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Workforce Solutions Sought by Sector
Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017

If employers can’t meet their hiring needs, they can’t grow. If they can’t grow, they can’t be competitive. That’s the simple reality.

What’s not often simple is finding a solution to this problem. However, Michael Power with the Office of Workforce Opportunity at the NH Department of Business and Economic Affairs and Phil Przybyszewski with the Community College System of NH think they may have a good start with the statewide NH Sector Partnership Initiative.

The project is aimed at helping businesses in targeted industries address their workforce needs while also helping workers prepare for and advance in careers in these critical sectors, according to Przybyszewski and Power.

The NH Sector Partnership Initiative (SPI) officially launched in 2016 and is initially focusing on four industries: manufacturing, hospitality, health care and information technology (IT). Expansion to new sectors is possible as the demand develops.

The initiative connects strategic partners in these sectors to meet on a regular basis to develop training programs, provide services and find ways to consolidate efforts to recruit, retain and retrain workers. In addition to businesses, these partners include community-based organizations and education and training providers (such as career and technical education centers,  community colleges and registered apprenticeship providers).

The SPI team identified “sector champions” to be part of these sector partnerships—basically leaders who have strong support in their industries and pull with their networks, as well as intermediaries, organizations that are trusted by industry and other stakeholders. For example, the health care sector partnership identified 40 strategic partners and includes Catholic Medical Center, NH Health Care Association, NH Job Corps Center and River Valley Community College. The hospitality sector partnership includes almost 50 strategic partners, including Great NH Restaurants, Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council, Omni Mt. Washington Resort, Cotton restaurant and White Mountains Community College.

The initiative is supported by NH Works, a consortium of state agencies and associations that leverage their staff and align their local networks to support the sector partnerships, Power says.

Mapping out Needs
The SPI team is also providing tools to help these sector partnerships assess needs and make connections, including an asset map that gives wage data, a list of stakeholders and other resources pertinent to  employers. “If I’m the CEO or an HR guy running a small business, I don’t have time to sit at my computer and hunt down all the possible resources out there,” Power says. “I’d rather just be able to go to one place where I might find all of the data that I need and all the resources that I need all in one place.”

The goal is to be responsive to industry demand. “The workforce challenge is complex and significant from an economic development perspective,” says Matt Cookson, executive director of the NH High Tech Council, who has also worked on the initiative since the beginning and is part of the IT partnership. “We’re leaving jobs unfilled, and this inhibits growth. SPI is unique because it is industry led, and it’s creating new connections across companies with similar needs.”

To determine the sectors on which the initiative would focus, a team from Jobs for the Future, a national nonprofit that builds educational and economic opportunity for underserved populations in the United States, and the SPI team analyzed statewide labor market data and considered factors such as employment opportunities, industry concentration, education level and wages.

Health Care
Of the 88,057 health care and social assistance industry jobs in NH, 53,210–or 60.4 percent—require more than a high school diploma. That suggested to the team, according to the report, that there would be ample job opportunities for individuals completing training programs.

The SPI team’s analysis also showed that all the top health care occupations are projected to grow between 10 and 25 percent between 2015 and 2020.

In 2015, NH health sector employers posted the most online job advertisements for registered nurses, but physical therapists and speech-language pathologists were the second and fourth most commonly advertised positions, according to the report.

“Even though physical therapists and speech-language pathologists are not part of the five largest health care skills in greatest demand,” the report reads, “job-posting activity may suggest that employers are struggling to fill these positions.”

In 2014/2015, about 2,030 manufacturers in NH employed 67,801, according to the target sector report, making it the fourth largest sector in the state. Of those jobs, 19,466—about 29 percent—require more than a high school diploma. According to the target sector report, the top five manufacturing subsectors are also more highly concentrated in NH than the national average, with computer and electronic product manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing and machinery manufacturing employing the most workers.

The SPI team also found that the fifth largest occupation within manufacturing is “Production Workers, All Other,” which indicates “the nature of these jobs is more specialized, thus making a more specific occupation code harder to assign,” the target sector report states. It’s often these more specialized job positions that go wanting for workers.

As such, “a lot of the training takes place on site,” says Val Zanchuk, owner of Graphicast, a custom manufacturing facility in Jaffrey, and a sector chairman for manufacturing with SPI. “But if there were a way to get some of the fundamental skills through working together, then I think that would be good. And I think part of the mission of SPI is going to do that.”

That starts, he says, with getting the word out about what manufacturing jobs actually involve and what career pathways are available. It also means creating basic manufacturing training programs on which the sector can come to rely for a steady stream of candidates ready to work.

IT Sector
When it comes to the IT sector, there were 60,949 jobs in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, and Finance and Insurance industries in 2015, of which a portion are in the IT field. About 32,774 of those IT jobs required more than a high school diploma.

The SPI report states that, “while information technology is technically a group of occupations rather than a sector, there are over 15,000 computer and mathematical workers in Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford Counties. The SPI team determined that training IT workers through the initiative could serve the state’s professional services industries as well as provide workers with a skill set that is in high demand across the state’s other industries.”

Given the combination of low unemployment and about 3,000 open jobs in the tech sector, “we need to do everything we can to help employers find talent,” Cookson says. “SPI focuses on the training/retraining aspect, which might be the fastest way to fill some of the employment gaps.”

Cookson says the Initiative’s IT team recently completed a detailed report on the IT skills and gaps. Among its findings are:

• Companies have customized back end operations that require customized skills.

• Most smaller employers outsource support services, which demonstrates a need for entry level skills.

• There is a willingness across the sector to have people from different companies in the same training program.

It’s no surprise that hospitality is one of the state’s critical economic drivers, with a gross domestic product of $2.52 billion in 2014, according to the report. In 2015, there were 67,690 jobs in the Accommodation and Food Services, and Arts, Entertainment and Recreation industries. But when you add in the number of seasonal jobs and the ones taken as a second form of income, that number jumps to 82,676 jobs.

About 75,491—91.3 percent—of hospitality jobs require no more than a high school diploma. But there are areas where further training could lead to advancement, according to the report.

“Historically, the hospitality industry, short of two or four year degrees, hasn’t had a lot of certificate type programs in New Hampshire,” says Mike Somers, president and CEO for the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association. He is also an intermediary with SPI. “So we are actively working with the community college system to set up some pilot programs to set up some entry level, cursory training.”

Somers says his working group is hammering out solid pathways for growth that they can articulate to potential workers. “Probably the biggest thing for us that there hasn’t been a lot of effort around talking about what the career pathways in our industry are and how you would progress from one level to the next,” he says. “So we’ve been very active in mapping out what some of those pathways might look like and what some of the salary ranges might be, so that’s all in process right now.”

He says they hope to get some training certificate programs in place at community colleges by late fall. “The real benefit of the SPI is to bring all the stakeholders to the table and really promote the collaborative effort,” Somers says. “Because I think that’s what it’s really going to take: all of us to be on the same page—all of us pulling on the oars at the same time.”

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