Barnstable Patriot Column # 132
Written By: David Augustinho
One of the phrases that is being thrown around in workforce development circles is that local regions need to be “demand driven”. What does that mean and is it a good thing?
I guess that the first question is answered by asking whose demand? Whom should a local Workforce Investment Board be listening to?
What most practitioners understand, when they talk about being “demand driven”, is that when designing programs we need to be responding to business needs in the region. That is certainly the case for the Cape & Islands WIB.
I have been Executive Director for the local WIB for about 15 years, and in all of that time we have been focused on meeting the human resource needs of the local business community. If you ask our Board members, or me, what our big picture goal is we will respond that we are doing all that we can to ensure that there is an appropriate and available labor force for the region’s employers.
So, if we are focused on the needs of local businesses why would we need to be told to be “demand driven”? That is a great question, I’m glad I asked!
For most of its existence the federal government’s job placement efforts have centered on helping individuals who are unemployed. Most area’s find that the unemployed individuals are out of work due to a lack of skills or other barriers preventing them from securing work. The understanding generally being that these unemployed individuals need our help because no one else is going to provide assistance to them.
The consequence of this focus on out of work job seekers is that we provide inputs, like training, designed to overcome the lack of skills, or we provide supports, like child care or transportation, that are barriers to obtaining and keeping a job.
But, effective Career Centers and WIB’s have always understood that no matter what we do with individuals, if the inputs don’t match up with the jobs in a region, our potential workers will not be able to find a job. So most areas have always contextualized their training programs and services to match up with local employer demand.
But, the sense always was that we were providing help to the individuals, only in a second hand kind of way were we focusing on businesses. So, I can understand why the Federal and State workforce development leaders are focusing on a demand driven system. But, what does that mean for our region.
Well, it means pretty much business as usual for the WIB and Career Opportunities. We will continue to focus on the human resource needs of the businesses in the region. We will continue to form sector partnerships as one method of asking businesses directly what the employment needs are in their area. Currently the WIB has partnerships established in health care, technology, including marine science, hospitality/retail and a newly formed partnership in the trades.
Another tactic that we use to gain knowledge about the local businesses is through the interaction of our business services unit at Career Opportunities. Our experienced Business Services Representatives meet with local businesses on a regular basis. Through direct appointments and networking opportunities we develop a profile of the local business community.
We also use labor market information to understand the needs of employers. Projected labor demand, current workforce size and demographics all help us to gain a deeper understanding of the local employment situation.
The Cape and Islands WIB is delighted that our partners are asking us to be “demand driven”, confirming our approach to serving both the individuals seeking jobs and the employers in our region.
I want to wish all of you a happy holiday season and a safe and prosperous new year.