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As our economic development team works with companies every day, we hear over and over again concerns about labor. Some common questions include, “Can we find the right skill sets here? How can we find the right people to hire? Can we be a profitable business in Springfield with certain wage rates? What is the long-term sustainability of the community regarding our labor needs?”
These are all questions that businesses large and small, new or existing have to answer before investing in a location. These companies are making business decisions to grow. They are trying to reduce the risk of their decisions becoming failures. Continual challenges regarding the quality, quantity, and efficiency of specific labor skill sets is a big risk for a company, which is why labor is so important in the decision-making process.
And their concerns are legitimate. The baby boomers are beginning to retire, and there simply aren’t enough workers to fill their positions. This growing threat when combined with the need for more and more technically skilled workers will result in a mad scramble for talent, which we talked about in a post earlier this year.
Because of the potential magnitude of this problem, we are acting early to give Springfield an advantage in the coming talent wars. Already, some programs are beginning to take shape, and we are continually working with our partners in the community on new and innovative solutions. All of our efforts boil down to these three things: talent attraction, retention and development. Some of our approaches have immediate results, while others address long-term sustainability, but they all carry weight with businesses.
Hopefully you’ve heard about our Talent Attraction Initiative—if not, you are missing some good stuff! What you may not know about the initiative, is that it was designed to specifically target very specific gaps in the workforce identified by employers. While the initiative’s primary purpose is to provide existing employers with a resource that their recruiters can use when hiring outside the area, it also helps reassure new businesses that if they locate here, we’ll be there right with them in the talent war.
Development and Retention
In recent weeks, there’s also been quite a bit of buzz around the GO CAPS program, one of a handful of similar programs around the country. The News-Leader recently did a great story on the program that goes into a lot of detail, which you can find here. What it boils down to for students is getting real-world, professional skills and discovering where their passions really lie. The program is designed to appeal to students with a diverse range of interests and career goals. For employers, it’s about exposing these students to the opportunities that exist right here in Springfield, and ensuring that graduates have the skills they need to enter the workforce.
And this isn’t the end of it. More programs are being rolled out. More programs are being developed, and more are being created. We have to constantly ask ourselves, “What if our community could ________?”
If we don’t, one thing is clear. This is going to be an even more aggressive talent war than we’ve ever seen. It will not just be between companies. It will be between regions and communities, and it is one that Springfield cannot afford to lose.