First of all, let’s be clear. You don’t solve the workforce issue and secondly, fear the person who says otherwise. So, should you run away as fast as you can screaming?
No, as a business and community leader, you should accept the challenge to enhance the workforce with passion because it is one of our most pressing challenges. Yet, it cannot be solved. You and the chamber should own this challenge and work diligently to improve the workforce for your community. This, my friends, is the word on which to focus your energy…improve.
First, everyone engaged in this effort must “buy-in” to the reality that improving your workforce is the goal and that it will take a comprehensive community approach.
Second, begin looking farther upstream to have an impact. A good friend once said, “If you wait until the future workers are in college to train them, it is too late.” He was correct, you must catch them early, and I contend…much earlier than you think.
So, let’s look at two successful initiatives that could form the foundation of your effort.
South Carolina passed an education and economic development act with several goals, including improving the graduation rate and lowering the drop-out rate…these are two different numbers, and I’m not even going to explain that here.
This legislation required Individual Graduation Plans (IGP) that each high school student must have to begin 9th grade. The IGP is renewed each year and is selected by the student, a parent or guardian, and school counselor. Parental engagement is required, which was the first victory to success. Each student is required to select a career cluster which determines their class choices, similar to a college student selecting a major. Each year, the student can select a new cluster as they “try-out” different career paths. The result is a student that begins to understand the relationship between their education and a future career. This effort has produced a steady decline in the drop-out rate, an improved graduation rate, and more engaged students.
The next effort to consider begins in elementary school because starting in high school is still not early enough. That’s right, early childhood is when you start preparing kids for the workforce. But truthfully, you are not preparing them for the workforce as much as you are equipping them with the life-skills necessary to be a successful person.
This effort is called “Leader-in-Me”, a Franklin-Covey educational platform designed to train elementary students the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” or the principles presented in the bestselling book authored by Dr. Steven R. Covey.
The Leader-in-Me platform began in AB Combs Elementary School in Raleigh, North Carolina, which has received national recognition twice as the number one Magnet School in America. This model not only teaches children to take responsibility for their actions, to set goals and to look for win-win resolutions; it instills the soft skills required of 21st century jobs that so many of our current workers lack.
Are these two initiatives alone, enough to “solve” your workforce challenge? No, but it’s a great place to start.