Monday, May 29, 2017

Get Specific About Your Workforce Needs

Like a lot of manufacturing based trade associations, our organization is working hard to tackle the workforce issue our members consistently cite as the number one challenge facing their companies. Given the multi-faceted challenge this represents, we have been deliberate in our strategy conversations about what piece of the problem we will try to fix.

Our members have a wide spectrum of workforce needs, and, given the availability of other workforce development programs in the market, we need to acknowledge that our efforts can focus effectively on only one portion of that spectrum. In other words, if you need a welder, we can point you to the nearest tech school with a welding program, but we're not going to spend our time and resources on developing a welding program specific to our industry.

Our attention is more appropriately placed on the development of skill sets that would otherwise be ignored by the marketplace, those that are unique and specific to our industry.

Truth be told, it took us a fair amount of time to reach that conclusion. For too long, our strategic discussions were hampered by a lack of clarity and consensus around this core issue.

Everyone was talking about workforce development, but some were talking about welders, some were talking about maintenance techs, and some were talking about degreed enigineers. While everyone was talking about fruit, it wasn't always apparent that some were talking about apples and others were talking about oranges.

We've seen that getting specific is key to having any chance at success. Picking a category and describing the desired skill sets is absolutely crucial. Only then can you apply your resources in a way that maximizes your chances of delivering what your industry decides it needs.

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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

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