

[2] Conference Board: “From Not Enough Jobs to Not Enough Workers What Retiring Baby Boomers and the Coming Labor Shortage Mean for Your Company” Publication Date: September 2014 Report Number: TCB-R-1558-14-RR. Data Source:  The Census Bureau

[3] Nick Difiesta and Derek Thomas, MPA, Connecticut Voices for Children, “The State of Working Connecticut 2015,” November 2015

[4] Connecticut Department of Labor

[5] Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI)

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