Monday, February 6, 2017

Starting With the End in Mind

I recently had a great experience at the Winter Leadership Conference of the Council of Manufacturing Associations. I recently posted on the fact that I had been elected to their board, and it is experiences like this one that helped me decide to put my hat in that ring. Whatever I can do to help facilitate experiences like these for me and my peers, I'm all in.

It was in a session on "Industry Workforce Solutions." Nearly every staff executive in the room is facing the challenge of developing an educated workforce for the industries they represent. I know I am. Bouncing ideas, sharing successes, and raising red flags in such an environment is where I typically find the most educational value at these conferences. Take the outside expert off the stage and let me get into the problem solving trenches with my peers.

At one point, I asked the room a question. How many of you have a specific target for the number of students you're looking to educate? In my association, I told them, we're trying to define the scope of the problem so we can bring the right amount of resources to bear. For example, if we determine that there are 5,000 positions in our industry with a certain skill set, and we assume a 5% annual attrition rate among those positions, then we had better make sure that our programs, whatever they are, are producing 250 graduates with those skill sets each year, and that we're finding ways to connect those graduates to jobs in our industry. In other words, how many of you are starting with the end in mind?

Not a single hand in the room went up.

That really surprised me, but perhaps it shouldn't have. The discussion I described above is something we've just started having in my association, and we've been working on the educated workforce issue for more than 15 years now. Up until recently, the focus has only seemed to be on more, more, more.

How many educated workers do you need? More! How many grants and scholarships should we give? More! How much money should we spend? More, more, more!

I forget which of my board members said it, but a few board meetings ago, one of them forced the question. How much is enough? What are we trying to generate and how many resources should be dedicated to that purpose? It was a startling insight at our board table, just as I hope it was for some of my fellow staff executives at the CMA conference. Like most things we do, when it comes to creating an educated workforce, we have to start with the end in mind.

+ + +

This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

Image Source

No comments:

Post a Comment