Strategic approach to improving Hampton Roads’ talent pipeline

Efforts to strengthen the next generation workforce and create a more vibrant, diverse regional economy have been at the forefront of discussions among workforce development stakeholders — particularly as we face an unprecedented labor shortage.

The business community’s need for a highly trained workforce equipped with the skills to respond to 21st-century job demands has peaked — creating an urgency to develop a strategy to improve our region’s talent pipeline.

In partnership with the Hampton Roads Community Foundation, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council commissioned a workforce gap analysis to gauge the region’s workforce competitiveness and prompt the development of the 2019 Hampton Roads Talent Alignment Strategy.

The six-month study on regional workforce challenges is an integral first step to help identify high-level goals for developing, retaining and attracting talent within the region; uncover recommendations on tactics to deploy across the region; and create an implementation plan to guide strategic activity.

According to employers in the region, entry-level and mid-level skills jobs are the most difficult to fill in industries such as health care, manufacturing, shipbuilding and ship repair, transportation and warehousing, and retail and hospitality.

So how do we become more responsive to these persisting challenges? The 2019 Hampton Roads Talent Alignment Strategy reveals the following tactics.

INCREASED AWARENESS AND TALENT DEVELOPMENT

As a region, we must first increase awareness and accessibility of employment opportunities. This means offering clear pathways for job seekers across all skill levels, especially for in-demand jobs. Creating more awareness throughout the K-12 system and colleges and universities will also help to introduce the emerging workforce to in-demand employment opportunities.

The Hampton Roads Workforce Council has moved the needle in this regard through its NextGen Pathways programs and events such as the Career Guidance Academy, the NextGen Regional Internship Program, and the NextGen Opportunity Fair — all aimed at preparing the next generation of workplace professionals.

TALENT DEVELOPMENT

Employers must also seek ways to support talent development through training and work-based learning models. Identifying resources and needs for incumbent worker training, while implementing mentorship and coaching programs for new workforce entrants will help ensure we have the talent required to meet the evolving needs of businesses in the region.

TALENT ATTRACTION AND RETENTION

Talent attraction and retention efforts aimed at the next generation workforce and military community is paramount. To encourage local college graduates to seek employment within the region, however, workforce development stakeholders must find ways — perhaps through partnerships with economic development — to showcase Hampton Roads as a great place to live, work, and thrive.

As important, Hampton Roads is uniquely positioned to target military personnel and their spouses to bolster the regional workforce. To better leverage the region’s large military presence, the Workforce Council — in partnership with the Hampton Roads Chamber — spearheaded the development of the Hampton Roads Veterans Employment Center to help military veterans and transitioning service members identify, navigate and access services and resources to attain their employment goals.

Since its opening, more than 1,600 veterans have been served.

In addition to the brick-and-mortar facility, the Workforce Council partnered with the Community Foundation to develop and launch the Hampton Roads Veterans Career Compass — a new custom configured portal that streamlines the job seeker and employee recruitment experiences for the military community.

COLLABORATION AND LEADERSHIP

The 2019 Talent Alignment Strategy also highlights the need for collaboration and leadership. As the regional convener of workforce development, the Workforce Council has taken the lead on fostering greater collaboration among key stakeholders and coordinating sector partnerships.

The recent collaboration with the Workforce Council and the Greater Peninsula Workforce Board, which formed the Southeastern Virginia Regional Workforce Collaborative, sets the tone for the region on how to better leverage shared resources to build a more vibrant economy.

This strategic, unified approach to workforce development will more effectively implement business engagement strategies, continuous communication and outreach efforts, program development and support, provisions of labor market intelligence, veteran transition support and services, and emerging workforce initiatives to keep pace with new technologies and career pathways.

Further, this collaborative effort is a game-changer for the delivery of workforce services to multiple stakeholders throughout the region that most employers view as one marketplace.

Workforce stakeholders in the region have begun taking steps toward effectively addressing Hampton Roads’ labor shortage, but there is still work ahead.

Through continued collaboration, industry partnerships, and a renewed focus on recruitment and retention strategies, we can create a more competitive workforce — capable of attracting new businesses and the talent to support their evolving demands and skill sets.

Copies of the Talent Alignment Strategy will be posted to VCWHamptonRoads.org and HamptonRoadscf.org on June 25.