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Economic Development and Human Capital

Employer-Led Approach to Workforce Development Promises to Better Align Texas Workers with In-Demand Jobs

Elizabeth Sobel Blum

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and laid bare tectonic shifts in the nature of work. Few of today’s middle-skill, middle-wage jobs look like those from a generation ago, when workers typically performed repetitive and procedural tasks.[1] Today, these jobs require higher levels of critical thinking, problem-solving and creativity as well as proficiency in increasingly advanced technologies.[2] To achieve upward mobility, workers must continually upgrade their skills or acquire new ones.[3]

The COVID-driven economic crisis has generated much disruption and uncertainty in the workforce, especially for women and communities of color.[4] On a national level, interest has escalated in advancing workforce equity.[5] Moreover, discussions continue about reshoring operations and bringing jobs back to the U.S. These developments have hastened the need to strengthen and expand the skills of the U.S. workforce.

While workforce development efforts are ongoing across the country, they do not always produce the regional pools of quality talent that employers need. One approach designed to create a workforce “supply chain” is achieving success in several states and is about to take off across Texas through the Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM®) Academy, an initiative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The first cohort of Texas workforce leaders graduated from the academy in October 2020.

Talent Pipeline Management Academy Arrives

The Greater Houston Partnership (the Partnership), an economic development organization in Texas’ largest city, and statewide nonprofit Educate Texas, an initiative of the Communities Foundation of Texas, brought the TPM Academy to Texas in March 2020.

The academy came to Texas in response to strong interest from employers, educators and community stakeholders in replicating Houston’s success in upskilling and reskilling talent through regional sector partnerships using the TPM approach.

TPM refers to the application of supply-chain management principles to industry processes of attracting, developing and retaining qualified talent now and in the foreseeable future. Employers, as end users of the talent “supply chain,” take a leadership role in identifying their most critical positions and the skills needed for them. As a collaborative, they can simultaneously signal their needs to important partners like educators, workforce boards, economic developers and others. Employers are responsible for deciding the needs because the purpose of the partnership is to meet their talent requirements.

“As we realize the benefits of this approach, we believe this could also be leveraged to frame a state strategy for building the talent pipeline that fuels our state’s continued economic growth.”
— George Tang, Educate Texas

According to Jason Tyszko, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce, “Regardless of how employers engage in TPM, what their efforts have in common is that employers serve as the primary source of data on their most pressing talent management challenges, how best to address them and with whom they will address them. Many sector partnerships speak for employers, but with TPM, employers have the tools and agency to speak for themselves.”

Over 30 leaders from chambers of commerce, economic development entities, community colleges and other organizations from across Texas graduated from the academy in October. They represent Abilene, Arlington, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Bend, Houston, Jasper, Katy, Lake Jackson, Lubbock, McAllen/Rio Grande Valley, San Antonio, Texarkana, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls. “As we realize the benefits of this approach, we believe this could also be leveraged to frame a state strategy for building the talent pipeline that fuels our state’s continued economic growth,” said George Tang, managing director of Educate Texas.

Through the Greater Houston Partnership’s employer-led initiative Upskill Houston, the region's key industries implemented the TPM approach in their sector partnerships. The industries include oil and gas, advanced manufacturing, construction, health care, petrochemicals, port and maritime operations, and utilities. Their common goal is to increase their competitiveness by upskilling and reskilling their current and future workforce.

Upskill Houston’s notable accomplishments to date include:

  • The involvement of 130 employers in four industry sectors and with the possible expansion into three other sectors.
  • The participation of 65-plus education, community and workforce organizations committed to developing Houston’s talent pipeline.
  • The development and management of three career-focused digital websites—UpSkillHouston.org, UpSkillMyLife.org and PetrochemWorks.com.
  • The production of 12 My Life As career videos and accompanying information, which are available to students and other learners as well as their career coaches and counselors.

Upskill Houston’s success includes building awareness of what it’s like to work in in-demand jobs in the transportation, construction, health sciences and petrochemical industries and the skills needed to do those jobs. This includes replacing outdated and vague narratives about these jobs with modern, accurate images and information.

“We need to do a better job of putting into place the mechanisms within the job market for acknowledging that skills drive the economy in addition to just credentials, which are important and are such a major part of the vetting process but can often only tell part of the story,” says Bryant Black, director of regional workforce development for the Partnership.

About the TPM Approach

At the end of 2014, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation published a white paper on TPM. The following year, Houston and other sites prototyped a pilot program. This was the first time that TPM strategies were used, and they informed the TPM academy’s curriculum. In 2016, the foundation established the TPM Academy.

In the Talent Pipeline Management approach, employers choose which specific problems their sector partnership will focus on. Their decision is dependent upon how they want to manage their human capital risks and address shared pain points, which include:

  1. Accessing a pool of qualified applicants when and where they need the workers.
  2. Ensuring workers get onboarded as quickly as possible.
  3. Retaining and developing workers in their workplace.
  4. Expanding workforce diversity efforts to reach the greatest number of skilled workers.

By working together to address these pain points, the employers can increase their return on investment in attracting, developing and retaining talent.

Employers—especially small businesses—join regional sector partnerships to more efficiently communicate the skills they need and align with educators, trainers and workforce organizations to help upskill and reskill talent.

Educators and trainers engage in these partnerships because they learn directly from their end users—employers—about what skills to teach and credentials to offer to make learners more competitive in the labor market. Educators and trainers can also collaborate with employers on developing or improving work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships, which can help improve employment outcomes for both employers and employees.

The TPM approach consists of six sequential strategies:

1. Organize employer collaboratives/sector partnerships:
Work collectively to aggregate their critical talent pipeline challenges—those that address a skills gap for jobs/occupations critical to employers.

2. Engage in demand planning:
Identify demand for critical occupations—projected new and replacement positions.

3. Communicate competency and credential requirements:
Communicate employers’ hiring requirements using a common language that translates competencies and credentials into skills, knowledge, abilities, training and education.

4. Analyze talent flows:
Identify employers’ most successful sources of talent and compare talent produced by suppliers to projected demand.

5. Build talent supply chains:
Building on the data collected in strategies 2–4, designate preferred educational and training providers for high-demand skills, knowledge and abilities.

6. Continuous improvement:
Design, implement and continually improve both internal and external talent pipelines within the sector.

Chart 1 illustrates TPM’s value stream, which outlines the roles of employers and “suppliers” (educators, nonprofits and others in the workforce ecosystem) and how they can add value to the talent supply chain.

Employers and educators can use TPM as a stand-alone effort or apply it to an existing sector partnership to increase meaningful employer leadership and engagement.

Chart 1: TPM’s Value Stream: From Career Awareness and Guidance to Employee Retention
NOTE: Suppliers include educators and nonprofits, and collaborative focus refers to employers and suppliers working together from career awareness to employee retention. Preferred providers are educators and trainers that employers prefer to work with.
SOURCE: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

Downloadable chart

The Role of Nonprofits

In TPM, nonprofits play a critical role. Often, they make the case for adopting TPM and can be instrumental in gaining buy-in from local communities and state-level entities. Many nonprofits that provide education, training or social services spend much time and energy persuading employers to use their programs.

TPM has helped aggregate employers as customers of these programs and better prepare employers and nonprofits to productively collaborate. As a result, the collaborators are better equipped to increase the employability of nonprofits’ target populations.

The Importance of Sector Partnerships

The TPM approach is a structured and data-driven model for sector partnerships, so understanding what sector partnerships are and why they exist is important.

Across Texas and the United States, employers in the manufacturing, health care, construction, information technology and other sectors are collaborating with regional workforce ecosystems, including school districts, community colleges, four-year universities, workforce boards, economic developers, chambers of commerce and other entities to help them strengthen each sector’s regional talent pipeline.

They are collaborating because their roles are interdependent: Employers need to attract, develop and retain quality talent, and regional workforce ecosystems need to help residents successfully navigate and access educational and workforce opportunities. Today and into the future, regions will increasingly be competing on the basis of the talent they are able to attract and develop.

Ideally in regional sector partnerships, the role of employers is to specify their current and projected workforce needs while the role of educators and trainers is to ensure that their curriculum meets those needs. For this to happen, each partnership needs to have the information, data and analytical ability to select its priorities, develop strategies to meet those priorities and know when their strategies are working, when they are not and how to revise their strategies to meet their common goal.

In sector partnerships, the role of organizations in the workforce ecosystem is to:

  1. Develop clear career paths from one occupation to another with descriptions of each occupation’s required skills, knowledge, abilities, training and education.
  2. Provide curricula that help learners develop these occupational requirements.
  3. For each set of curricula, clarify which competencies learners can expect to build and demonstrate.
  4. Align their work so that it is clear how each entity contributes to regional career pathways and identify where to fill in existing and projected gaps.

At the same time, a diversity of industry representatives needs to be actively engaged in each partnership to help interpret and validate occupational data and analyses and advise on curriculum to help ensure that it equips learners with competencies and credentials required by each occupation. Employers also need to provide quality jobs; invest in current and future employees’ professional and skills development (e.g., through internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and other work-based learning opportunities); and give continuous feedback on the effectiveness and responsiveness of educators, trainers and others in the workforce ecosystem. Their feedback is essential to education and training providers’ ability to design and implement curricula that increase the employability and competitiveness of the regional workforce.

Not all sector partnerships operate like this. Traditionally, many sector partnerships tend to rely on employers for information and advice but not to drive the conversation about the partnerships’ goals and priorities. They also may not use employers’ data as their primary source of workforce data but instead use macro-level labor market information. “Rarely is data used as an instrument to isolate continuous improvement opportunities, and rarer still is using employer pain-point data,” notes Tyszko of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

A problem with this traditional approach is that employers are not informing educators and trainers about their most pressing talent needs. As a result, educators and trainers do not have the specific information they need to determine how to ensure that their curricula and programs increase their students’ employability and, at the same time, meet regional employers’ talent priorities. TPM provides an opportunity for new and existing employer collaboratives or sector partnerships to use data-driven, business-led strategies and a structured process to achieve positive return on investment for employers and improve the talent supply chain.

“As automation technologies disrupt the workplace, TPM will be an essential tool for regional employers to communicate more effectively and quickly the new skills needed in today’s innovation-based economy,” said Peter Beard, the Partnership’s senior vice president for regional workforce development. “To maintain the state’s global competitiveness, it will be important for Texas communities to use the TPM strategies to ensure they have the talent their industries require.”

TPM Successes Across the United States

The TPM network currently spans 33 states and Canada. Its sector partnerships represent employers, local and state chambers of commerce, economic development agencies and others. Tyszko emphasizes the influence and power of this network: “In TPM, we have hundreds of practitioners working across dozens of industry sectors, working in a diversity of states. This network has surfaced a wealth of knowledge and best practices that constantly shape the movement and framework.”

Sector partnerships in Houston, Colorado, Michigan and Arizona have used TPM to better prepare their regional workforces for a diversity of industries, including energy, health care, IT and manufacturing. They have found that becoming part of the TPM network and learning from peers have helped them save time, improve partnerships’ practice and challenge assumptions.

See “Case Studies Across the U.S.: Employers Use TPM Approach to Expand Pool of Quality Talent” below for highlights of the TPM network’s successes.

While anecdotal evidence suggests TPM and sector partnerships are promising, it is too early to tell if this workforce development approach is more successful than others. Sector partnerships need to do more data collection to determine the degree to which these programs are benefiting both employers and workers and improving workforce diversity, equity and inclusion.

What’s Next for TPM Academy Graduates?

Across the board, October’s inaugural TPM Academy graduates have expressed great interest in applying the TPM approach to new and existing sector partnerships, as well as continuing to serve as a peer learning network to each other. The following are highlights of their vision for the future.

Dallas

The Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) has been convening sector partnerships in Dallas for five sectors: financial and professional services, construction, information technology, health care and manufacturing. Drexell Owusu, senior vice president of education and workforce at DRC, notes that TPM gives employers a structured process to identify which occupations are high-demand within an industry and how to increase the supply of regional talent for these occupations. “Everyone has different data. We all use it for different reasons,” he says. “The question is how to get our data to a place where we can all agree on one version of the truth. All of us in workforce—such as the workforce board, Dallas College [the former Dallas County Community College District] and the Commit Partnership—need to synchronize our ‘ask’ to our region’s critical industries, which is ‘what are your most critical occupations that you’re having a hard time filling?’”

DRC’s introduction of TPM into regional sector partnerships is aligned with the region’s new public–private–nonprofit partnership “Dallas Thrives.” Its goal is to double the number of young adults (adults ages 25 to 34) who earn a living wage in Dallas, which is about $50,000 in Dallas County, by the year 2040. “The DRC is helping lead Dallas Thrives because we are interested in attracting a bigger swath of industry to the table about their workforce needs and at the same time identify and address barriers to equity,” Owusu says “By working in concert as we progress along the same roadmap, we can share what is working, what is not and why, and then pivot or refine our strategies based on that feedback loop.”

El Paso

William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College, sees much potential for applying the TPM approach to existing sector partnerships and other local collaboratives: “We’re already working closely with employers, the regional workforce board and others, such as through our Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, CREEED, Workforce Solutions Borderplex and the Borderplex Alliance. Our community college system is critical for our region’s economic development, and one of our priorities is making sure that our graduates can earn a living wage. Using the TPM approach can help us achieve that priority. We have a sense of urgency particularly now, as there are five unemployed adults for every job available in El Paso. Our next step is to pull together a regional team of employers to determine which sector wants to adopt the TPM approach. I’m also looking forward to my continued participation in the TPM network—both in Texas and throughout the country.”

Fulshear–Katy

Andrew Van Chau, who is seeking to bring the TPM approach to West Houston, serves on the executive board of the Gulf Coast Economic Development District for the 13-county Houston–Galveston region and has worked for over 20 years in the energy sector. He notes that it can be difficult to get forward-looking labor market information at the granular level to better prioritize job functions for which workers should be upskilling or reskilling to prepare for projected changes in the workforce.

Employers’ perspectives are critical to such assessments. Ideally, they identify high-demand skills, knowledge and abilities so that educators and training partners can design their curriculum around those in-demand competencies. “The TPM approach provides a roadmap to ensure we’re asking the right questions to employers across our region. We’re interested in better assessing what jobseekers, incumbent workers and others need to learn so that they can increase their employability and earning potential,” he says.

“The TPM approach provides a roadmap to ensure we're asking the right questions to employers across our region. We’re interested in better assessing what jobseekers, incumbent workers and others need to learn so that they can increase their employability and earning potential.”
— Andrew Van Chau, Gulf Coast Economic Development District

In the Houston region, due to the pandemic and global price environment, the oil and gas industry has been laying off large numbers of workers while at the same time debating the reshoring of advanced manufacturing. “There is a distinct opportunity for jobseekers to connect to workforce development service providers in different ways,” says Van Chau. He says it’s useful to get insights on which of their skills and competencies are transferable to other occupations and industries, and what new skills, knowledge and abilities they may need to successfully transition.

Houston-area higher education partners like San Jacinto College, Houston Community College and Texas State Technical College offer programs to prepare jobseekers for technician roles in petrochemical and refining facilities, but the training could be adapted for the renewable energy sector. “Process operators can adapt their skills and training to ply their trade in wastewater treatments plants, for example, because they require some of the same skills in math, physics and the ability to troubleshoot equipment,” he says. “Regardless of where they are in their careers, today’s workers need to build their digital skills as they work alongside technology to increase productivity, as digital technology continues to transform every sector of our economy.”

San Antonio

Romanita Matta-Barrera is executive director of SA Works and executive vice president of workforce at the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation. She anticipates convening employers next year to introduce the TPM approach. “We already have a broad convening of workforce agencies collaborating on a regular basis, including the community college, workforce board and other critical workforce partners,” she says. “By engaging employers, we’ll be better able to understand their hiring and retention needs.”

She plans to start conversations with employers to learn about their constraints and challenges, as well as their interest in collaborating with CTE programs and offering work-based learning opportunities, including apprenticeships. This market intelligence will help inform educators, trainers and others in the workforce system to improve their strategies in helping low- and moderate-income individuals get out of poverty and advance their economic mobility.

Texarkana

The Texarkana region is home to the Texarkana Manufacturing Regional Partnership. According to Mike Malone, president and CEO of the Texarkana Chamber of Commerce, its goal is to address the shortage of sustainable talent from the regional labor pool. Currently, it is focusing on company needs and familiarizing its partners with TPM so all are on the same page about TPM and how it can help refine their focus as well as identify strategies and data useful to continually improving business.

As the partnership progresses, it will continue to invite new employers, educators and trainers. Together, the partners will continue to coordinate with each other in providing needed and relevant curriculum. Malone emphasizes the promise of applying the TPM approach to the Texarkana Manufacturing Regional Partnership: “Our partnership has strong employer engagement, and we welcome more employers to get engaged. Our three colleges, Texas A&M University–Texarkana, Texarkana College and the University of Arkansas Hope–Texarkana, collaborate well. This reduces redundancies and expands opportunities.

“With TPM, we are better equipped to refine our strategies. I appreciate the value provided by the many members in the inaugural Texas cohort of TPM Academy. Through this interaction of leaders, there is a sharing of ideas and feedback, including how to identify, update and modernize curriculum. After our formal academy ends, we expect to continue our dialogue. A statewide peer learning network of TPM adopters would be of great value to all of us individually and to our communities.”

Looking Forward

A number of sector partnerships across the U.S. are reporting promising results using Talent Pipeline Management. Further evaluation is needed to determine the degree of success and whether it extends to employees as well as employers and improves workforce diversity, equity and inclusion.

TPM has the potential to help Texas workers access the education and training they need to obtain quality jobs and better equip the state’s employers to increase their return on investment in attracting, developing and retaining quality talent. Together, these outcomes can increase economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness over the long term.

Notes

  1. For more information, see “Four Fundamentals of Workplace Automation,” by Michael Chui, James Manyika and Mehdi Miremadi, McKinsey Quarterly, Nov. 1, 2015; “Disappearing Routine Occupations and Declining Prime-Age Labor Force Participation,” by Didem Tuzeman, Research Working Paper no. 19-03, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, November 2019; “As Machines Take on More Human Work, What’s Left for Us?” by Drew Desilver, Pew Research Center, Aug. 15, 2014; and “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation,” by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne, Machines and Employment Workshop, Oxford University Engineering Sciences Department and Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, Sept. 17, 2013.
  2. For more information, see “Digital Blindspot: How Digital Literacy Can Create a More Resilient American Workforce,” Rework America Business Network, Markle Foundation, October 2019; “Digitalization and the American workforce,” by Mark Muro, Sifan Liu, Jacob Whiton and Siddharth Kulkarni, Brookings Institution, November 2017; and “The Work Ahead: Machines, Skills, and U.S. Leadership in the Twenty-First Century,” by Edward Alden and Laura Taylor-Kale, Council on Foreign Relations, Independent Task Force Report No. 76, April 2018.
  3. For more information, see “Skill Shift Automation and the Future of the Workforce,” by Jacques Bughin, Eric Hazan, Susan Lund, Peter Dahlstrom, Anna Wiesinger and Amresh Subramaniam, Discussion Paper, McKinsey Global Institute, May 2018; “Career and Technical Education: Five Ways That Pay,” by Anthony P. Carnevale, Tamara Jayasundera and Andrew R. Hanson, Georgetown Public Policy Institute, Georgetown University, September 2012; and “Job Market Polarization and U.S. Worker Skills: A Tale of Two Middles,” by Harry Holzer, Economic Studies at Brookings Institution, April 2015.
  4. For more information, see “The Benefits of a Diverse and Inclusive Recovery,” by Raphael Bostic, Annual Meeting of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, Oct. 19, 2020; “Economic Inequality Policy Forum: The Impacts of COVID-19 on Communities of Color and Policy Insights for an Equitable Economic Recovery,” by John Williams, Sept. 24, 2020; “The Economy as We Knew it Might Be Over, Fed Chairman Says,” by Anneken Tappe, CNN Business, Nov. 12, 2020; and “America’s Recovery from the 2020 ‘Shecession’: Building a Female Future of Childcare and Work,” by Victoria M. DeFrancesco Soto with Trinity Grozier and Fabiola Barreto, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin and YWCA, October 2020.
  5. According to the United Way of Greater Dallas’ Pathways to Work initiative, workforce equity is “the state in which race, ethnicity, gender and other demographic characteristics no longer predict one’s success in the labor market. All workers are economically resilient and have equitable access to jobs that are safe, pay a living wage, offer benefits, and provide career pathways and opportunities for mobility. And, disparities in compensation and employment for all demographic groups across all occupations and sectors are eliminated.”
Case Studies Across the U.S.

Employers Use TPM Approach to Expand Pool of Quality Talent

Across the United States, communities are applying the Talent Pipeline Management approach to their sector partnerships with notable success. The following are case studies from Michigan, Arizona and Arvada, Colorado. Together, they show the promise that the approach holds for communities across Texas that seek to strengthen their talent pipelines to in-demand jobs.

Michigan

Consumers Energy Corp. has been using the TPM approach since 2015, when it participated in the program’s pilot.

“We had about 100 positions open and received 1,400 applications, but very few of the applicants were qualified. We needed to more effectively signal to the community what we needed for these positions,” notes Sharon Miller, Michigan talent architect at Consumers Energy. Together with DTE Energy, the other major Michigan utility, they completed a project for the energy industry when the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium applied the methodology for the high-demand skilled trade positions of electric line workers and gas line workers.

Through the TPM process, Consumers Energy successfully projected demand, identified competencies, mapped sources and went on to expand two training partnerships with preferred providers for electric line workers. For gas line workers, the TPM process revealed a high percentage of the current workforce was made up of veterans. Armed with this knowledge, Consumers Energy approached Power for America (P4A) to develop a veteran-specific training program for gas line workers. As a result, Consumers Energy has hired 223 people from these programs in three years.

In October 2017, Michigan launched the nation’s first statewide TPM Academy. Consumers Energy took the lead in hosting it because the utility experienced success in the pilot and wanted to share the methodology with their business customers and other industries in Michigan. They all needed an approach that allows for customization at the local level because Michigan is a local-control state. “We don’t have a statewide education or workforce system, so it is very hard to take a one-size-fits-all approach. We invited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to advise us on the TPM approach because it allows for various entities to lead in their own local communities,” explains Miller.

This initiative has trained 45 people from 39 organizations and reached over 750 participants across the state’s workforce ecosystem—including chambers of commerce, economic developers, workforce boards and community colleges. Four of the academy’s graduates now serve as faculty members for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, working within the Michigan Office of Sector Strategies to consult communities on the TPM approach.

Currently, 17 sector partnerships across Michigan are implementing the TPM approach. They represent 267 employers in the energy, health care, information technology, manufacturing, chemicals, customer services, diesel mechanics, hospitality and transportation sectors. “Our biggest success with TPM has been our ability to engage our education partners in a meaningful way,” says Miller. These industry collaboratives received buy-in on the TPM approach from companies’ executive management and then their staff. For example, DTE Energy has three TPM graduates on staff, and they have joined with the Chief Supply Officers Council in Detroit to use TPM for their customer service initiative.

The energy industry has had the most success with TPM in Michigan. Thus far, it has made inroads in a number of ways that include creating a database of high-demand occupations, identifying tasks that these occupations require and assessing which education and training providers were teaching their skills. The successes have also included developing training programs at community colleges and certificate programs for electrical line workers and gas pipeline managers. The industry has hired almost 300 graduates from these community college programs. An energy industry fundamentals course has also been introduced at 10 high schools.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (formerly the Michigan Talent Investment Agency) identified TPM as a best practice and used it to shape its $2.5 million Marshall Plan grant program. In addition, the state funded $2 million in Michigan Industry Cluster Approach grants, awarding five of the first 10 programs to TPM sector partnerships and similar employer collaboratives.

Deb Lyzenga, the state’s administrative manager of sector strategies, describes the impact of the TPM approach on the energy industry: “It isn’t always easy to bring employers together. Businesses are busy and running lean. Employers who invest time in this process such as those involved in the Michigan Energy Workforce Development Consortium are seeing the value and are creating effective pipelines of trained skilled workers. This system creates a win-win for businesses, communities, and individuals who are building their careers.”

Consumers Energy is working with other stakeholders in the state, industry leaders and the state Office of Sector Strategies to determine next steps. The options include relying on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s online TPM program and national academy to further support and expand TPM in Michigan; funding coaching services for existing TPM collaboratives; hosting TPM Academies, one community at a time; and working with a university to partner to integrate TPM concepts into the business and human resource degree programs. The integration of TPM into mainstream higher education could enable the movement to grow exponentially.

Arizona

In 2015, the Greater Phoenix Chamber participated in the first U.S. TPM Academy and launched the first workforce collaboratives in Arizona. At that time, some industry councils were interested in learning how employers could drive the conversation about what occupations they were having difficulty filling and how educators and training providers could respond to those needs. This required a major mindset shift.

“Traditionally, employers were playing an advisory role for education providers, providing little input into critical needs. In contrast, the TPM approach is a demand-driven, structured approach that is designed to help businesses solve their talent pipeline challenges,” explains Jennifer Mellor, chief innovation officer at the Phoenix chamber. “Industry was saying, ‘We’re fighting each other for talent. We’re paying 50 cents more to steal talent from each other. This is a losing proposition.’ If we can increase industry’s regional talent pool, then all of us can be successful in filling our talent needs.”

As the industry councils adopted TPM and went through the process of identifying businesses’ high-demand occupations, it became clear that one common talent pipeline problem was the disconnect between employers’ hiring managers and human resources (HR) staff. “We’d hear some hiring managers say, ‘If you can send me someone who has a basic understanding of information technology, then I can train them up. They don’t need a bachelor’s degree—just demonstrated technical skills. But HR gives me a handful of resumes and few, if any, are qualified.’ Meanwhile, HR would say, ‘We typically hire our IT folks, and we require them to have a bachelor’s degree.’ This hiring practice barrier is real and still needs to be addressed,” says Mellor.

Despite this barrier, the sector partnerships that have adopted the TPM approach have made notable progress. As an example, health care providers were finding it challenging to fill their specialty nursing positions even though some of them were providing their own training. At the same time, many nurses were getting burned out because they had to handle increased patient loads and serve as a preceptor for new nurses.

The health care providers calculated how many people they expected to hire over the next 12 months in each of the nursing specialty areas and saw that the state’s existing talent pipeline was insufficient to meet industry demand. The traditional route of hiring nurses and training them internally wasn’t going to address the long-term need, so health care providers worked with their local community college, Maricopa County Community College District, to design a program that was closely aligned with their highest-demand skills—including telemetry and those needed in the intensive care unit. They also partnered with the state of Arizona to help fund new simulation labs, which would expand the college’s capacity to prepare more nursing students for these high-demand occupations. The state invested just under $6 million in these labs. The first cohort of nurses went through the training in February 2020, and the college anticipates training over 100 nurses in 2020 and another 400 in 2021.

Arizona also is home to a cybersecurity industry collaborative. Employers’ talent needs vastly outpace the number of students graduating from four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Industry leaders came together to build consensus around which competencies were needed at the entry, middle and senior levels. In the consensus-building process, they reached a point where half of the room said that they’d require entry-level talent to have fluency in the Java programming language, while the other half said that they’d require fluency in Python. They debated the merits of each and discussed whether to require fluency in both. They determined that students would not have time to learn both and decided that MCCCD should teach students Java and other fundamental programming skills, with Python being offered as an additional certification program.

Recently, the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation launched ElevateEdAZ, an initiative to prepare individuals for college and career through stronger alignment between educational institutions, businesses and the community. ElevateEdAZ is aligning program offerings to high-wage, high-demand occupations and collaborating with employers to develop work-based learning opportunities, such as internships, apprenticeships, job shadowing and teacher externships. Then it connects students to these opportunities.

During the pandemic, many employers in Arizona’s workforce collaboratives are pausing their hiring and do not anticipate hiring until the end of the year or the first half of 2021. Nevertheless, they largely remain engaged in their desire to help displaced and current workers to upskill in preparation for their future talent needs.

Arvada, Colorado

Kami Welch, president and CEO of the Arvada Chamber of Commerce, introduced the TPM approach to Arvada, Colorado three and a half years ago. In the first year, the chamber launched four sector partnerships representing employers in health care, professional services, construction and trades, and advanced manufacturing (such as oil and gas field equipment makers).

One of the most prominent accomplishments of these collaboratives has been the high level of engagement of employers, educators and others who previously did not work collectively to prepare the current and future workforce for employers’ high-demand jobs. Says Welch, “In our partnerships, everyone in the workforce ecosystem—from employers and educators to workforce boards, public schools and their boards, nonprofits and elected officials—are coming together to develop a shared understanding of our critical industries’ most pressing hiring, talent development and retention needs.”

With that shared knowledge, they are better equipped to identify common challenges and make needed changes to the workforce and educational system—from their policies to their programs. Over the last several years, these workforce stakeholders have been increasingly sharing resources to produce better outcomes. One specific issue they have been working on is aligning education and career opportunities. This is important to educators, students and workers because they want to know which upskilling and reskilling opportunities will lead to jobs that are in high demand from employers’ perspectives.

Educators and students are also asking for work-based learning opportunities like internships and apprenticeships so that students can better assess which career pathways are a good fit for them and demonstrate their employability to potential employers.

“We want people to understand the value of this work even when the unemployment rate is at 10 percent. Otherwise, we will get back to a situation where we don’t have enough people in the right industries,” says Welch. Employers appreciate this need because they have continued to convene during the pandemic. The chamber surveyed them in August 2020 to gauge how they are adjusting, and 86 percent said they’re negatively affected by child care and school closures. They find the partnerships to be a safe space to share what is working well, and what is not, in navigating this new reality. The survey revealed some bright spots: A majority said that as they emerge from the pandemic, they are interested in working more with youths and the formerly incarcerated.

The partnership has three priorities for the remainder of 2020: The first is to lead the region’s collective messaging and commitment to improving the talent pipeline. The second is to convene industry leaders, educators and trainers to help them align education and training with in-demand occupations and build capacity where needed. And the third is to identify what changes need to happen to meaningfully improve the regional talent pipeline.

Author
Acknowledgments

Our appreciation goes to the following reviewers and contributors for sharing their insights and expertise:

Peter Beard, Greater Houston Partnership
Bryant Black, Greater Houston Partnership
Niki DaSilva, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Roy Lopez, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Deborah Lyzenga, Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
Mike Malone, Texarkana Chamber of Commerce
Romanita Matta-Barrera, SA Works and San Antonio Economic Development Foundation
Jennifer Mellor, Greater Phoenix Chamber
Sharon Miller, Consumers Energy Corp.

Pia Orrenius, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Drexell Owusu, Dallas Regional Chamber
Joe Quick, Maher & Maher
Jason Saving, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
William Serrata, El Paso Community College
George Tang, Educate Texas
Kathy Thacker, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Jason Tyszko, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
Andrew Van Chau, Gulf Coast Economic Development District
Kami Welch, Arvada Chamber of Commerce

Workforce DevelopmentEducational Attainment

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