Last month, the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation led a delegation of nearly 20 business leaders to Washington, D.C. to discuss workforce issues hindering business growth with policy experts and other businesses from across the nation.
During the three-day trip, the Foundation delegation participated in meetings with Bridgeport Education, the Trump Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Education.
In addition to these meetings, the delegation attended the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Forward conference.
From the many conversations and presentations, it’s clear that the future of the nation’s economy requires that businesses lead the way forward in closing the skills and talent gap.
During his remarks, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tom Donohue highlighted that there are two key issues creating insecurity for businesses as the economy continues to flourish.
“A lot of this insecurity can be attributed to two gaps that are preventing our nation from leveraging its talent and our people from realizing their potential,” said Donahue. “The first is a skills gap—too many people lack the skills or credentials they need to compete for 21st century jobs. The second is a people gap—too many businesses can’t find the workers they need, when and where they need them.”
Donohue’s remarks at the Talent Forward conference echoed concerns from Christopher Liddell, Assistant to the [U.S.] President and Deputy Chief of Staff of Policy Coordination.
Liddell shared that while businesses are struggling to find qualified talent; the current state of economic growth provides an opportunity to develop the workforce needed for today’s modern economy.
As a part of this, the Trump Administration launched the Pledge to the American Worker, which is focused on workforce development and convening businesses to participate in the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board and move the economy forward.
Leaning into employer-led solutions
Through four targeted workforce collaboratives, the Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation is leaning into employer-led solutions to strengthen Arizona’s talent pipeline. The Foundation is proud to be leading the charge in Arizona as the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) partner, focusing on the needs of key industries and professions, including financial services, health care, construction, and cybersecurity.
TPM emphasizes a supply chain management model to close the skills gap and creates an employer-led approach to workforce development and student training programs.
In order to help businesses streamline hiring processes—and to ensure that education providers utilize consistent and effective curriculum that directly relates to career tracks—the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is launching the Job Data Exchange (JDX).
The JDX is a set of open data resources, algorithms, and reference applications for employers and their HR technology partners to use in improving how employers communicate competency and credentialing requirements for in-demand jobs.
Greater Phoenix Chamber President and CEO, Todd Sanders, participated on the Technology and the Talent Marketplace panel during the Talent Forward conference. Sanders highlighted that the JDX will provide a platform to help close the gaps between education and employment.
“We’ve been working in an analog world when it comes to sharing these skills, and we need to move digital,” said Sanders.
The JDX will put employers in the driver’s seat when it comes to determining qualifications while empowering the American worker to manage their employment opportunities and skill development.
Moving forward with apprenticeships
During the conference, a key part of the conversation focused on expanding the way America develops talent.
“The goal is to ensure that every student graduates from high school prepared for the next step—whether that’s college or career,” said Donohue. “And, by-the-way, a four-year degree is not the only path to prosperity. Work-based learning, such as apprenticeships, can lead to fulfilling careers.”
Apprenticeships offer employers a way to develop “job-ready” talent. They offer the opportunity for employers and educators to effectively marry classroom education with on-the-job training for students.
More importantly, apprenticeships offer many Americans the opportunity to earn an income while learning and developing a skill.
The apprenticeship model offers an alternative pathway to success for both students and employers—one that will play a significant role in bridging the skills gap and in strengthening the talent pipeline in many industries.
Another alternative solution that provides needed talent to employers and flexible learning opportunities for employees and students is project-based virtual internships.
Through diverse, employer-led approaches that work in tandem with education providers, the community can come together to provide solutions that meet the needs of business and that help opportunity youth, unemployed individuals, veterans, and so many others to take the first steps toward a lifelong career.