“Engaging employers is an important strategy for workforce development programs; it can help align programs with employer needs so participants can secure jobs (Barnow and Spaulding 2015; Maguire et al. 2010). The public workforce system has sought to engage employers for several decades, and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014 strongly emphasizes the importance of partnering with employers.
This brief offers a simple framework that lays out why workforce programs engage employers and why employers engage with workforce programs. It specifies how employers are involved with workforce programs and describes the challenges for both sides. This framework can help workforce organizations sharpen their thinking about employer engagement and their goals for such partnerships” (p.1).
“Despite the many reasons employers and workforce programs rely on each other, their collaborations encounter persistent challenges…difficulties workforce organizations face” include: competition for funding, visibility, and employer involvement; lack of capacity to effectively engage employers; and a struggle to respond quickly with enough flexibility to meet employer needs.
Common barriers employers face include: not seeing the value of partnerships, the concern for costs over benefits, and potential for poorly organized services; and wariness of working with government and non-profit organizations or with other employers.
Mutual challenges are described as: “employer engagement…can be resource intensive;” and require significant time to help workforce organizations and employer to reduce the information gap to address needs. Working with target populations, scale, and timing are also other challenges address in the framework outlined to organize and understand the goals and related employer engagement activities.
Major Findings & Recommendations
This brief identifies which organizations are trying to engage employers as: • Public entities overseeing workforce programs and funding • Organizations involved in job placement and related supportive services • Training organizations, including community college, community based organizations, and others which may also act as intermediaries. Explains why employers participate with publicly funded training programs, as: • To find qualified job applicants for open positions. • To reduce costs of training and recruitment. • To address particular training or service needs. • To meet diversity goals or social responsibility objectives Describes why workforce programs engage employers as a way to help program participants find or keep jobs through intermediate goals to: • Build knowledge of industries and occupations. • Help participants gain appropriate skills and experience. • Establish credibility and access networks. • Effect change for workers. • Generate resources. Demonstrates how employers are involved in workforce programs through five general categories of employer engagement: oversight, program design, program delivery, recruitment and hiring, and financial or in-kind resources. The framework also describe who some employers develop strong partnerships with workforce programs and with such roles further emphasized under WIOA as being deeper involved through: • Deeper involvement in certain program activities. • Involvement in a broader range of program activities. • Workforce sector partnerships “In an effort to tackle the challenge of employer engagement, workforce systems and programs that want to engage with employers can consider their goals and how these goals connect to the different ways of involving employers in workforce programs. Understanding these connections is an area for further research, along with understanding what effective employer engagement strategies look like and how they are organized and managed within workforce systems and workforce sector partnerships. Exploring these and other related questions will help stakeholders better understand how to engage employers as effective partners, not just customers, of workforce systems and ultimately improve outcomes for jobseekers and employers” (p.11). (Abstractor: Author)