The economic development community in Georgia, led by Governor Deal, has heard from the private sector that one of the greatest challenges facing businesses in Georgia, nationally, and globally is the need for a consistent, trained and reliable workforce. In response, Governor Deal created the High Demand Career Initiative (HDCI) to allow those state partners involved in training Georgia’s future workforce – primarily the University System of Georgia (USG) and the Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) – to hear directly from the private sector about what specific needs they have from a workforce perspective (i.e., degrees/majors, certificates, courses, skillsets, etc.). With decision makers from each of these entities at one table, we are able to gain a clear picture of what Georgia businesses need from a workforce and pair them with existing assets and/or collectively tackle any gaps, one by one.
During the first two years of HDCI, the primary focus of the initiative was to engage the private sector by collecting information about their present and future workforce needs. By hosting 17 public meetings throughout the state, which included more than 120 employers, the HDCI team heard a clear and consistent message regarding workforce needs in Georgia:
“An effectively trained workforce is essential to the sustainability of Georgia businesses.”
A range of in-demand and difficult-to-fill positions were identified, along with essential workforce skills that are difficult to find in potential employees. After speaking to employers from various industries, there were several trends found to be common among nearly all of the participating employers. However, other issues that were highlighted only affected specific industries. Through those discussions, the data and information collected has equipped the HDCI team in providing a clear depiction of statewide workforce needs that has helped influence statewide policy and programming. At the end of 2014, GDEcD released the HDCI Report, detailing the findings of the first year of the initiative.
To expand the reach of HDCI, an online workforce needs assessment has been developed to provide an avenue for employers to express their workforce needs to the state of Georgia. The assessment was designed to capture all of the relevant data and information that was collected during the public meetings. This tool, which can be utilized by other organizations and local stakeholders, can provide much broader insight and drastically increase the number of employers that can be served. Additionally, the assessment provides a way for companies to keep the state updated as their needs change.
Although the data collected during the public meetings and through the online assessment is sufficient in describing the workforce needs of Georgia employers, it lacks the ability to provide adequate details for implementing solutions at the local and regional levels.
HDCI Sector Partnerships
To address this, the HDCI team will take the next step of the initiative by working with regions throughout the state to assist with local and regional implementation of the HDCI model. HDCI will develop a HDCI Sector Partnership Guide to assist the regions in building a framework for ongoing partnership and communication between public and private sectors. To initiate this process, HDCI will host 12 regional meetings with key regional stakeholders beginning in October and November of 2016. The 12 regional meetings will serve as a continuation of the Sector Strategy Trainings, hosted by the WIOA Services Team of GDEcD’s Workforce division in March of 2016.
To assist regions with implementation of the HDCI Sector Partnerships, the HDCI and WIOA Services teams are developing grant opportunities Local Workforce Development Regions to provide potential financial support to the regional stakeholders. One of the main purposes of the regional meetings is to discuss the grant application process to ensure every region is fully equipped to submit a competitive application.
In addition, the HDCI team will be focused on utilizing the information that has been gathered to develop industry-specific task forces. These task forces will focus on acute workforce needs, identified during the first two years of HDCI and will be composed of business representatives and key stakeholders. The purpose of each task force will be to analyze the current situation and to develop innovative strategies for addressing those needs. So far, there have been two task forces created: the HDCI Information Technology Task Force and the HDCI Film Task Force.
The HDCI Information Technology Task Force was created in response to the acute need for software developers and computer programmers, identified by employers in the first two years of the initiative. The HDCI IT Task Force is composed of IT industry leaders and core workforce development and education partners who are working together to develop innovative solutions for IT workforce shortages across the state.
The HDCI Film Task Force was created to address the talent shortage in the rapidly growing Film, Television, and Digital Entertainment industry in Georgia. Specifically, the task force is intended to focus on the “above-the-line” workforce in the industry. Following the first meeting, the task force determined that their work moving forward would consist of two tracks: increasing the industry presence and resources for above-the-line work (e.g. writers’ rooms, overall creative community, marketing the potential benefits of current incentives, etc.), and improving the graduate-level training programs for above-the-line workers (e.g. expanding the Georgia Film Academy model for above-the-line, creating other post-secondary programs/fellowships at public & private institutions, etc.).
The goal of HDCI, since its launch, has been to develop an infrastructure of communication and collaboration between the public and private sectors. The regional partnerships and task forces are investments in continuing that work.