Magazine article Training & Development

Alliances for Success

Magazine article Training & Development

Alliances for Success

Article excerpt

Mismatches between labor force skills and organizational needs have left astute U.S. managers in dismay. "Our attitudes have all been forged in an era when labor has been plentiful," says an HR executive at Marriott, responding to a recent survey. "That's history, and no one's really sure what the other side looks like. It's tough to do something about things you don't know about."

In simple terms, U.S. firms are facing labor force problems that they can only partially address on their own.

A large part of the labor pool from which business draw employees is poorly educated. (For more information, see the sidebar, "Further Shock.") Improved recruiting, training, and development efforts are critical, but such improvements are likely to fall short of satisfying companies' needs for skilled workers over the nest few decades. And businesses cannot be expected to provide a complete basic education for their workers.

Companies need help.

A good way to find such help is to create strategic alliances with government agencies and private organizations. We present an example of such an alliance, which was formed to address labor force deficiencies in the upstate region of South Carolina. Such alliances can attack the productivity problems of U.S. companies by combining affected communities and businesses in efforts to improve local education and training programs.

Community HR task forces

The exact membership of a task force will vary by region, but it should always involve a combination of employers, community leaders, and educators. Any of the three groups can call for the formation of the task force. Motivating people to participate should be easy if they understand the advantages and benefits they can derive from such a group.

The benefits of participating in a task force can be both long- and short-term.

Community leaders, such a members of a chamber of commerce, should be interested in the task force in order to enhance the long-term economic welfare of the region.

Employers should be interested in finding enough qualified employees to fill future jobs. Socially responsible organizations may find task force activities appealing from a humanitarian perspective. Businesses that take part in such efforts can also enhance their images--and better public relations often leads to more successful employee recruiting. Participation in such an initiative can also help businesses develop stronger ties with local governments.

Progressive educators should be interested in providing skills to students and workers that will qualify them for suitable future employment. They can benefit from receiving guidance in program development.

Educators may also benefit directly from funds that are raised through task-force programs. Such funds could be directed into scholarship programs; into educational programs that target students who belong to minority groups or who have disabilities; or into purchases of such equipment as computers and industrial machinery.

Task-force activities vary, depending on regional needs. Some examples of possible activities:

* assessing the numbers of qualified workers available for the jobs that need to be filled

* participating in job fairs

* disseminating information about labor shortages

* advising local academic institutions about future needs

* developing special educational programs such as programs to encourage literacy or mathematical competence.

Some functions, such as job fairs, are relatively inexpensive; other functions, such as special educational programs, may require fund-raising.

How the money is spent depends on several variables, including the needs of task-force participants. Other determinants include which educational levels need the most help (elementary, secondary, technical college, or college) and what kinds of skills are needed (such as communications, quantitative, technical, or craft). …

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