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Workforce Development: A Commitment From All Within

By Nia K. Benton

There are many workforce requirements and expectations that employers have for employees and potential employees, however, there is little investment made by employers to improve employee skill. They do not want to spend funds to develop entry-level employees unless they enter with more experience or education. How many times have you or someone you know been denied a job for lack of experience? How many entry-level jobs opening have you seen where the company requires two years of experience to be qualified for the job? Then once entering employment, you as an intern would work diligently to be a regular employee or part of the team and after a year or two, you are still sitting in that same intern role. This should not be so; Every member of the workforce must commit to the development, especially employers if they want to take their business to a higher level. This begins with first understand the nature of this new workforce.

The New Workforce

It is the workforce leaders that need to adapt and understand that they are not working with the same people they worked with in past generations (the Baby Boomers or Gen X). We all must contribute to the new workforce and that workforce is a different breed of job seekers. There are more youth, more poverty, and more people with limited options. We are not living in a world where there is a standard to live up to. It is now a necessity to meet people where they are at and help build them to where we would like them to be. This includes training the workforce while they are still in school; introducing them to trade skills that are no longer taught by schools. Previous generations had the prior training that led to employment right out of high school into an industry or family job. Employers need to be more connected to education systems if they want employees to enter with more skills and education. This present generation of workforce job-seekers is not afforded that widespread pre-employment or entry-level training.

How Do We Build This Workforce

Building this new workforce means to allow them to be fully themselves. It is supporting them in continuing their education. It is helping them acknowledge and understand their strengths while supporting them in developing their professional weaknesses. It is offering to be a resource and support. It is understanding their lives outside the workforce, and not holding it against them when they prioritize themselves and their families. It is helping them solve workplace conflict. It is encouraging equity of voice and taking those voices seriously. It is developing a culture of accountability without scolding. It is developing a workplace culture that is positive and empowering, ensuring that employees wake up in the morning not dreading the day ahead.

Businesses need to budget for pre and post workforce development, create partnerships with education, and create internships for potential future employees. This should be the norm and priority for businesses and local governments – not waiting until there is something wrong with the economy. There should also be more partnerships between local businesses to provide and governments to incentivize training to offer programs that incorporate the homeless and as well as ex-offenders.

Job-seekers should screen potential employers to determine what amount of investment they are making into their current workforce; what policies are in place that assists employees in situations like the pandemic. The answers to these questions should help you decide whether or not you will work with that company.

Workforce development is an ongoing process. It requires an investment of money and time. It is a never-ending commitment. It is something all employers need to prioritize and invest in if they want greater profits, compliments, and increased productivity of this new workforce.

Nia K. Benton is an Education Program Development Associate at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

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