By Dean Whittaker

Traditionally, economic development has been about jobs and investment through the expansion of existing firms and the attraction of new ones. The task is now expanding to include recruiting people to fill those jobs. Most workforce development programs are supply-side driven, aimed at long-term solutions and not the immediate demand-side needs of companies to fill vacant positions.

This month, I had the opportunity to facilitate a Talent Acquisition Workshop, Help Wanted: People, hosted by the Tennessee Valley Authority for a group of communities they serve. Through two 2-hour sessions, I learned that a few communities were well underway in addressing the talent shortage of their existing businesses.

For example, Oxford, Mississippi has a tab on their website dedicated to “Living in Oxford.” They are using tourism as a people recruiting tool. Bristol, Tennessee’s Hiring Expo was just held for the fourth time at the Bristol Speedway with over 1,000 people attending from a 100-mile radius. The expo was promoted through social media, job sites, and print advertising.

When I asked the workshop participants what percentage of their co-workers would be eligible to retire in the next three years, the typical response was 10-25%. However, one of the person said that 50% of their school teachers would be eligible to retire! Yikes!

Earlier this year, I recorded the first episode of a Talent Acquisition podcast with Joe Raso, the then-President of Blane Canada Limited, following his presentation at the Utility Economic Development Association Spring Forum. Joe discussed the 3-by-3 approach to developing a talent recruitment strategy that was developed in conjunction with Janet Ady at Ady Advantage.

With change comes opportunity. Higher skill levels demanded by the technology drive jobs both now and in the future. Keeping and recruiting talent will be with us for the foreseeable future. Later this month, I will have the honor to participate on a panel at the International Economic Development Association Future Forum discussing the “Future of Work.” What will work look like in 2035? Stay tuned…