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Skills-based workforce development: building careers pathways to real-world jobs.

By Christine Peng

In education and workforce development, the consensus is that there is a shift happening. States are reexamining their requirements for graduation and the associated coursework. Schools are now being tasked with equipping students with essential workplace skills, or soft skills, to boost their future employment prospects. With low unemployment, employers are looking to hire but can’t find skilled candidates. This is where skills-based training and career pathways models can help.

The Skills Economy

With the changing landscape of education and workforce, an emphasis on skills competency has emerged as a model for the future. How can you take today’s job seekers and quickly train them with the skills employers need? Skills-based training. How can you ensure that students today are prepared for the jobs of the future? Stackable credentials and transferable skills.

This forms the basis of career pathways training and education. Career pathways break down industries and occupations into knowledge and skills competencies. At the center of this are foundation skills, such as academic, personal, and workplace. From there, it branches out into industry and occupation-specific skills.

Why have skills competencies and stackable credentials become the currency of training? For workforce and human resources professionals, this is no surprise. Employers are challenged with finding skilled workers to fulfill the seven million job openings across the United States today. Some skills may be specialized, while others may apply to different pathways. But, the quickest way to fill positions is to validate an applicant’s exact skills through stackable credentials such as digital badges and industry-recognized certifications.

Short-Term Training Solutions as the New Norm

Employers are looking for trainable workers, people who have core skills that can adapt to their needs. Micro-credentialing programs are attractive to employers because of time and solid proof of skills. Programs in IT, such as coding and development, have delivered quick results to employers through boot camps both in-person and online. Skills-based training models can be applied to any industry in the same way.

Written up in the Wall Street Journal, the Eastern Connecticut Workforce Investment Board (EWIB) has perfected their training model for manufacturing through their “Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline” program. Funded by the US Department of Labor Workforce Innovation Fund in partnership with the CT Department of Labor, EWIB works directly with Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics, to source 5,000 applicants over the next few years for entry-level positions.

The program is designed for job seekers with no experience to take short-term classroom training and online training to get hired within 12 weeks. Job seekers are screened with assessments evaluating their core knowledge (basic math and reasoning, safety skills). If needed, remedial training is offered to bring their skills up to par. For those passing the assessments, they attend a custom 5-10 week hands-on program at Three Rivers Community College, Quinebaug Valley Community College, or Community College of Rhode Island. In addition to hands-on training, participants also have access to Metrix Learning where they can brush up through online courses. Over the past year, more than a thousand participants have been hired by Electric Boat and other local manufacturers. 

 

The success of the "Eastern CT Manufacturing Pipeline" program hinges on job seekers gaining the exact skills the employer needed. The workforce board sat down with their local employers and outlined the immediate needs, developed a quick solution, and implemented it for stellar results. Where there were skill gaps, hands-on and online training filled it in. The flexibility of online and short-term training helps benefit the employer, the community, and the economy. The new hires will then gain work experience and continue building their skills directly through the employer. This skills-based model can be replicated with other industries as well. The program has been so successful that EWIB is developing their health care pipeline program next.

Developing Your Own Career Pathways

You can follow EWIB's example to develop career pathways for your own community. Take the reins and invite employers to speak with you on their hiring needs. Sit down with industry groups or individual employers to find out what's relevant to your city. Attend community meetings to find out what's happening on the ground. Look at labor market data and employment trends to identify needs. Think about your current job seekers and barriers they may face. Consider how to address these challenges and create new opportunities.

To build your own workforce pipeline program, consider these steps:

You can focus on pre-existing partnership and develop new connections to form your local pathways. Consider what assets exist today (trade schools, community colleges, etc.) and how to bridge any gaps in your training pipeline. Are there opportunities to fill in gaps?

Looking for advice on developing your career pathways? Need fresh ideas on skills-based training programs? Join Metrix Learning at the 2019 Workforce Technology Conference to find out more.

About the Author: Christine Peng is a Metrix Learning workforce solutions consultant working closely with clients from 15 states to customize and implement workforce development and training portals. Her experience includes in-depth career pathways analysis and learning management system design. 



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