Describes lessons learned from an industry-led regional workforce partnership designed to develop a new talent pipeline in the floor covering industry in Northwest Georgia through a four-year program for high schoolers with specialized curriculum, dual-enrollment credit, paid apprenticeships, and work-based learning.

This brief describes the work of the Northwest Georgia Regional Workforce Partnership, a regional team composed of the “Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, seven flooring companies, the Technical College System of Georgia, and the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce” (p.2), to fill local industry employment gaps” (p. 1). The Economic Development Administration, US Department of Commerce commissioned seven regional teams to implement the Communities that Work Partnership to advance industry-led workforce development strategies.

 

“More than 85 percent of inventory destined for the United States carpet and rug market and 70 percent of output worldwide is produced by mills located within a 65-mile radius of Dalton, in and around Whitfield County” (p. 1).

 

The partnership is “developing a new talent pipeline for employment in local advanced manufacturing industries, with an initial focus on the floor covering industry. The new education and training pipeline builds on the local public school system’s college and career academy infrastructure and will connect high school students and graduates to advanced manufacturing jobs that business leaders indicate are difficult to fill. Floor covering industry leaders played a principal role in creating a curriculum that will prepare students for a wide variety of manufacturing related occupations, are providing financial and technical supports to the program, and will offer work-based learning experiences to high school students, giving them a foundation in advanced manufacturing that will prepare them to enter the local manufacturing workforce or continue on to higher education after graduation” (p.1).

 

The curriculum, Advanced Manufacturing and Business (AMBA), “is a four-year program to prepare high school students with essential academic knowledge and employment skills for the diversity of jobs and careers available in manufacturing in the region or for pursuing higher education in a related field. AMBA [has] three primary tracks: advanced manufacturing, logistics, and corporate administration. Many of the courses within AMBA will be eligible for dual-enrollment credit” (p.3).

 

This is one of seven briefs that documents the work of seven regional partnerships selected to participate in the Communities that Work Partnership initiative.

 

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)


Major Findings & Recommendations

Key takeaways include: 1. “To address large-scale, endemic workforce development challenges in a region, don’t start by trying to get a large number of businesses involved. Start with a small ‘coalition of the willing’ among companies with related talent pipeline challenges and an interest in developing new solutions” (p.1). 2. “Participating business leaders have noted that…avoiding or redirecting conversations that might reveal proprietary information or raise issues of ownership of group efforts to establish public education infrastructure-allowed them to create a sense of trust and shared purpose among competitors” (p.4). 3. “Use on-the-ground research such as resident and worker interviews to uncover perceptions and deep-seated barriers that get in the way of developing talent” (p.1). 4. “Look for the right business leaders-not just those with the loftiest job titles-to engage in the effort, and define success as simply how much action business leaders are willing to take to address their workforce challenges” (p.1). 5. “One of the members noted that for a cooperative initiative of this type to be successful, business leaders must be able to answer the questions, ‘Why am I here? What is it you want? How long is it going to take?’” (p.4). 6. “Find indicators of early progress or milestones when ultimate outcomes, such as a new cadre of skilled workers who get jobs in the sector, are years away” (p.1). “Industry leaders…are building labs, providing instructors, donating and moving equipment, and providing work-based learning experiences for students.…They are developing and participating in marketing and awareness activities to raise the profile of manufacturing career opportunities-and AMBA as a stepping stone to prepare for them. They are keenly interested in supporting the establishment of metrics and long-term monitoring that will help the Academy and business community to understand the role AMBA plays as a workforce pipeline” (p.5). “[I]ndustry leaders…expressed the hope that other college and career academies will adopt programming based on AMBA to prepare young people for employment opportunities specific to their communities….[T]he regional partnership hopes its workforce development strategies will translate to other manufacturing sectors, with their own workforce development needs, in the larger Georgia-Tennessee-Alabama tristate region” (p.6). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)