At the 2022 NGA Winter Workforce Symposium, state workforce development officials spoke with business leaders and subject matter experts about the benefits of advancing fair employment for workers. underserved and marginalized workers.

by Sophia Yager

Governors and Heads of State committed to increasing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as they work to expand economic opportunity and increase regional and national economic competitiveness. At the National Governors Association’s 2022 Winter Workforce Symposium, business leaders and DEI experts were invited to discuss the imperative of fostering diversity in talent pipelines. This included a focus on the role that state workforce development systems can play in developing a “business case” emphasizing the positive ROI of prioritization historically underserved and underrepresented populations as companies strive to create more equitable employment opportunities.

Moderated by Karen Kirchler, Deputy Commissioner of Workforce Development for the Georgia Technical College Systemthe conversation brought together panelists Bridgette Gray, Chief Customer Officer at [email protected]and Dane Linn, senior vice president of corporate initiatives at Business Roundtableto discuss their views.

Bridgette explained that the focus on DEI as a workforce priority was important long before the May 2020 killing of George Floyd brought national attention to systemic racism. She pointed out that amid the current labor shortage, employers need to reconsider their traditional talent pools so that they can tap into the diverse pool of underserved workers who have skills, experience and a potential for growth, but often lack access to existing pathways to employment. Dane added that the Business Roundtable’s focus on racial justice and economic equity includes working with its member CEOs to increase the impact of their organizations by committing to measurable goals for recruitment, retention and creating career paths for diverse workers.

The discussion identified three key areas of opportunity for governors and state policymakers to pursue as they advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in workforce development efforts:

  • Public-private partnerships: Employers are looking for nimble, easily accessible support from public workforce systems to cultivate more diverse talent pools, especially small businesses that lack capacity for dedicated HR or DEI staff. State decision-makers can establish partnerships with a group of key employers to find training, upskilling and recruitment opportunities for underserved populations, then extend those solutions to broader industry networks.
  • Hiring based on skills: State workforce systems can engage with employers to determine the skills they are looking for, and then work to expand access to those careers for workers who may have those skills but want them. have developed through alternative pathways like community college, apprenticeships, military service, boot camps, and work experience, rather than screening job seekers based on four-year degrees or other credentials that exclude these workers, many of whom come from underserved populations.
  • Declare as a model employer: State governors and policymakers can leverage the state’s role as an employer to model best practices for fair hiring and promoting inclusive workplaces. For example, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan recently announcement that the state is launching an initiative to officially eliminate four-year college degree requirements for thousands of jobs in the state to ensure consideration for a diverse candidate pool.

The bi-annual NGA Workforce Symposium is organized by NGA Workforce Development and Economic Policy Program staff as part of its Labor Force Development Technical Assistance Program. workforce. These meetings bring together two affiliates of the NGA Center for Best Practices: the National Association of State Workforce Board Chairs and the National Association of State Liaisons for Workforce Development Partnerships. The next symposium will be held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in August 2022. For more information on the Workforce Development Technical Assistance Program or affiliate associations, please contact Rachael Stephens at [email protected] .org.

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