Employer Engagement is Critical to Effective Workforce Programs

September 29, 2014

On September 12, I participated in a discussion hosted by the Aspen Institute and the Annie E. Casey Foundation on what it means to “work on the demand side” in workforce development. For employers, that indicates a need and a desire to engage more fully in the workforce effort. The conversation included voices from a range of workforce initiatives all over the United States. Two topics that I found to be particularly valuable were:

  • Building effective employer relationships in the context of a volatile economy: Much discussion revolved around the myriad of responsibilities that employers have to their business and that workforce is just a component of their work. The group felt it was critical to make the best use of employers’ time by having effective meetings and not dragging them to some of the long and laborious conversations that we have in the workforce world.
  • Effectively measuring employer engagement: This is an opportunity for employers to help determine what they mean by engagement. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act specifically calls for a measure of employer engagement to be developed by the Department of Labor. The discussion highlighted how difficult it will be to develop a clear and concise metric for employer engagement and the importance of having employer input on the measure.

Employer engagement in the workforce system is critical today and becomes even more important as sector strategies are used to close the skills gap. Input from employers of all sizes and industries is needed to help shape meaningful workforce development. Business Leaders United is taking the lead in bringing employers’ voices to the process and looks forward to participating in and facilitating more of these conversations.