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Committing Statewide to a Strong Talent Pipeline

In Vermont, the needs of the business community are aligning with talent development by the education system by using TPM as a strategy for public-private partnership and sustainable growth for the state's key industries.

Investing in Talent for Tomorrow

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In a tight labor market, like that in Vermont, employers have a responsibility to “lean in” to talent development in order to remain competitive and grow over time.

11,000

worker shortage

The Challenge

Vermont’s population is about 623,000 – roughly the size of a medium-sized city. With an active workforce of around 325,000, this number has decreased annually by about 1,000-1,500 workers per year. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce has conducted research through the Vermont Futures Project, which has defined a workforce gap of approximately 11,000 workers.

This is a sobering statistic for employers and economic development officials alike. To meet this challenge, the state is in need of an infrastructure of talent development that could build the workforce needed in the current economy, and also attract new businesses and families to Vermont to grow the future economy.

The Solution

In Vermont, the economy thrives on innovation to create community-based systems and since 2016, Vermont has focused talent development on efforts to convene educators and employers. Specifically, the Vermont Business Roundtable and the Vermont Agency of Commerce put employers in the driver’s seat of those efforts.

Using Talent Pipeline Management™ (TPM) as a strategy, the Vermont Business Roundtable introduced a talent supply chain approach in the construction industry and within months, the operation had expanded to education providers statewide. The initiative has grown to include the healthcare and manufacturing industries as well. Almost 100 employers in this small state have forecast the addition of more than 5,500 new jobs across 11 critical job categories for the state’s critical industries, and education partners are mobilizing to align resources and curricula to support that need.

Why use Talent Pipeline Management™ (TPM) as a strategy?

The system-ness of identifying talent needs carried a strong value proposition for the business community in Vermont. Working with other employers in an industry collaborative, Vermont TPM™ created a process where competitors were able to develop consensus on the most critical jobs, aggregate a forecast for talent, and create a more extensive demand plan. Educators were then able to react to the talent forecast by developing or refining their programs on the supply side.

A Grassroots Effort

While it was workforce projections from the state’s Department of Labor that began the conversation with industry stakeholders, it took a grassroots effort of TPM-trained regional partners to deepen the conversation about industries’ needs for talent.

Through these conversations, they quickly learned that Labor’s projections didn’t always match actual employer forecasts.

In one case, state projections estimated a need for 3,900 registered nurses over a five-year period. Vermont healthcare employer forecasts told a different story, indicating demand for more than 1,500 registered nurses and 3,900 nurses in the nursing career pathway, but in only two years.

Making the Case for Change

Armed with research from the Vermont Department of Economic Development outlining the state’s high-priority industries (healthcare, construction, and manufacturing) the Vermont TPM (VTPM) team began meeting with employers across those priority industries to start a conversation about the need for a new, sustainable way to analyze and keep up with demand for ever-evolving skillsets.

Two years in, now working with their trusted partners, the VTPM team now provides the following key deliverables to engaged employers across the state:

  • Identification of Industry Critical Roles
  • Forecast for each critical role
  • Common job descriptions for critical roles across the industry
  • Career pathways diagrams with on ramps for all education levels
  • Connections with educators for work-based learning
  • A pipeline of skilled employees

Partnerships with Education

Partnerships with educators are a key to their success. The VTPM team introduced all state secondary, postsecondary, and higher education institutions to the concept of developing pipelines of talent directly from the classroom to available Vermont careers. Word spread to the state’s training community, including nonprofit organizations targeting specific populations to support training and lifelong learning.

With the education community bought-in and engaged, employer collaboratives across critical industries now directly communicate their talent needs to the institutions that will provide it. 

5,600+ new jobs

forecast from 2019 through 2020 alone

65%

of forecast job openings are for nurses

96 employers

in Vermont are actively engaged in this initiative

Who were the necessary partners?

This Vermont TPM team effort would not have been possible without the partnership of the following organizations:

  • Vermont Department of Economic Development
  • Brattleboro Regional Development Credit Corp
  • Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Franklin-Grand Isle Workforce Investment Board

What are the takeaways?

VTPM has instituted a model for employer-led, statewide talent pipeline management that would be a great fit for states encountering similar challenges: a smaller population, one major metro center, and employers spread across the state.

Lessons Learned

  1. Partnerships are the key to bringing stakeholders together under a common need. Having great partners doesn’t cost anything. Working together with industry collaboratives creates a stronger voice and a more compelling story in the demand for jobs.
  2. The most valuable deliverable created by employers across the state, was a career ladder diagram for each of the three critical industry sectors (example: Construction).

This career ladder diagram clearly shows, for the industry at a statewide level, the critical roles that exist and the level of education required to get there. In addition, this diagram is to inform parents and guidance counselors, updating younger workers’ unfavorable perception of certain skilled trades by making average salaries fully transparent up front. Job seekers can easily find a family-sustaining wage in a career they may not have considered before.

By working with the education and business communities to develop the career opportunities available within the state:

  • A student is able to map a career trajectory with full understanding of what will be required of them each step along the way.
  • An education or training provider can develop a curriculum or training program that will support the talent needs of employers across the state.

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