Job creation is always a hot topic in and out of politics. While job creation is good and necessary, just as important is developing workers with the skills and knowledge to fill those jobs.

What is workforce development?

Workforce development is an essential practice to help ensure that workers have the necessary skills and knowledge required for the jobs that employers have available.

Historically the role of workforce development has fallen mainly to public schools and large corporations that had the resources to do the kind of large scale development that our 20th century economy required. But that was then and this is now. What’s different? Well, first we need to look at who are the job creators and what are their needs.

At the turn of the 20th century the Industrial Revolution was going strong and with it a growing need to train legions of workers and managers for the factories that were fueling the revolution. Private industry began partnering with and funding schools that provided the training of these legions of workers. Trade schools developed line workers while the emergence of business schools provided training for managers. It’s no coincidence that many of the great business schools in this country are named after the people who founded and ran these companies.

The 21st century economy is substantially and significantly different. For the last 20 years, small businesses and startups have accounted for the majority (60%-65%) of net new jobs in the U.S. The types of skills and knowledge these businesses require are very different from large corporations. Today we need workers that have high levels of technical competence, can think creatively and are able to adapt quickly to change. In addition, the small businesses that need these workers do not have the resources to do this development work themselves or to invest in schools to do the work.

How can we foster workforce development?

So how do we as a community develop and support the kind of workforce required by our emerging small business economy? Who pays for their development and how do we make sure that there are well-paying jobs for those workers?

One solution that thedatabank has been involved in, with Ramsey County in Minnesota, is a public-private partnership between government, education and private employers. Ramsey County’s Workforce Solutions department works with local employers to identify their workforce needs and develops workers based on those needs either directly or in partnership with other educators.

thedatabank worked with Ramsey County to identify critical roadblocks that were preventing Workforce Solutions from having a greater impact in the work they were doing. The lack of effective and efficient processes for employers to identify and recruit the trained workers they needed was seen as the biggest roadblock.

thedatabank then developed a custom information solution where all parties (workers, employers, educators, and government) can easily connect so the employers can find workers with the right skills and workers get the proper training for those jobs. Since its implementation in 2007, this strategic information solution has helped foster a 700% increase in the number of connections between employers and prospective employees.

If you’re involved in workforce development initiatives as an employer, as a government entity, as a nonprofit, or as an educator, I encourage you to attend this webinar on August 23 at 2:00 PM CST to learn more about how Ramsey County Workforce Solutions is strategically using technology to fulfill their mission.