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Have you ever spent hours on a lake, pond, river or ocean and used the phrase, There’s not any fish out there!”? Well…  most of us probably have experienced that frustration at some point in our lives..

In today’s economy, we are hearing similar phrases related to finding a quality workforce.  Sayings such as, I have so many job openings, but the quality workers are not out there!”are far too frequent when I am meeting with CEO’s throughout the region. 

So what’s the problem?  Probably the same problem that you have when you can’t catch any fish…  You may be fishing in the wrong place, using the wrong bait, using equipment that is antiquated, or you just haven’t taken the time to learn about your water source.  Something has to change!

You see, in most places where there is a viable water source…. There are fish out there!  You just have to learn how to fish differently in order to find and catch them.

Employers are beginning to think differently about how to attract and retain a strong workforce.  Although the pipeline for talent has changed minimally over the years, (e.g., the values that talented workers are seeking), there have been significant developments in how employers attract talented workers to their organizations.  If you continue to do the same things and are not getting the results you are looking for, then you must change the way you value and view your talent pipelines.

Here are some simple thoughts to drive the level of change that is necessary to increase your odds of finding the talent you want.

*Take a look at your positions and determine what skills are really necessary to do this job and add value to your organization.

*Toss out preconceived requirements that may have worked in the past, but limit your access to the talent pool of today and tomorrow.  Define your minimums differently.

*Partner with your talent providers (educational institutions) to have critical conversations about what you need, and how the educational partners can meet those needs.

*Develop intentional strategies to recruit the talent you want… then create career ladders to demonstrate your commitment to all levels of the organizational hierarchy.

*Dismiss your historical views of valued credentialing and get serious about defining the key elements that you want to see in your workforce.  What do you value, and how do you value it?

*Start building early relationships with your future workforce by creating partnerships through programs that introduce local opportunities to those who have no clue what opportunities are really out there (e.g., K-64, internships, work-based learning, apprenticeships) .

So what if you have already implemented similar strategies to attract talent and you are still coming up empty?  Then you may be fishing in the wrong fishing hole.

Education also has to change in order to create a talented workforce that fits into this new mindset.  Schools and colleges that do not embrace this challenge with you run the risk of becoming obsolete.

Educational systems must be focused on the “what’s next” for our students.  No longer is it acceptable to just celebrate completion of our level of education and tell our graduates/completers “Good Luck”.  Educators must develop on- and off-ramps for our students that are easily accessible, known widely among the job seekers, and valued by our employers.  Show me educational initiatives like the Catawba Valley Furniture Academy that has a 100% hiring rate of its completers since 2014, and I’ll show you a viable model for workforce development and program sustainability.

You see, it is not that hard to get different results if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and truly create partnerships that matter.

Learn where talent is being produced, Learn how to attract it, Learn how to catch and keep it.  With strategies like this,  your thoughts will change  from There are no fish out thereto Wow, those fish are really biting… and they are Keepers!!”

By Garrett D. Hinshaw, Ed.D., President, Catawba Valley Community College

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