In May 2022, the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) approached the Career Connected Learning team at the North Central Educational Services District with the idea to host an employer round table event to hear from the community and discuss ideas for expanding worksite learning and apprenticeships.
The NCESD CCL Team jumped at this opportunity to engage additional partners and assembled a number of community leaders from local industry, government, and community-based organizations. A coordinated workforce development strategy has the potential to offer each employer access to customized workforce development solutions.
On June 9th, workforce development partners including Skillsource, NCW Tech Alliance, the North Central Educational Services District (Career Connect Washington), Big Bend Community College, and the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC) came together to connect and hear from dozens of local employers.
The discussion highlighted potential strategies and additional local and system partners like the Workforce Development Council, Association of Washington Businesses, Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Labor & Industries, Office of Insurance Commissioner, and Employment Security Department who could add valuable resources to the collective effort.
The format for the round table was structured in a way that encouraged small group conversations. Each table had an anchored workforce development partner and attendees from the industry rotated through small-group conversations to highlight their needs and consider strategies for the credentialed workforce, short-term skilling, worksite skilling and apprenticeship, long-term talent development, and specific recruitment strategies.
The overwhelming feedback from attendees was that this was a valuable conversation, and many employers noted that they had not realized that they had so many resources available to them to support their workforce development needs.
At the close of the event, it was decided that there will be a subsequent roundtable event dedicated to workforce development perhaps on a quarterly basis. Future events will include additional workforce partners and AJAC has suggested several potential topics and workshops that could be considered to help employers consider strategies for employee engagement.
These continue to be challenging times, and these complex issues aren’t solved in a single morning, but communities that can come together to listen and learn from one another benefit from the connection and coordination of their efforts, shared resources, ideas and leadership get a collective impact that is greater than the sum of the individual parts, and that is a great reason to be at the table in Grant County.
Workforce development has been a pressing issue for community leaders across Grant County, Washington for a number of years. Key sectors including aerospace, data centers, manufacturing, food processing, and healthcare have had chronic staffing shortages and employers have struggled to find or develop the skilled workforce that they need to remain competitive in national and global markets for these industries.
The COVID-19 pandemic made this worse, as a significant number of the incumbent workforce considered new occupations, retirement, or adjusted due to life circumstances like access to childcare, adult care, or health-related struggles. Some employers worked to quickly adopt new technologies to improve output, only to find new gaps in the technical skilled workforce needed to maintain new operating conditions.
The result of these compound issues has Grant County unemployment at historic lows (see orange line in the graph below) and talent acquisition for skilled laboring roles is more difficult than ever before.
Data Dashboard: https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/labor-area-summaries
The Grant County workforce development issues have not gone unnoticed, and a number of economic and workforce development investments have been introduced over the last several years aimed at recruitment, development, and skilling. Several of these investments yielded promising results, but these have had a somewhat siloed impact or have had difficulty sustaining the solution over time or scaling to meet the demands of new or growing businesses.