Workforce Reform Legislation Passes
August 4, 2014 | Posted by Christine Smith

Big news that’s gone under the radar: Both houses of Congress voted to pass legislation that streamlines and reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA). WIA is 11 years overdue for an update – and dozens of bills have been proposed and stalled since 1993. In the end, the legislation that passed was the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIAO). The legislation sped through review and passage and received widespread approval – only 3 Senators and 6 members of Congress voted nay. Last week, President Obama signed WIOA into law.

WIOA won't go into effect until 2015 but we’re excited by some of the opportunities presented by the new legislation. But first a brief review:

Why is WIA important for workforce development?

WIA is one of the key policies used to determine who is eligible for training and how training funds are distributed. WIA sets allocations, procedures and the approval process for how government workforce training funds are distributed at the state and local level.

WIA specifies who gets picked to deliver workforce training programs.

WIA provides guidelines on how workforce development training providers – known as Eligible Training Providers (ETP) – should be selected and evaluated. WIA gives state governors and local workforce investment boards authority in reviewing ETP applications – and makes it easy for schools and for-profit businesses to apply to serve as trainers.

Why is WIA hard for associations and professional societies?

In a majority of situations, associations must apply at the local level to obtain ETP authorization if they want to be reimbursed for providing training services. It would be a great deal of work for a national association to apply to be a local provider every time someone wants to take a course – especially as education institutions and providers of apprenticeship programs have an easier pathway to ETP approval under WIA!

There need to be changes in the ETP selection criteria – it must be easy for national professional societies and associations to serve as ETPs and provide workforce training at the local level. At first glance, the new legislation doesn’t make it any easier for associations to do this. However, WIOA does open some windows. According to the National Skills Coalition, key features of WIOA* include:

Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs). WIOA generally maintains the current structure of state and local workforce boards, continuing to require a business majority and chair. However, the number of required members is reduced.

Our take: This is good news. Committees with fewer government appointees and more business representatives may recognize the value of association training programs that can be implemented efficiently and effectively.

State and local plans. WIOA requires a single, unified State plan covering all core programs authorized under the bill. The plan must describe the State’s overall strategy for workforce development and how the strategy will meet identified skill needs for workers, job seekers and employers. Local plans must be aligned to the strategy described in the State plan, and must describe how services provided at the local level will be aligned to regional labor market needs.

Our take: This new approach sounds great in theory – if states are willing to look at national resources beyond their borders. Knowledge, benchmarks, and standards offered by associations may prove invaluable in the research and creation of planning.

Performance measures. WIOA creates a single set of common measures for adults across all core programs authorized under the bill, including both occupational training and adult education programs, and a similar set of common measures across all youth serving programs authorized under the bill. Adult measures include: unsubsidized employment; median earnings; receipt of a secondary diploma or recognized postsecondary credential; measurable skills gains toward a credential or employment; and employer engagement.

Our take: This new approach sounds great in theory – if states are willing to look at national resources beyond their borders. Knowledge, benchmarks, and standards offered by associations may prove invaluable in the research and creation of planning.Our take: Pay-for-performance contracts should increase performance of workforce training programs – and worker success. Those programs that are under performing could be replaced with industry-based certification and sector-specific resources where no local training is available.

In summary, WIOA is an ambitious piece of legislation that aims to:

  1. Reduce the bureaucracy of Workforce Investment Boards

  2. Ensure local attention to labor market needs, and

  3. Implement pay-for-performance standards for occupational training and adult education.

WIOA may not offer all of the changes we wanted to see, but it's clearly a step in the right direction – and it will be interesting to see what opportunities open up for associations in the process. We'll keep you posted!

*Text from National Skills Coalition's analysis of WIOA is in italics.

Christine Smith

MIT Conference on the Crisis of Long Term Unemployment: Challenges and Opportunity
May 14, 2014 | Posted by Christine Smith

We were honored to receive an invitation to attend a small conference at MIT addressing long-term unemployment (LTU). We took advantage of the opportunity. Here are three take-ways from researchers, workforce development administrators and service providers:

  1. The long-term unemployment rate – those unemployed for 27 weeks or more – remains at an all-time high in comparison to all recessions since World War II.

    Over 35 percent of currently unemployed workers are classified as long-term unemployed. Prior to 2008, the record was 26 percent in the 1980s.

  2. The need for reform in workforce training delivery is clear to government workforce training administrators.

    “There were less than 200 training vouchers available for the entire city of Boston in 2013”
    - Jennifer James, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Workforce Development.

    In the program keynote, U.S. Assistant Secretary of Labor Eric Seleznow called for everyone to communicate a sense of urgency – and the need for speed to fix long-term unemployment. “We need to be able to help people get a job very, very quickly – providing short term training or retooling as necessary.”

    “There are nooks and crannies in the job market. We need to find them,” said Seleznow. Advanced manufacturing was cited as a hot spot, “We have 100,000 jobs out there and waiting, we need to get people back to work.”

  3. On the Job Training Funding is Misunderstood

    According to Ben Siegel, DOL Senior Policy Advisor for the Unemployment and Training Program, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is more flexible than people realize. Employers providing On the Job training can be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of training costs – and the DOL allows waivers where states can access up to 90 percent of program costs.

    (We were especially pleased to hear this because WIA Section 122(f) stipulates that OJT instructors and providers can be eligible for funding without going through the Eligible Training Provider application process. This is, in other words, an opportunity for associations with training programs of interest to employers.)

    The collective brainpower and expertise harnessed to address the LTU problem is energizing. This was the first conference hosted by MIT’s Institute for Career Transitions and we hope to be involved in future discussions. As Emily Allen, Vice President of AARP’s Income Impact, observes “Discussing long term unemployment is like looking at an elephant with a blindfold on, everyone can only describe the perspective where they are.” To solve the problem we must work on this together. This is a start.

Christine Smith

Success by Association: The Case for On-Demand Learning
May 6, 2014 | Posted by Christine Smith

Rapid access to training is critical for people between jobs but under current Department of Labor programs, it can be hard to get started even when Federal funding is available. Applicants face long approval processes, delays and wait time for courses to start.

Here’s a window where professional societies and associations offer a unique continuing education opportunity. Many organizations offer their members – and some online visitors – free on-demand webinars and training courses. These programs often include the opportunity to earn continuing education credits, and can help anyone with relevant knowledge of a field. On-demand training programs are available across industry sectors from the Arts, Communications, and Non-Profits to Engineering, Healthcare and Manufacturing. Here is a sampling:

  1. Americans for the Arts
    Free webinars for members on topics ranging from Core Skills and Leadership Development to Private Sector Initiatives. (Annual Membership Cost for an Individual: $50)

  2. American College of Cardiology
    Membership is limited to Physicians, Nurses, Practice Managers, Pharmacists and Physician Assistants, but the site includes free webinars on Cardiovascular Coding Changes (for medical billing), the Physician Quality Reporting System, and tools for improving Quality and Practice Performance. For those interested in learning about healthcare and medical records administration, free training is a great deal.

  3. American Society of Administrative Professionals
    Free memberships, live webinars, and "learn it in a minute" videos. On-demand webinars are available at cost.

  4. American Society of Transplantation
    Free webinars on best practices and field specific knowledge for transplant surgeons, coordinators, pharmacists, nurses, and physicians. (Membership is contingent on a minimum of one year of experience in the transplantation field; dues start at $90 for those in training.)

  5. Healthcare Financial Management Association
    Healthcare executives and senior leaders can't afford to lose touch with current trends and requirements in their field. Over 50 free on-demand webinars for members on topics ranging from Leadership and Compliance to Payment, Reimbursement and Managed Care (Membership fees range from $376 to $471.)

  6. IEEE Computer Society
    Instant access to 16 Knowledge Centers and 600 online books from leading technical publishers– all free to members. (Affiliate membership is $125 a year. Full membership requires completion of 4-year degree program.)

  7. Grant Professionals Association
    Webinars on best practices and processes for researching, writing, and administering grants are free for members; $60 for guests. (Membership fees range from $87 to $209 depending on level of experience.)

  8. Project Management Institute
    Digital edition of industry standards, 28 on-demand webinars, tools and templates (Annual Membership Cost: $129)

  9. Public Relations Society of America
    On-demand access to over 75 webinars on topics including Crisis Management, Ethics, and Professional Development (Annual Membership Cost for Associate Members $155)

  10. National Wellness Institute
    Members receive access to on-demand webinars and live events on health, wellness and continuing education. (Annual Membership Fee: $125)

While a vast majority of these programs require membership dues, the fees are small in comparison to the knowledge, training and networking opportunities provided – especially when you consider that credit for many classes at community colleges may be non-transferrable. Unemployed individuals who showcase new knowledge learned are likely to be stronger, more visible candidates for current openings. We look at these resources and see a clear contribution associations could make to workforce development, you?

In the big picture, new strategies of learning new information on demand are imperative. The process of employment recovery is like learning how to ride a bike: the faster one can get back in the saddle, the greater the chances are of re-establishing balance and long-term stability. Former White House economist Alan Kreuger conducted a longitudinal study on the long-term unemployed and found that in any given month only “36 percent of those workers were in a job 15 months later." This is often not for trying -- MIT graduate student Rand Ghayad sent out 4,800 computer generated resumes with varying dates of employment and found that those who had been unemployed six months or more rarely received job interviews – even when they had more experience.

At last count, 3.5 million people are reporting long-term unemployment and a separate DOL report shows 4.1 million job openings. To move forward, we all need to pick up the pace.

Christine Smith

As WIA Reauthorization Stalls, Three Strategies for Retraining
April 22, 2014 | Posted by Christine Smith

The Tidal basin cherry blossoms have come and gone in DC, but there’s still no sign of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Reauthorization in Congress. WIA, the Department of Labor’s self-described framework for a “national workforce preparation and employment system designed to meet both the needs of the nation’s businesses and the needs of job seekers and those who want to further their careers,” was slated for renewal over 10 years ago.

During the winter months, we kept a close eye on legislation offering a potential opportunity for associations to play a larger role in workforce development programs. While new funding opportunities for collaborative sector partnerships and apprenticeship programs have been announced, we continue to see very few clear pathways for professional societies and associations with a national – or global – focus. By and large, the call for proposals in these Federally funded initiatives encourage participation by local educational institutions and businesses – often the same employers already designated as Eligible Training Providers under WIA.

While we are encouraged to see opportunities in workforce development training, many of these programs may not meet the needs of highly educated workers who are unemployed and in need of retraining. According to an analysis conducted by Georgetown’s Center for the Education and the Workforce, three out of five online job listings are for white-collar and STEM occupations. This is good news for those who have the skills, education and training, however, the picture is bleak for those who are educated but currently members of the long-term unemployed. As of January, the number of long-term unemployed remained higher than it was pre-2008 in 41 states and the District of Columbia.

What happens to the publishing executive out of a job when her newspaper goes digital? What does a Windows XP administrator do when the plug is pulled on the office’s legacy computers – and there’s been no retraining? Where does a healthcare administrator turn after a conversion to electronic medical records makes his monthly reporting obsolete? If there’s a long gap between employment opportunities, long-term employment prospects may be elusive -- Alan Krueger, a former White House chief economist, analyzed unemployment data from 2008 to 2013 and found that only 36 percent of workers were in a job 15 months after their unemployment began. Of those, only 11 percent were in regular, full-time jobs.

We believe professional societies and trade associations are well equipped to help individuals in need of retraining. While we continue to advocate for WIA’s reauthorization and an expanded role for associations in workforce training, we also recognize that individuals in need of retraining need it now – and not later. Over the next six weeks, we will be shining a spotlight on the following three ways associations can help:

  1. On Demand Access to Training

    Many professional societies and associations offer their members the benefits of on-demand webinars, training courses and other resources for self-study. These resources can be tapped to fill knowledge gaps, train for new opportunities, and keep pace with changes in technology and industry.

  2. Certification Programs

    As we’ve discussed before, it’s relatively easy for individuals and organizations to hang up a shingle and offer certification and training programs. Not all of these programs are recognized in the professions they are marketed towards.

    But across many disciplines, professional societies and trade associations have a long-standing tradition of educating and assessing knowledge through well-established Industry-bBased certification programs. For many individuals, these programs offer quality program offerings and skills training not available elsewhere.

  3. Focused Job Listings

    Many jobs seekers experience additional rejection when applying to positions on general job boards outside their industry or area of expertise. While approximately 800,000 more people have jobs this year than did at this time last year – the number of discouraged workers (or those who have stopped looking for jobs) has only decreased by 100,000 – or 12.5 percent. Associations can help fix this by offering focused job listings. (Our company, Boxwood Technology, hosts over 1,000 career centers for associations so we have an in-depth knowledge of this particular resource.)

    Professional societies and associations offer online job listings that are specific to the industry and profession in which they serve. These concentrated listings – and the networking resources available through the hosting organizations – can help the long-term unemployed forge much needed new connections.

In recognition of the needs of our current workforce – employed and unemployed – we will provide additional information on the availability of these three resources in weeks to come. It may not be the full solution we feel associations and professional societies can offer individuals and employers in need of workforce development resources, but it is a start – and we’re not willing to allow the grass to grow beneath our feet as we wait for legislation to pass.

Christine Smith

The Close It Summit... It's really happening!
November 13, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith

At this very moment there's something really cool happening in our nation's capitol. Tactics are being developed and hundreds of passionate people are engaged in an important cause. No, you may not have seen it on the evening news. It has nothing to do with partisan politics or foreign policy but we are excited and encouraged about the work being done.

For the past few days 300+ people assembled in DC for Close-It, an inaugural summit dedicated to solving our nation's skills gap crisis. There was thoughtful debate on many topics, including the role of credentials, certifications and training vs. traditional degrees. If you've missed my previous posts on the skills gap or are unfamiliar with the skills gap crisis, the problem is simply this: Millions of Americans are currently out of work, but there are about 4 million jobs that are open but can't be filled because employers can't find employees with the skills they need. Period. Huge problem that, left unchecked, would surely spell disaster.

The corporate leaders, manufacturing innovators, educators and, yes, associations that were in attendance and leading sessions have been inspiring and motivating. It's beyond comforting to know we all share a common goal to create a new education to employment paradigm.

Jamai Blivin, founder and CEO of Innovate+Educate (the summit organizer), led an interesting session where she shared her belief that industry must be a key driver in systemic change in both education and the workforce. Innovate+Educate has become a leading voice across the US for industry alignment that will help advance college, trade and vocational schools and career readiness across the States.

Another fantastic session was led by Toni Preckwinkle, Board President, Cook County, IL. What a powerhouse - a true trailblazer on workforce initiatives. There's so much more to tell you about, but the bottom line is we're finally ready to start tackling this problem. I'm happy to report associations will be represented strongly for their ability to offer education and training across myriad industries.

My colleague John Bell and I were excited when we wrote The A+ Solution, but being here in DC this week with over 300 like-minded folks has really energized me. People are coming together to demand action be taken and we need to be the ones to take it. The skills gap is a huge problem in this country and I'm thrilled to be part of the movement to help close it.

Wow, what a couple of days. I'll check back in with you with more thoughts on the Close It Summit. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @Boxwood_Pres using the hash tag #CloseIt.

Christine Smith

Your Association Can Play a Role in Solving the Skills Gap Crisis
October 29, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith

Thousands of tweets. Well over 100 articles in respected publications. TV commentaries. And that's just in the month of October. The skills gap topic is clearly an important and relevant issue. Associations can make—and should be making—a difference yet are being left out of the conversation.

Well, not surprisingly, one media outlet has gotten the story right. In Need Skills to Pay the Bills? Associations Can Help, Associations Now tees up the skills gap challenge with an eye toward the role that associations can play. The story references industry studies, includes comments from the Executive Director of the Precision Machine Products Association discussing the skills gap challenge in manufacturing and includes highlights from The A+ Solution.

With all of the skills gap media coverage I think it's fair to say we're on to something. We're already contacting the reporters writing on the skills gap to bring the role of associations to their attention. We'd love to add your voice to the growing list of association professionals supporting our position that associations have a significant role to play — with resources and infrastructure in place today. Overlooked far too long, it's time to help associations get the recognition they deserve. Join us by signing our petition — we'll be taking it to Capitol Hill to get policymakers educated on the role associations can play solving our country's skills gap challenge.

Christine Smith

Let’s Get the Workforce Investment Act Re-authorized to Ensure Critical Training and Development Programs are Available for Workers
October 25, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith and John Bell

NSC logo

The shutdown is over, and we need your help to ensure that legislation keeps pace with national workforce development needs. Boxwood Technology has added our name to a sign-on letter started by the National Skills Coalition urging Congress to vote on the re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) now—and not later. Over 180 other organizations from the United Way Worldwide and Goodwill to the National League of Cities and U.S. Conference of Mayors have signed on, too. Will your organization join us in supporting this important funding for workforce training and development?

It takes less than five minutes. Here’s a direct link to learn more about the letter and to sign it: Friday is your last chance to sign on to the letter and tell the Senate to bring WIA to the floor.

What's in it for associations?

Great question. You see, the WIA specifies how state and local governments for workforce training programs and employment services can access and use Federal funding. WIA was signed into law 15 years ago; it passed with a caveat that the act must be re-authorized every 5 years so that legislation can be responsive to the changing needs of American workers, employers and industry.

We’re currently 10 years overdue for re-authorization. In the interim, professional societies and trade associations—organizations that often have best-in-class training programs for their respective fields and industries—are primarily unable to educate individuals through federally funded programs. Associations are unable to provide these services largely because of WIA regulations on how potential training providers get approved.

Our book, the A + Solution outlines the invaluable contributions that professional societies and trade associations could make if able to provide workforce training programs and resources to communities and job seekers across the U.S. The book also calls for WIA to amend processes and regulations regarding the eligibility of training providers. But for now, that’s putting the cart before the horse.

First, Congress must bring current proposals for WIA re-authorization to a vote.

We agree with the National Skills Coalition: While we believe that “improvements could be made to the Senate’s WIA bill, including providing dedicated support for sector partnerships, it is important that the bill move through the legislative process.” Clearing this hurdle will allow us to further advance our mission of helping professional societies and trade associations gain a more visible role in workforce development programs.

Over 1,000 sector partnerships have been developed across the U.S. in recent years—WIA’s reauthorization would help facilitate local economic development and help future partnerships to develop and flourish. Imagine the benefits this could have on your sector and industry.

Will your organization stand with us on this? If yes, sign up here. It will only take a few minutes but the potential benefits could be felt for decades.

Thanks in advance for helping us raise our voices for change.

Christine Smith & John Bell

Checking the Numbers: Is the Manufacturing Skills Gap Bigger than We Think?
October 17, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith and John Bell

In the U.S., much depends on the monthly Employee Situation news released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on the first Friday of each month. Analysts review, the stock market reacts, and everyone gets a broad picture of hiring trends and outlook by industry. Economic development professionals, government workers, employers, politicians and job seekers use the data to project areas of growth, invest in job training and skills development.

But what if the numbers are wrong? Economics professors point to an error in data classification. At Dartmouth College, Tuck School of Business faculty Andrew Bernard and Teresa Fort say the skills gap in manufacturing may be much greater than we think. The culprit for the faulty math: “factory-less” companies that design and coordinate the production of goods aren’t counted in the manufacturing numbers. Bernard and Fort point to Apple as a prime example of this faulty number: Because almost all of Apple manufacturing takes place as overseas, Apple is counted as a wholesale firm in the official numbers.

Based on the Bureau of Labor statistics numbers, the manufacturing sector lost 6 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2009. Bernard and Fort estimate that if you take into account factory-less companies, up to 1.9 million jobs were added in manufacturing in 2007 alone. Even in 2010 – when the U.S. unemployment rate was hovering close to 10 percent – MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics – said that the skills gap in supply chain management had never been greater.

Having the right numbers are important because they can help us fix the larger problem of getting Americans back to work. Over 9 million iPhones were sold within three days of the release of the new iPhone 5s and 5c. Store stock was depleted. There’s a long line of back orders.

Think about how gaps in inventory and production affect the economy. When there aren’t enough people to ensure proper inventory of supplies, coordinate manufacturing and distribution schedules, consumer spending slows – and so do the markets. How we count the jobs matters, because we need to pay attention to where the opportunities are.

Christine Smith & John Bell

The Government May Be Closed But Associations Are Open for Business!
October 3, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith

Here we are on the third day of the government shut down and I find myself, like others, wondering how we ended up here. I guess I had more faith in our legislators to problem solve. Although on further thought I have been challenged to understand why our policymakers for so long have overlooked associations as a potential solution to the workforce crisis.

Associations are open for business today and the federal government is not. Associations are offering continuing education, professional development and training programs for thousands of Americans today while 82% of the Department of Labor (DOL) workforce is furloughed. According to the DOL guidelines for sequestration, employees on furlough cannot help job seekers even if they want to do it on their own time - it is forbidden to work as an unpaid volunteer.

Association programs are running despite legislative stalemates and delays in federal funding. Trade associations are providing industry reports, trends and analysis while the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is not (the monthly jobs report will not be issued this Friday as planned). Before the shutdown, economists had forecast gains of 180,000 new jobs in September. The markets were expected to rally. Now analysts and the markets will struggle to interpret data not to mention determine the effect of the shutdown on the overall economy.

The rich resources, programs and initiatives of associations are not halted on the basis of a government shutdown. These resources should not be overlooked - especially now. Help us demonstrate support for including associations as part of the solution to our country's skills gap crisis by signing our "Include Associations" petition. I hope you'll add your name to the growing list of association supporters.

Best, Christine Smith

Clean Drinking Water for Everyone: If Only We Had the People
September 4, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith and John Bell

Every year, 400,000 children die because they don’t have access to clean water. Peter Martin believes these deaths are preventable, using technology and systems that already exist and are in current use elsewhere. “We have a vast amount of water that we can’t drink but we have the technology we need to clean much of it,” says Martin, a Ph.D. and Vice President of global technology company Invensys. “Just look at Dubai, they now have some of the most pristine golf courses that have ever been created. The courses are fed by fresh water; the land was originally a desert. You can take water from the Arabian Sea or the Persian Gulf, desalinate and purify it – and then you can drink it.”

Many of the processes performed to purify water can be accomplished through automation technology. When people think about automation, they often think about robots replacing the human workforce – and mass layoffs caused by the change. In reality, automation is – as defined by the Automation Federation - “the creation and application of technology to monitor and control the production and delivery of products and services.” Here's a small example of the benefits of automation you may receive before you leave your house in the morning: automation processes turn off the light inside your refrigerator door; automation processes make it possible to pre-schedule bill payments, leave voicemails, and prepare your morning coffee while you shower.

Martin and many others believe that automating processes make it easier to increase efficiency, create more high paid jobs, and solve global problems such as dirty water. “Science and automation have solved many of the water problems in Dubai, these solutions can be adapted and we can use them in Africa. We can make clean water available; we have the technology we need to make these changes and move forward. To make the change happen, we need access to inexpensive energy, a government or commercial commitment to sponsor the effort, and to train workers in automation processes required to desalinate and purify the water.”

As is the case in many industries, finding the people to fix the problem may be the biggest hurdle to overcome: thousands of current job vacancies in the automation industry remain open due to a lack of available trained workers. The demand for new workers is especially strong in the areas of Cybersecurity and in energy-related positions. Automation professionals play a key role in efforts to create and enhance the Smart Grid, a national initiative to replace the aging infrastructure of America’s electrical system. (Did you know our current electrical grid was developed in the 1890’s and has not been uniformly upgraded in a consistent manner?)

To bridge the skills gap and address these problems, Martin and many others in his field are working together under the auspices of the Automation Federation. Founded in 2006 by the International Society of Automation, the Automation Federation (AF) is an association of over 16 member organizations – including the National Career Development Association, the Society of Women Engineers and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation. Through the Automation Federation, members work together to provide programs and services that advance the field and promote awareness of the profession. Current initiatives include the development of curricula for a Bachelor of Science degree and an Associate’s degree in automation engineering. Program goals are to provide undergraduate students with the “multi-disciplinary education and practical background necessary to begin performing automation engineering work in any industry.”

The Automation Federation provides a powerful example of how professional societies, trade associations and communities can work together to solve national problems. You can learn more about this effort through our case study in our book, The A+ Solution.

Do you know of similar big problems that could be addressed locally – or globally – through narrowing the skills gap? If yes, share your vision, ideas, and suggestions with us. Drop an e-mail to our colleague Dave Bornmann, and we'll be in touch.

Christine Smith & John Bell

Trucking: See a Need, Solve a Problem
August 13, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith and John Bell

Across the U.S., there are currently 3.8 million job listings. If you look at openings by industry, one of the largest areas of employer need is in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. At the time of the last official report from the Department of Bureau of Labor Statistics, the trade, transportation and utilities sector alone had 797,000 vacancies with 154,000 openings in transportation, warehousing and utilities alone. For those who want to move goods or keep the lights on, this is good news.

But look underneath the numbers, and there’s a strong need for professional societies and trade associations to provide a steady hand in keeping people employed after they’ve been hired.

Let’s look at the trucking industry. Across the country, there are hundreds – if not thousands – of local driver training schools that serve as Eligible Training Providers for individuals eligible to receive funding for workforce development initiatives. Many truck driving schools and companies also participate in the Registered Apprenticeship program – allowing individuals to earn money while they learn the industry and how to work as a trucker.

But there’s a huge persistent problem in worker retention across the trucking industry. The American Trucking Association reports that “quarterly turnover at large truckload fleets – fleets with at least $30 million annual revenue – rose in the first quarter to an annualized rate of 97 percent from 90 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012.” The retention problem also exists for smaller truckload fleets, where the quarterly turnover rate is 87 percent.

The trucking industry provides an example of how professional societies and trade associations can help keep an industry workforce healthy and productive. To understand how associations can help, let’s first examine the reasons for the turnover.

There are several reasons for the high turnover rate; the most obvious is supply and demand. There is a huge competition among companies to hire drivers with experience in the field and a clean driving record. But there’s also another factor at play here: the psychological challenges presented by the job. Driving a truck can be psychologically isolating. Many truck drivers spend hours on the road alone fulfilling their responsibilities to make safe deliveries on time. There are – for the most part – no central water coolers at which company employees gather on the road. There are relatively few opportunities for drivers to feel connected to their profession, especially given that they change jobs so frequently

Professional societies and trades associations can fill this void. Trade associations can – and do – educate trucking companies and the public on safety and industry trends. Professional societies in the field provide individual members with resources that often include continuing education, certification programs, and the opportunity to buy into group benefit plans. They can also provide truckers with a network of peers, potential mentors, and colleagues – and opportunities to connect with one another. Professional societies such as the American Society of Transportation and Logistics also provide transportation professionals with training opportunities to earn certifications that can help them advance in the field regardless of whether they’d like to stay on the road or work in the field in a different capacity.

In new legislation, there’s a growing demand for training providers to offer industry recognized credentials that are portable. Given that the trucking industry is all about distribution, portability seems especially important here! Many professional societies in the trucking industry offer programs that could be useful to both current workers in the field and newcomers.

We believe that trucking societies and professional associations could help reduce high employee turnover rates. We also believe that expanding individual access to proven safety programs and certification trainings would help keep our roads safe.

Trucking provides one example of the benefits of expanding the involvement of associations in workforce training. Do you see others across different industries? Share.

Christine Smith & John Bell

A Message From The Authors
August 1, 2013 | Posted by Christine Smith and John Bell

We wrote the A+ Solution to present an innovative approach that gets more Americans back to work and provides employers with the skilled workforce they need. As a nation, we've struggled with how to address the skills gap that exists across industries from manufacturing and healthcare to IT and business. Many attempts have been made to solve the problem and create jobs - from federal programs to the state and local level. Countless training programs, employer incentives, and initiatives have been developed. Yet almost 4 million jobs remain open as over 12 million people remain unemployed.

There's consensus that the current system is broken. For the past 10 years, legislators have presented, debated and reviewed dozens of bills calling for an overhaul of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA), a primary channel through which federal funding is dispersed to states for workforce training. Despite several bipartisan efforts, no legislation has passed the House and the Senate - though there's a greater consensus now than ever before that change needs to happen.

Our book proposes a solution to the problem that makes good use of pre-existing resources already available through over 70,000 U.S. based professional societies and trade associations. These nonprofit organizations offer educational programs and resources ranging from industry-based certification programs and continuing education to on-demand webinars and knowledge sharing communities. By and large, these resources and programs are not available to individuals receiving funding for workforce training programs - in part because they are not included on lists of Eligible Training Providers at the local level.

If professional societies and trade associations were allowed to partner with local workforce development initiatives and providers, it would expand job seeker access to industry specific training resources that meet employer needs. These organizations could also contribute industry knowledge and training to partnerships between industry employers and key stakeholders from government, labor, and community organizations - at a time when more than half of U.S. states are designing or implementing these sector-based partnerships for economic development and job creation.

This blog will provide an overview of current employer needs, workforce development trends, and employment related legislation. We'll provide case studies of sector partnerships, new training initiatives and best practices to "mind the gap, bridge the gap, and close the gap." We'll demonstrate opportunities for professional societies and trade associations to make a difference - and cover current programs that currently are.

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Christine Smith & John Bell