If You Train Them, Will They Come?

Chris Chmura joined a distinguished panel in Washington DC on Sunday, April 14th to kick off the International Economic Development Council’s Federal Economic Development Forum. The plenary session, entitled “Workforce Development: If You Train Them, Will They Come” set the stage for a lively discussion around the importance of workforce development, the ever-changing needs of business and industries, and how the federal agenda may help shape the intersection between the two.

Big on almost everyone’s mind was the topic of the nation’s skills gaps, broadly defined as the mismatch between the skills and qualifications of the labor force and employers workforce needs. Chris’ remarks offered a unique perspective and practical advice on how economic developers can better understand and harness the power of their regional workforce (and workforce systems) to improve their economic development outcomes.

Chris shared specific examples and data supporting the need to better align economic development and workforce development strategies. She also underscored the importance of developing a deeper understanding of regional labor markets and external market forces to point to new, unexplored opportunities or mitigate risks for communities.

Other notable panelists included Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment & Training Administration, who shared her view of economic development and workforce development as synonymous—the public workforce system role is to help people connect to jobs.

Mary Jo Waits, Director at the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices pointed out three best-practice models where businesses are successfully working together to drive change: the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Virginia, Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, and Kentucky’s Automotive Technical Education Collaborative.

Karin Norington-Reaves, CEA of Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, spoke of the need for workforce investment boards to make a paradigm shift from social service delivery to business service delivery. She now has 7 employees in her new business relations and economic development group that are focusing on 40 occupations with the greatest needs.

Also on the panel was Peter Cappelli, with the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School. Mr Cappelli was not as confident a skills gap exists at all and called on employers to renew investment in training and skills transfer in their organizations.

The IEDC Federal Forum is an annual event providing opportunity for the economic development community to get educated and advocate for federal policies that will encourage and support economic growth. You can view Chris’s entire presentation here.

Agritourism a growth market

Roger Gonzalez of The News Virginian writes (original article):

More than $22 million was spent on agritourism in the Shenandoah Valley last year, according to a recent study, and that number could rise in the next decade.

“There is potential to grow the number of agritourism businesses, room to grow jobs and capture some more revenue,” Bonnie Riedesel, executive director of Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission, said Thursday. “We knew that there was potential for it. We just didn’t have the numbers to back it up. Now we do.”

The planning district commission announced the news at the Fields of Gold Harvest Jubilee at Barren Ridge Vineyards. The event was named for the award-winning Fields of Gold program, which involves six Valley counties and five cities. It promotes the region as an agritourism destination, whether for visits to a working farm, a winery, a corn maze or a horse farm. It also seeks to create jobs on the farm and tourism jobs off.

In 2011, 226 businesses employed 704 people in agritourism locally, noted the study, done by Richmond-based consulting firm Chmura Economics & Analytics. And including multipliers, the $22.4 million spending figure rises to $34.8 million, and the employment number to 811 jobs.

Chmura estimates that about 6.7 million visitors traveled more than 50 miles to come to the region in 2010, and that that total tourism number could grow 6.2 percent in the next 10 years.

And, given that 15 percent of potential visitors surveyed said they would be very interested in agri- or ecotourism, the study said, such sales here could expand at a rate of 9.3 percent per year.

That delighted many in the crowd at Barren Ridge.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s No.1 industry,” said Matt Lohr, commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, keynote speaker at the event. “I think what we are seeing is that agritourism and opportunities to have more direct marketing between the producers and consumers, it really is big business. As agriculture changes, and we have more of a society that wants to be connected, it certainly gives more and more opportunities for farmers to take advantage of. It’s exciting.”

Moving forward, the plan is to take advantage of the Fields of Gold statistics and implement a plan to try to realize the potential growth. Complete results of the study will be available at the planning district commission’s website, cspdc.org, early next week.

“We have some other grants out there that are pending,” Riedesel said. “Hopefully we can begin to market and carry this program forward.”


Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania Among States To Be Hardest Hit By Sequestration

Forbes.com writes about a research report published by George Mason University & Chmura Economics and Analytic:

With sequestration looming, the Obama administration told contractors to not warn employees that they may be laid off due to massive cuts to defense spending. The political calculus here is obvious, if contractors comply with the Obama administration’s directive, workers across the country —including those in the swing states of Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania— will not receive notifications under the WARN Act. The WARN Act is designed to protect “workers, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.” Many commentators believe that such notifications, if sent, might impact the outcome of the presidential election.

Of course, sequestration will have an impact beyond politics, with economists predicting a devastating impact on the national economy and the economy of Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania. According to a research report published by George Mason University & Chmura Economics and Analytics, total job losses across those three swing states would total 365,484 people. On a national level, the report states that implementing the cuts in the Budget Control Act of 2011 “would severely impact the economy in 2013 with these losses reflected in reduced Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a broad based loss of jobs that could add an estimated 1.5 percentage points to the current U.S. unemployment rate.” The report continued, “[a]s currently formulated, the automatic spending cuts affecting DOD and non-DOD agencies’ discretionary spending authorities beginning January 2, 2013 will: Reduce the nation’s GDP by $215 billion; Decrease personal earnings of the workforce by $109.4 billion; and, Cost the U.S. economy 2.14 million jobs.”

Read more

Closer Alignment with Labor Demands Justifies Higher Education Investment

An article written by Chris Chmura was recently published on evolllution.com. Read the full article here.

Now, perhaps more than ever, education providers of all types can reap the rewards of adjusting their curriculum and programs to the needs of their region’s fastest growing industries. Two trends have come together to provide a once-in-a-generation chance for institutions of higher learning, career and vocational schools, and workforce training centers to boost their market share and improve student outcomes.

First, the Great Recession has completely up-ended the status quo in the U.S. labor market. We have the largest number of unemployed and under-employed individuals in a generation, and there is a tremendous amount of training money available from Washington to help retrain these folks. From community colleges to career schools, from traditional four-year universities to workforce training centers, funding can be obtained if you can demonstrate that your program will result in a “positive student outcome.” In other words, you need to build a skill-set in your students that leads them to a job. However, many schools, colleges, and workforce training centers struggle to understand which fields are growing the fastest, which industries have the best long-term prospects, and what competencies are needed for today’s “in demand” occupations.

Read more.