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    Home : KnowledgeWayWORKS : 1997 Initiatives : Regional Workforce Coalition 
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Leaders' Meeting

One of the primary missions of the Regional Workforce Coalition (RWFC) was to provide a forum to share information and seek collaboration with member organizations. Early conversations among members disclosed a strong desire for an exchange of information. On April 18, participants were able to examine the knowledge worker demand and supply crisis from the perspective of diverse communities and constituencies. Below is a summary of key messages and initiatives presented.

The Regional Perspective, presented by Mario Morino, Chairman of the Morino Institute and Chairman of the Potomac KnowledgeWay Project

Mr. Morino challenged the RWFC to not rush to a solution before clarifying what the long- and short-term consequences of our actions. The work force, business environment, and practices are changing very quickly, challenging leaders to create solutions that are flexible. The current Workforce problem is extremely complex. It includes challenges presented by the technology and communications revolutions, the short-term pressures and needs that are having direct revenue impact, as well as the reality of an ever-changing market.

Morino had six recommendations for the RWFC:

  1. Agree on the problem to be solved.
  2. Separate short-term needs from changes needed to accommodate the paradigm shift.
  3. Focus on what information technology is today and what it is becoming.
  4. Leverage the strengths of a regional multi-disciplinary coalition involving traditional businesses, entrepreneurs, think tanks, universities, community colleges, and high schools.
  5. Consider the Coalition as the resource source on how to transition the Workforce into the digital age.
  6. The theme for every action or solution should be "Rethink" to remind us of the transformational nature of what we need to do.
The National Perspective and Challenge presented by Harris Miller, President of the Information Technology Association of America

Mr. Miller, drawing from the recently released report Help Wanted: The IT Workforce Gap at the Dawn of a New Century, supplied a national perspective about knowledge worker needs. Some key findings from the report:

  • Nationally, the number of unfilled IT jobs among large- and mid-sized firms is 190,000, or one in every 10 jobs. This is a conservative estimate since it excludes jobs in small firms, government, and nonprofit organizations.
  • Eighty-two percent of companies surveyed expected to increase the number of IT workers they employ.
  • Seventy-one percent had a higher demand for IT workers than for any other skilled workers.
  • Almost one-half of these jobs are in non-technology companies creating an increasing recruitment challenge.
ITAA is now turning its attention to developing solutions to these problems. A key component will be addressing the regional needs across industries and not just solving a single company's proprietary need. Mr. Miller went on to identify the need to find a new education paradigm that may include a new role for the IT industry and fundamental shifts in national education policy. Simply increasing the number of college computer science degrees may not be enough. Mr. Harris identified several universities he thought had or were well on their way to creating an effective infrastructure to solve their IT worker needs: Business and Higher Education Partnerships in the Greater Washington Area, presented by Patrick Valentine, Managing Partner of Colleges & Corporations, LLC.

Dr. Valentine provided an overview of a survey commissioned by the Higher Education Committee of the Northern Virginia Roundtable. The Committee, focused on the role of higher education in regional economic development, drew on a 1995 national report by Coopers and Lybrand that measured the impact of business-higher education partnerships on company profitability. In June 1996 the Committee convened a regional symposium to examine the state of partnerships in the Greater Washington region, ways they could be improved and develop an action plan to implement recommendations.

The survey of 256 regional companies revealed that compared to firms nationally,

  • companies in the region are not convinced of higher education's value in increasing company performance;
  • companies are only vaguely aware of programs offered by regional institutions, including those with current partnerships;
  • the quality and timeliness of higher education's work is considered marginal;
  • finding the right person to talk to is not a problem if companies are already in partnerships; and,
  • companies believe that neither they, nor higher education, actively pursue partnerships.
The Higher Education Committee convened a second symposium to begin implementing pilot partnerships that can resolve these challenges and bring Greater Washington more in line with national success stories.

Maryland High Technology Council Initiatives, presented by Dyan Brasington, President

Ms. Brasington provided an overview of three components of the MHTC's work force related initiatives to date.

  1. Initial Activities
    • The MHTC has a long history of involvement in education issues. It was founded to bring higher education resources to the technology community housed along the I-270 corridor – a mission that has been accomplished through new campuses at Shady Grove, and the fact that 11 universities and colleges offer courses in the corridor. Since then, MHTC established an education committee to act as a forum for the private sector and educators to help develop joint solutions. They continue to survey technology employees to determine what courses are desired, and when and where they should be offered.

  2. Current Initiatives
    • Presently, MHTC has established a pilot "Career Awareness" program for Maryland high schools. Over 350 parents and students were provided an overview of career opportunities within the technology industries of Maryland. Industry representatives also communicated what kind of academic subjects are needed to take advantage of the job opportunities. A key support material is the basic skills directory listing entry level requirements for jobs in member companies.
    • An Education Advisory Board and an active Education Network are investigating the possibility of creating a modular credential program, more job fairs and updating our employee survey.
    • MHTC is also developing a new model for work-based learning in information technology. The project will provide work-related experience for high school and community college students. The model should be up and running in September, after which it will be expanded for other technologies.
    • Another pilot program in place allows college students to place their resumes for internships on-line for MHTC biotechnology members. MHTC hopes to expand this pilot to IT companies in September.

  3. What's Ahead
    • Members need a rapid response mechanism to provide training and education. Technology is changing very rapidly, making it hard to create new curriculums before they are obsolete.
    • The technology industry not only needs people with specific technology skills (C++, Oracle, EIS certificates, etc.), but employees must also have the skills to contribute to the company's long-term needs.
    • Industry needs to take a closer look at how their policies and practices relate to supporting immediate training and life-long learning. For example, do they pay for non-credit courses.
    • There are two concepts SMHTC asks the RWFC to consider:
      1. Embrace the "earner learner" concept where a high school graduate embarks on their career and education objectives at the same time.
      2. Achieve job security by preventing skill obsolescence. An employer who supports the earner learner concept, and offers a continuing education program, allows an employee to avoid obsolescence and achieve job security.
Northern Virginia Technology Council's Proposed Workforce Readiness Program, presented by Ray Pelletier, Executive Director

Mr. Pelletier shared a proposed strategy that is focused on developing a skilled Workforce for the technology industry, its customers, and industry support organizations in the region. The initiatives described are being fine-tuned and reviewed by the organization's leadership. Before presenting the initiatives, Mr. Pelletier listed several assumptions which shaped the proposal:

  • There will be inadequate Workforce growth and attraction of skilled workers to meet the region's industry growth potential.
  • As technology becomes more persuasive, technology and non-technology companies will compete for the same set of skilled workers. It is estimated that 60% of all jobs will require technology skills by the year 2000.
  • Of the region's 2.4 million workers, it is estimated that ten percent are under-employed, and that half of those could be attracted to careers in higher wage, higher skilled technology jobs.
  • It will take Virginia's Universities and colleges at least five years to double their output of high technology quotient (TQ) graduates.
Mr. Pelletier outlined a number of barriers to solving our current crisis:
  • Lack of data regarding specific skills, experience and knowledge needed to address the current and projected Workforce shortfall.
  • Rapid changing technology makes it difficult to predict skills needed.
  • The under-employed have barriers to their successful transition into technology careers.
It is proposed that the NVTC's Workforce objectives be met in three strategies:
  • Develop a Workforce readiness infrastructure, K through life, which attracts, prepares and trains people in the region for careers in the technology field.
  • Assist technology company members in their efforts to attract a qualified Workforce to the region.
  • Create a legislative and public policy infrastructure to remove barriers and stimulate Workforce development.
The Greater Washington Board of Trade's Workforce Availability Agenda for Greater Washington, presented by John McClain, Staff Vice President

Mr. McClain summarized the Board of Trade's recently adopted Workforce availability agenda. The Board of Trade's concern about the supply and quality of the region's Workforce came from several sources, including the recently concluded strategic planning process and the 1996 Annual Report to the Community from the Greater Washington Initiative. In both settings, the increasing need for knowledge workers – those using science, technology and/or knowledge as an integral part of their job – was identified as a critical challenge to the region's continued growth as a science and technology world center.

As was identified by ITAA and others, the Board of Trade has found that all industries are currently facing a challenge in finding knowledge workers. Building on the Board's mission to serve as a catalyst, to increase member profitability, and to promote the region's economic competitiveness, the Executive Committee recently adopted the following objectives of a Workforce agenda:

  • Commission research to define specific skill levels needed by workers to meet current and future employer needs.
  • Continue providing training and counseling advice to the U. S. Office of Personnel Management to ensure released federal employees are prepared to win jobs in the region's private sector economy.
  • Develop new tools and training to enhance the recruitment strategies of member companies to attract and retain more knowledge workers to the region.
  • Support creation of a regional Workforce coalition to leverage limited resources through collaboration and coordination of efforts.
The Potomac KnowledgeWay's Workforce Enhancement Program, presented by Dr. April Young, Executive Director

PKW's Workforce Enhancement Program is built on four principles:

  • Informing people and organizations about the region's learning resources and work opportunities;
  • Connecting people to people; people to jobs and institutions and, people to learning opportunities;
  • Promoting the region as a great place to work and live as a "learning region"; and
  • Facilitating regionally focused efforts.
Specific programs include:
  • A recruitment support partnership with the Board of Trade to conduct research and provide new tools for the human resource and recruitment community resulting in the Board of Trade's Capital Move initiative.
  • Creation of a learning resources center that provides easy access to information about learning resources in the region.
  • Development of a regional strategy to create inter-university cooperation culminating in the Three Presidents' Summit.
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