A Lehigh Valley economic development group is partnering with 14 universities, colleges and technical schools to create a council charged with matching workforce demands with the supply of talent generated by these institutions.
It is a rare step for an economic development agency, but it is one that the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. is taking as it tries to attract, retain and grow business in Lehigh and Northampton counties.
The council, the result of a skills gap study commissioned by LVEDC, would take the lead on determining the supply and demand of the region’s labor needs and how best to match them with educational institutions. The goal is to keep economic development engaged with the region’s producers of talent that enter the workforce.
“You can’t do economic development without looking at education and talent supply,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC.
Besides partner schools, which include Lehigh, Lafayette and Northampton and Lehigh Carbon community colleges, the LVEDC is working with the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board to identify needs.
“Workforce development is everyone’s business as we continue to address workforce gaps and the training and skills needed to ensure business and industry has a workforce qualified to meet their continuing needs,” said Nancy Dischinat, executive director of the LVWIB.
The LVEDC examined what Lehigh Valley colleges and schools produce in terms of majors and skills of their graduates. Then the organization also paired with the investment board to gather empirical data on skills and training gaps of the Lehigh Valley workforce.
LVEDC then tapped Oxford Economics, an offshoot of Oxford University in England, to analyze the data earlier this year, Cunningham said.
Oxford Economics will provide a research report and recommend strategies, according to Cunningham.
In a corollary effort, the LVEDC will form the education and talent supply council – a panel of the area’s four-year colleges, community colleges, vocational technical public schools and for-profit training schools.