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    Home : KnowledgeWayWORKS : 1997 Initiatives : Regional Workforce Coalition 
Developing A Regional Agenda for Action
Summary of Break Out Sessions
Initiatives Matrix
97 Initiatives
Workforce Coalition
Skills for Success
Leaders' Meeting

Against the backdrop of the earlier presentations, meeting participants then addressed three specific areas: private partnerships, new models for Workforce preparedness, and skills/competency standards and categories.

Breakout Session A – Private Partnerships and Best Practices in Other Regions

Session participants outlined three types of partnerships that could help address the region's Workforce needs: (1) higher education and industry; (2) government and industry; and (3) higher education, industry and government. Due to time constraints and a belief that it was the best short-term solution, session participants focused on the first partnership type.

The problem was defined as a significant gap between higher education and business in understanding, communication, goals and integration -- which undermine attempts to solve the Workforce shortage problem.

Suggested solutions include:

  • company sponsored training programs through a variety of sources (universities, community colleges or proprietary schools);
  • companies can broaden their criteria for new hires, understanding the need to take on specialized training on the job;
  • greater utilization by industry of community colleges for Workforce training;
  • building a regional database of all available training and educational resources;
  • increasing the number and size of training and education resources to meet industry needs; and
  • structuring an intermediary between business and higher education to overcome the communication barriers to effective partnerships.
The break out group listed several specific actions the region might take to solve the Workforce shortage problem:
  • Market the Center for Innovative Technology's Brainpower for Business database of education and training resources in Virginia. Seek creation of similar databases in Maryland and the District of Columbia, and link all three together.
  • Increase participation of private educational and training sources to the Brainpower database.
  • Seek federal funding for a private industry council based Regional Workforce Training Information Liaison.
  • Encourage companies to seek funding together to increase economies of scale for pricing.
  • Establish business supported funding for state and private universities to provide training, i.e., the proposed Northern Virginia Community College Center of Excellence.
  • Ask college/university presidents to evaluate their commitment to partnership programs.
Breakout Session B - A New Model for Workforce Preparedness

Participants focused on devising new approaches to attracting, training and retaining skilled workers to meeting the private sector's needs. Whatever strategies are developed for the short and long term, they must be implemented together in order to meet industry's ever changing needs.

The "earner learner" model presented by Dyan Brasington had great appeal, although participants acknowledged the need for corporations to provide support and an environment to encourage learning and working at the same time. A model to "pull" more people into the Workforce was developed. The target population segments are:

  • individuals that are currently under-employed
  • individuals currently in schooling at some level who need greater career guidance or additional skill training
  • unemployed individuals who, with support and training, could fill jobs.
The approach requires a "qualifier" process that evaluates an individual's aptitudes and capabilities to help direct them to the appropriate training or education. Essentially, supplying the person with a road map to achieving their job of choice.

Employers would have several responsibilities under this new model:

  • participate in a communications process to clearly identify needed skills
  • provide financial support for training expense to encourage existing workers to learn new skills.
Breakout Session C - Skills/Competency Standards and Categories

Participants were asked to list the skills or competencies needed to meet knowledge workers skills today and in the future for area firms. In developing the list, participants identified several challenges to their task:

  • Skills, defined as measurable, observable behavior that can be learned, and competency, a measure of how well you use skills and ability, are not synonymous.
  • While many jobs require the same skills, the competency in the skill will vary according to the job.
  • Where and when do you start training individuals for skills/competencies needed?
  • How should competency resources be evaluated?
  • Retraining is a key problem.
  • Maintaining flexibility is important.
Together the group developed the following list of skills/competencies needed by knowledge workers:
  • Communication – verbal and written
  • Adaptability and change management
  • Creative thinking and innovation
  • Ability to learn
  • Problem solving
  • Planning and scheduling time appropriately
  • Management and leadership
  • Positive attitude and commitment
  • Negotiation and conflict management
  • Stress management for a dynamic environment
Participants were less concerned about specific TQ level or skills, recognizing that those would be constantly changing as technology changed. The belief is that any worker with these competencies – at all levels – could then pick up whatever specific TQ is needed to fill an employer's needs. It was also agreed that these competencies were the core list for the future of most companies. In addition to the core competencies, participants identified additional issues that will have to be addressed:
  • workers must be able to adapt to rapid technology changes and be willing to seek retraining (continuous learning), as needed
  • every worker needs some level of TQ, but the amount and type will differ according to their job responsibilities
  • systemic barriers to producing workers with these core competencies must be addressed first
  • all levels of information technology workers: creator, provider and user
  • workers must have an opportunity to practice the skills/competencies to create a solid foundation
  • create ways to help workers keep skills and competencies current
  • organizations using knowledge workers must clearly understand their current and future needs before committing resources for worker training
  • continuous interaction between core skills/competencies and the TQ needed.
When pressed, participants were reluctant to predict what specific skills knowledge workers would need, but were in agreement that the core skills/competencies listed provided the best foundation for a desirable Workforce.
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