At the Crossroads of the workforce in the South
Posted On July 16, 2018
By Che Watkins, The Center for Working Families
This column has talked a lot about the current state of workforce in the South, Georgia and Metro Atlanta. The reason is because we are truly at a crossroads as it relates to employer and potential employee needs. Employers are looking to hire aggressively and workers are looking for better job opportunities that can provide them with a livable wage job and opportunity for growth. The challenge is that the nature of work is changing rapidly and the current openings are for middle-skilled jobs that require education and training past high school. The metro region has done remarkable work over the past few years to help stand up organizations that can address this issue, but the work continues. We must continue to invest in proven strategies that deliver results.
The National Skills Coalition has recently issued a report that specifically focuses on the needs of Southern economies.
The economic potential for the South is significant and the goal of the report is to provide state policymakers with additional tools to help close the current skills gap.
The majority of the recommendations are things that we are already working on which is great to see. For example, the report recommends that states use workforce development strategies such as sector partnerships and work-based learning initiatives. Governor Deal created the High Demand Career Initiative to begin to align resources along industries that have been identified for growth in Georgia. The Center for Working Families is a proud partner in the healthcare initiative. Additionally, the report recommends establishing job-driven financial aid programs that help individuals receive funding to enroll in community college programs. A great deal of progress has been made with the HOPE grant process to encourage that.
However, there are a couple of recommendations where we need to continue to push the needle:
1) Give communities financial support and resources needed to implement high-quality workforce development strategies at the local level. There are a number of local workforce organizations that need more guidance on braiding funding resources in order to see better outcomes on the ground and in the communities of need where most of these organizations work.
2) Create state data systems that provide information on how training programs are helping residents of all backgrounds to get skilled jobs. Part of how local organizations show the success of their programs is through data, which is sometimes very difficult to collect. A statewide system would help report outcomes frequently and consistently.
Georgia and Metro Atlanta have both made tremendous progress on workforce. We must all continue to work together to keep the momentum going and ensure that was is currently a problem, doesn’t become a crisis.