Best Practices for Growing Your Workforce

Best Practices for Growing Your Workforce Main Photo

14 Feb 2022

News, Workforce

As businesses throughout the country struggle to fill job vacancies, EDCs are stepping up to the plate. EDCs are working with community partners to develop innovative programs, connect talent with employers who are hiring, upskill the local workforce, and grow a pipeline of next-generation workers. Here are some of the best practices Golden Shovel is seeing throughout the country.

Best Practices for Increasing Workforce Participation

Attract Workers Who Are Commuting Out

An initiative developed by the Greater Springfield Partnership (GSP), Clark County Jobs is inviting residents to reconsider Clark County as a destination for growing their careers. The county has a history of workers living there but leaving to work in nearby Dayton or Columbus, Ohio. As the GSP has attracted major investment to the community, it’s become necessary to redirect residents' attention back to their own community for finding a job. Through storytelling, videos, and featuring local companies they are creating awareness of local opportunities.

Reach Students Early

The Greater Springfield Partnership also goes into the local high schools, hosting career and job fairs to make direct connections between students and employers. Area technical schools are participating and sharing information with students about the training that is available to them. “We want to reach students early so they understand that the opportunities in Clark County are as strong as in major metros. But, by working here, you have more time to enjoy life without the commute,” said Horton Hobbs, Vice President of Economic Development. 

York County Development Corporation in Nebraska hosts an annual Manufacturing Day to introduce high school students to local manufacturing companies and the jobs that are available. “There is often a false impression of what it’s like to work for a manufacturing company. The students we speak with are surprised by how high-tech companies are and how much opportunity there is to grow your career. In many cases, students will start after high school and then advance their careers through on-the-job training or by going to college, paid for by their company. Working for a York manufacturing company is an incredible opportunity and it’s important to highlight that,” said Lisa Hurley, Executive Director of York County Development Corporation.

Rural Minnesota CEP promotes reaching students early through an innovative program called Big Ideas, a non-profit organization from New Ulm that provides opportunities to discover, explore and learn real-world trade skills. The organization offers in-person classes but also has a “Roadshow,” which involves bringing their instruction to clients. The Mobile Learning Lab is a semi-trailer filled with three classrooms of immersive virtual reality systems that simulate welding, industrial painting, CAT excavation, and an Oculus-based career exploration program for over 20 trades simulations.

In Shelby, Kentucky, local businesses partnered with the EDC to develop videos designed to showcase the main industries located within the community, and the opportunities students have to build a profitable career. Greg Kolbjornsen, PlaceVR Executive Producer, said, “In Shelby, there was a community focus around keeping local kids in town. The videos we produced conveyed, “We have GREAT jobs right here! I believe that Libby Adams, our client, is really enjoying having these videos to use and finding success using them.”

Recruit Talent By Paying for College

Forward Devils Lake in North Dakota has an excellent attraction tool - paying off student debt. Workers who move to the community can have up to $28k of their debt paid off. There are requirements for time on the job, with some of the debt being paid by employers and some by the community. “It’s an exciting opportunity for people to live and work in a beautiful place that’s surrounded by outdoor recreation, and to save money in the process,” said Brad Barth, Executive Director of Forward Devils Lake. This is a best practice for growing the workforce that communities can implement - even on a small scale. It doesn’t have to be a large number to make an impact. Any student loan reduction could be a useful incentive. 

Develop Housing

Many communities have open jobs, but not enough residents. To make it possible for workers to move to the area, instead of commuting in for work, communities need to develop workforce housing. The Greater Fremont Development Council came up with a creative solution to do just that. They raised capital from local businesses and investors to create a fund that works as gap financing for developers. Over 1,000 housing starts have been the result. “We have secured major investments, such as the new Costco chicken processing plant, that have resulted in significant job growth. Ensuring people could live and work here has been a top priority of the community,” said Megan Skiles, Executive Director of the Greater Fremont Development Council. Not only is this a best practice for growing the workforce, but it’s also important for retaining people in the community who want new housing options.

Create Opportunities for People With Disabilities

Having a disability does not mean that people can’t work. Instead, workers may need accommodations such as being able to use a piece of equipment or technology, working from home part of the time, etc. The National Disability Institute spoke at a webinar for Golden Shovel clients looking for tangible ways to engage people of all abilities in the workforce. In Ramsey County, Minnesota, employers are already benefiting from hiring people with disabilities. Merrick offers a full array of day services to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities and they also help to place talent. They work with 100+ businesses by facilitating the direct hire of clients to fill specific roles each business requires. A Merrick employment specialist provides resume development, interview practice, on-the-job training, and intermittent support as needed to ensure the employee is meeting employer expectations.

Help Employers With Recruiting

Recruitment support has long been a best practice for growing the workforce, but some communities are going above and beyond. Montgomery County Ohio’s Job Center is the largest one-stop employment and training center in the United States and includes recruitment help, funding for training, and physical space in the Business Solutions Center. In addition to working directly with employers, they host job fairs throughout the year and have introduced a workforce mobile unit. “This is a 38-foot Freightliner filled with the technology we need to connect people to jobs remotely,” said Garth McLean, Interim Director of Workforce Development. “We are using this to go out to businesses to help them hire, as well as taking it into communities to help people in their job searches.”

Fund Training to Upskill Workers

Montgomery County Ohio also has programs like Project Hire and Incumbent Worker Training, which helps local businesses build their workforce, while also giving residents opportunities to learn new skills.

In New Mexico, the Greater Gallup Economic Development Corporation (GGEDC) developed the Greater Gallup Industrial Workforce Program (GGIWP), a no-cost 10-week upskilling program that reaches workers directly, instead of being tied to a particular employer. The program involves classroom and hands-on construction training that leads to placement into an internship, a pre-apprenticeship program, or a long-term job or career in the trades. “The Industrial Workforce Development Program is a free training program that not only prepares people for the opportunity-laden industrial field but also allows them to earn some money through on-the-job learning while still in the program,” said Liam McCarthy, Southwest Indian Foundation (SWIF) primary instructor.

Solve Transportation Challenges

In Western Iowa, Midwest Industries, Inc. began offering a shuttle service in 2018 for its employees who live in the Denison and Schleswig areas. “We felt there was an opportunity to provide a service to our employees and to further help our recruiting efforts in the Denison area,” said Ogren. “With the help of Rita Frahm, President of the Ida County Economic Board, and Chris Whitaker with Region 12 Council of Governments, we were able to get a grant to help offset initial costs for employees and the company. Currently, there are 28 employees signed up for the shuttle service. Prior to COVID, we had more than 50 shuttle riders.”

Encourage Workers to Move & Bring Their Spouse With Them

Offering housing incentives is another best practice for growing your workforce. In Phelps County, Nebraska they focused on incentivizing workers to purchase in the county, instead of driving in for work and then leaving. The GO! Home Down Payment Assistance Grants have helped to relocate 124 families over four years. For the Down Payment Assistance Reimbursement Grant to Employer, Phelps County Development Corporation matches dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 with no payback. As a result, workers can receive up to $5,000 in down payment assistance. There’s an added bonus - people often bring a spouse, adding one more potential worker to the community.

Collaborate With Local Partners

Talent attraction is more successful when collaborating with local partners. By working together, funds can be combined for advertising campaigns and multiple organizations will have a larger reach than a single EDC. This is especially true when the collaboration involves industry partners. Shelbyville, Kentucky is a good example of this in action. Four companies, an EDC, and a tech school came together with a common workforce attraction goal. They hired Golden Shovel’s PlaceVR to produce five workforce attraction videos that can be used for years to come. This multimedia approach is especially effective for reaching Millennials and current students.

Utilize Digital Advertizing

Momentum West engaged Alms Creative to produce a series of videos designed to promote the region through the use of compelling imagery and testimonials. These dynamic videos help to tell the community’s story. A digital ad campaign was designed to help get those videos in front of their target audience - potential workers and manufacturing company leaders. Throughout the campaign, Momentum West raised awareness for the region, creating an opportunity to connect with site selectors, business executives, and real estate professionals looking for sites and buildings, and created opportunities to connect with talent looking for new positions and a better quality of life. Within a month of the digital ads running, Momentum West received over 350,000 impressions across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google, and nearly 4,000 clicks from a specifically-targeted audience.

More Best Practices for Growing Your Workforce

For help with your workforce attraction strategy and marketing, contact Golden Shovel Agency.

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About the Author


Bethany Quinn
Vice President of Strategy & Content Development
Connect with Bethany on LinkedIn

Bethany Quinn is the Vice President of Strategy and Content Development for Golden Shovel Agency. She lives in Maryland with her husband, seven children, and dog Sox. Having also lived on the West Coast and Midwest, Bethany appreciates the uniqueness of each community and enjoys creating strategies that will help them grow.