Shrinking the Skills Gap
Tallahassee Chamber unites employers and educators
Jobs are available, and Tallahassee has a workforce that includes many people looking for work. At times, however, the needs of employers and the capabilities of job seekers don’t sync up.
The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce is working to close that skills gap. It has committed to work with its member businesses and educational partners to create a pipeline of skilled workers with marketable, in-demand skills.
The Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) was developed to create a strategic alignment between classroom and career. Employers play an important up-front role, one that will pay dividends in years to come.
“We’re constantly talking to our members to determine what their greatest needs are and how we can best assist,” said Corrie Melton, vice president of membership and talent development for the Tallahassee Chamber. “And talent came up every time — it didn’t matter which industry they were in.”
Terrie Ard, president and chief operating officer at Moore, a marketing and communications firm, estimates that Florida businesses will need ı.5 million more skilled employees by 2030 to remain competitive. A company is only as good as the quality of its employees — as well as the ability to retain those workers.
“Talent is the No. ı thing that keeps them up at night,” Ard said of prospective employers.
Melton estimates that 60 percent of future jobs will require training after high school, ranging from a certificate program to a four-year degree.
The TPM program is in the early stages in Tallahassee. But the seeds have been planted for what could be a successful initiative, focusing on these six points:
- Educating the community and employers on the program.
- Creating a collaborative group that organizes employers to identify the most promising opportunities around similar needs.
- Creating a communication strategy and establishing hiring requirements .
- Identifying where employers historically find their most qualified talent and the capacity of those sources as well as those sources that haven’t been tapped as frequently.
- Building and managing the performance of talent supply chains to deliver a positive return on investment.
- Using data from the supply chain to identify the most promising opportunities for a future return on investment.
The Tallahassee Chamber is using a plan from the playbook that chambers in more than 25 states have successfully used. What has worked in other states has been replicated but also adapted to local employer needs.
Among the economic sectors looking for specific skills are health care, information technology, software developers, business analysts, construction and customer service. Melton also underscored that even a new engineering firm will need more than just engineers, creating openings for someone in marketing and human resources.
And the response has been overwhelmingly positive. In just a short amount of time, more than ı25 businesses have built their profile and listed 722 job opportunities on talchamber.com.
“This is the Tallahassee Chamber’s opportunity not only to address the short-term gaps and solutions but also be working toward what is the future and how can we get ahead of that curve of what’s going to be coming nine years down the road so that we can remain competitive here as a region,” Ard said.
The focus of the program extends from middle or high school students to people in their 50s. Perhaps someone is looking for a better paying job. Or a career change. Or maybe layoffs within an industry have created intense competition for fewer and fewer jobs.
That’s where TPM will partner with Leon County Schools, Tallahassee Community College, Lively Tech and others to fill the needs of employers.
“Businesses talking about the needs they have and working with education isn’t new,” Melton said. “That’s been going on. But this really gives it a very specific strategy.”
Part of the strategy is the buy-in between employers and educators, facilitated by the chamber.
“When we started thinking about talent in 2030 and what would be our goals and our initiatives, we pulled all of those entities together and really wanted to start the collaboration with sharing,” Ard said. “Each of you is doing tremendous work. But how much more powerful will it be if we all unify and we’re all rallied behind each other’s initiatives and messages?”
Soon, guidance counselors at Leon County high schools will be able to advise juniors and seniors on jobs that are directly related to coursework. Ard recalled a conversation with a friend whose son is at Lincoln High School and likes math, so she suggested to his mom that they look into a variety of career options from finance to accounting to data science.
“If they can’t see it, they can’t be it,” Melton said.