From classroom to career: An overview of current workforce development trends, issues, and initiatives

By Emily Engel and Daniel DiFranco

Community Development and Policy Studies’ (CDPS) most recent Profitwise News and Views (PNV) entitled, “From classroom to career: An overview of current workforce development trends, issues, and initiatives,” derives from CDPS’ Industrial Cities Initiative (ICI). Since workforce development was the most common and the most vexing issue identified by leaders in every ICI city profiled in the report, CDPS decided to examine the issues in greater depth. This PNV issue has four main articles and four insets, each revolving around a different aspect of workforce development:

  1. “Employment polarization and its discontents: A tale of two tails” describes the steady replacement of middle-wage (and presumably middle-skilled) jobs by low- and high-wage jobs.
  2. “Is there a skills mismatch: A technical view” reviews the term mismatch.
  3. “Employer involvement” describes employers’ efforts to address what they see as a skills gap.
  4. “Is a college education worth the cost? A risk/reward perspective” examines the puzzling trend of slowdowns in educational attainment despite rising demand for high-skilled workers.
  5. “Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System” describes the strengths (and limitations) of a dataset well suited for tracking educational outcomes among postsecondary institutions.
  6. “Skills for a stronger middle class” gives an example of how the executive branch is getting involved in workforce development.
  7. “The Cara Program: Workforce development one life at a time” highlights a Chicago-based community organization that provides a persistently challenging — yet highly supportive — environment within which individuals may cultivate the soft skills necessary for navigating the modern workplace.
  8. “Second chances in the land of opportunity” details a smaller Cara program that focuses on formerly incarcerated individuals, since the barriers to employment this group faces are often so high.
  9. “Early childhood education: ‘Workforce development’ for the long run” highlights the work of advocates to bring early childhood education into the policy spotlight.

The Chicago Federal Reserve is not the only Reserve Bank that is focusing on this important topic. Workforce development is guiding community outreach efforts across the Federal Reserve System. The Kansas City and Atlanta Feds cohosted a conference entitled, “The Future of Workforce Development: Where Research Meets Practice,” in September 2012. They recently extended this discussion in a similar conference entitled, “Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century.” In the same vein, the Philadelphia Fed spearheaded efforts to convene community development professionals, academics, and leaders from the public and private sectors in a “Reinventing Older Communities: Bridging Growth & Opportunity” conference held in May 2014, an event co-sponsored with seven other Federal Reserve Banks – Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Richmond, and St. Louis.

Please read the 2014 Fall PNV Edition to learn more about system efforts regarding workforce development, as well as current trends, issues, and initiatives on the topic.

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