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New report shares ways “next-gen” workforce organizations can work to close the skills gap, improve outcomes for workers and employers

December 18, 2019

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Boston – Greater Boston’s strong economy and tight labor market are creating a unique opportunity for workforce development organizations, and a new generation of them are creating market-driven partnerships that benefit workers and employers, according to a new report.

Catapult Forward: Accelerating a Next-Generation Workforce Ecosystem in Greater Boston, highlights fourteen leading practices that “next-gen” workforce development organizations identified in the report and employers are using to connect to today’s pool of workers, and provides both examples of these practices in action and places where the system must improve to be able to close skills gaps. The Boston Foundation’s Project Catapult and SkillWorks collaborated with Monitor Institute by Deloitte, Deloitte LLP, to create the report.

“For Boston’s success to continue in the long term, we must take advantage of tight labor markets like we have now to build stronger partnerships between workforce development organizations and employers,” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of the Boston Foundation. “In an economy like ours, one that rewards well-prepared workers but often leaves behind those without training and skills, it is heartening to see what this report captures: a growing number of responsive, innovative programs that collaborate with employers to broaden the pipeline of opportunity for jobseekers and create higher-quality jobs and career paths.”

Fourteen leading practices help connect workers, employers and next-gen workforce development organizations

The fourteen practices highlighted by Monitor Institute by Deloitte fit into four critical competency areas:

  • Being Market Responsive
  • Focusing on “Good Jobs”
  • Lifting Untapped Talent
  • Investing in Organizational Capacity

Note: The full framework of practices by competency area is attached at the end of this release.

“By looking at both the supply and demand sides of the workforce development equation, these ‘next-gen’ workforce development organizations are laying the groundwork to have a stronger alignment between what employers demand in next-gen workers and the skills they are building in that workforce,” said Kevin McGovern, New England Managing Partner for Deloitte & Touche LLP.  “The leading practices and observations captured here by the Monitor Institute by Deloitte team can provide those with a stake in Greater Boston’s workforce development system with ideas that can ultimately help reduce economic inequality in our region, fill critical position at employers, and continue the current trajectory of economic growth.”

In addition to the framework of practices, the Catapult Forward report identifies 13 “next-gen” workforce development organizations throughout Greater Boston, with examples from each that illustrate a number of the suggested practices. The roster of featured organizations include some of the state and region’s most-recognized and effective workforce development organizations, among them: the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, BEST Hospitality Training, CONNECT, the International Institute of New England, Just-A-Start, JVS Boston, More Than Words, NECAT, Operation ABLE, Per Scholas, Resilient Coders, UTEC and Year Up.

 

Highlighting challenges in the current system

While researchers found a number of powerful success stories in Greater Boston’s workforce development system, jobseekers, employers and workforce development organizations all noted that gaps and opportunities remain, among them:

Opportunities for Workforce Providers: In addition to adopting the relevant “next-gen” practices in the report, workforce providers could improve their abilities to demonstrate the quality of impact these practices can have to both employers and jobseekers, and improve their collaboration with other workforce providers.

Opportunities for Employers: Employers could help reduce talent “leakage” by updating their hiring, retention and advancement practices to better align with current workforce conditions. They could also deepen their relationships with workforce providers and build their own collaborations with other employers to share best practices and needs, and coordinate with the workforce system.

Opportunities across the System: All sides in the workforce development system should also work to address some of what Monitor Institute by Deloitte has referred to as the “social determinants of work,” systemic barriers or obstacles that limit the effectiveness of workforce solutions—among them, the high costs of housing, child care and transportation, or “cliff effects” that in effect punish jobseekers who find work by abruptly reducing or eliminating needed benefits or hindering paths to self-sufficiency.

The report also calls for addressing the systemic barriers that create inequity of access to opportunity, by improving diversity of leadership at employers and workforce providers, building stronger participant feedback loops, and improving communication across cultures at employers through implicit bias training and other opportunities.

Both employers and workforce providers also highlighted the need for expanded investments in adult basic education in areas such as English language, financial literacy and basic computer skills. Lastly, they called for better coordinated funding and aligned incentives, and better connections and understanding of needs throughout the system. 

The report, Catapult Forward: Accelerating a Next-Generation Workforce Ecosystem in Greater Boston, is now available at https://tbf.org/catapultforward.

Table 1: Summary of Leading Practices
*Chart appears on p. 7 of Catapult Forward: Accelerating a Next-Generation Workforce Ecosystem in Greater Boston

LEADING PRACTICE

DESCRIPTION

Competency: Being Market Responsive

A. Fostering Deep and Strategic Partnerships with Employers and/or Industries

Shift from purely transactional interactions to deep and strategic partnerships with employer and/or industries to help them fill business needs; includes creating employer consortia, hiring dedicated employer liaisons, and presenting high-quality job candidates.

B. Being Nimble in Response to Regional and Economic Changes

Conduct sensing activities regularly to understand how the market is changing and adjust programming and partnerships to fill these demands.

C. Creating Talent Supplier Agreements, Possibly Including Customized Employer Training

Develop internship and/or full-time talent supplier agreements with employers, such that employers commit to dedicating a number of openings for the workforce provider’s program participants, and work with employers to develop customized fee-for-service trainings.

Competency: Focusing on Good Jobs

D. Defining and Identifying Good Jobs

Define “good jobs” based on the needs of the target population and tailor programming to help workers find jobs that meet these needs.

E. Leveraging Trusted Employer Relationships to Support Untapped Talent in the Long Term

Consult with employer partners to help ensure their hiring, retention, and advancement practices support program participants and other untapped talent to be successful in their roles, while enhancing employers’ operational efficiencies and overall talent strategy.

F. Providing Training and Pathways for Advancement and Retention (Not Just Placement)

Support workers in their career progression by providing opportunities for upskilling (e.g., incumbent worker training), paid for by employers in order to help them retain and advance their talent.

Competency: Lifting Untapped Talent

G. Offering Tailored Programming to Target Population

Design trainings with tailored content, appropriate pedagogical approaches, language instruction (as needed), and other supports that address potential barriers to employment and to help make jobseekers ready for work.

H. Providing Holistic, Wraparound Supports

Recognize the holistic needs of program participants and offer wraparound supports (e.g. training stipends, transportation assistance, coaching) as needed.

I. Offering Laddered Work Experience via Social Enterprise Model

Offer supported work experience by running a business or social enterprise in-house, serving as an employer while providing a structured training environment.

J. Supporting and Leveraging Alumni

Actively offer ways for program alumni to stay connected with, represent, and enhance the program; maintain alumni networks to support the ongoing professional development and advancement of graduates.

Competency: Investing in Organizational Capacity

K. Cultivating Intentional Partnerships with Other Providers

Build structured, collaborative partnerships to deliver a broader range of services to better serve the holistic needs of jobseekers and employers.

L. Encouraging Organizational Learning and Continuous Improvement

Maintain a mindset of and invest in constantly aspiring to do better, being willing to evolve, integrating participant feedback, and building the internal capabilities to support continuous learning and adaptation.

M. Leveraging Technology and Data Strategically

Use technology and data to support innovative program delivery and indicate program quality to jobseekers and employers.

N. Exploring Innovative Funding Models

Consider opportunities to earn revenue (e.g., running social enterprises, providing paid services to employers) or tap into unconventional funding sources to boost financial sustainability.