Workforce Development and Contract Training – Is there a Difference?
From LERN’s perspective, Contract Training is a delivery model for business and industry
employee skill development and education.
Generally, in this model, a client company requests a class, consulting, or other performance-enhancing service, which is often customized to suit the client’s needs.
In some cases, an institution also offers open-enrollment classes with business-related content
and individuals attend classes, certificate programs and may even obtain degrees.
With the exception of degrees, of course, offerings may be credit or non-credit. Individuals may also avail themselves of work-related services like resume development and so on.
Contract Training is often sold by salespersons employed by educational institutions. In the best cases, these sales people act as “solutions architects” for partnering companies, coordinating with subject matter experts to create and deliver learning-related solutions to businesses’ performance problems. Clients are most often local, but could be regional or even global.
Workforce Development is a collaborative approach to the gradual creation of a stable and
prosperous local economy by improving individuals’ work-related skills, knowledge and
employment opportunities. Generally, the collaboration is among local governments, businesses, individuals and educational institutions. It is an modern-day evolution, some say, of the earlier workforce training approaches, which included family apprenticeships, mentoring, and workplace vocational training delivered on the job site.
Ideally, Workforce Development is part of a larger economic development and job creation strategy for a city or region. In a typical scenario, economic development experts evaluate cities or regions and analyze their short and long term needs for human resources. Workforce development may also include an analysis of the region’s equity in educational and employment opportunities and an effort to strengthen the balance in the system.
The collaboration may also seek to predict and fulfill the city or region’s workplace needs and to create an employment “pipeline” wherein, based on the needs analysis, potential workers are
educated and the graduates are employed in such a way as to fill the region’s most pressing
worker needs, thereby bringing benefit to all.
It is common in Workforce Development efforts for the partners to share access to resources and to link education with government programs and local community resources to create a more seamless offering for the individuals involved.
Workforce Development may serve both adults and youth populations. A typical approach to
Workforce Development for adults might include a network of career advancement centers
called “one stops.” These centers are organized to serve both employers seeking workers and
employees seeking work.
In some instances, these centers are also the locus for other important assistance programs
including food stamps, veterans programs, programs for people with disabilities, housing
assistance and so on. Such centers may help companies pay for the cost of hiring and
on-boarding new employees, as well.
Similar services may be offered to youth, typically between the ages of 16-21, and especially to
those at high risk of not finishing their education and not finding a job. The most effective
programs also create ancillary services that help prospective participants remove the barriers to their participation, including those obstacles mentioned above.
Ideally, Workforce Development programs are highly responsive to the changing community or
regional needs, over time. They may be charged with helping a region’s employees be prepared
to be global workers, or to advance towards a more modern skill set. As industries’ needs and
population demographics change, so too, do the approaches and offerings. This requires an
on-going dialogue between the players involved, each of whom brings a unique and essential
perspective to the table.
As a region improves its workforce skill and capacity, the more it is able to attract new
businesses and diversify its economy. This in turn creates more and better jobs, and causes the
inclusion of programs for moving people along career advancement pathways.
Workforce Development is often primarily funded by the federal government, with states and
other key community partners deciding how to invest their share. Since the resources are limited, local educational institutions must dialogue with businesses to see where the efforts and resources are best directed in any given year. Small businesses, large businesses and a variety of industries should be represented in the conversation.
As a region’s workforce matures, more companies will consider the geographic area as a
potential future site for company expansion. This in turn creates more jobs, and more and better choices for workers in the locale. These improvements often include opportunities for
promotion, competition among local businesses for the best of the workforce and therefore,
higher wages. As employment prospects improve, a community is more likely to retain its
citizens and those citizens in turn contribute to the local economy and tax base.
There are two primary approaches to Workforce Development. One is sector-based and the other is place-based.
Sector-based approaches analyze a region’s industries and determine each industry’s skill and
knowledge needs and the urgency of those needs. They determine when and where the most
immediate need is arising for specific jobs. These programs focus on creating a skill set that will
allow immediate employment, because they are designed to assist an industry sector in filling
urgent human resource needs.
Sector-based programs also work to improve the skill and knowledge level of an industry’s
existing employees. Partnerships are usually formed among unions, employers, educational
systems, community-based organizations and other training organizations. They often have the
goal of helping a community’s unemployed, but employable, citizens find meaningful,
immediate jobs that also offer future career potential.
It is typical in these programs for employers’ subject matter experts and others to collaborate
with educational institutions to create the curriculum, thereby ensuring the best possible match of need and eventual talent pool. They may also help create assessment tools, on-the-job
mentoring initiatives and so on. They may be funded by the combination of government funds
with some added support from local business.
On the other hand, place-based approaches focus primarily on the development of entry-level
opportunities for workers in order to up-scale the conditions of a locale and its population. These programs often include housing assistance, adult basic education skills improvement, English language training and similar benefits. This may include a community-development focus, especially focused on improving the complex situational factors that perpetuate joblessness and poverty in a given neighborhood or city.
By increasing the employment rate and even the number of community members involved in training, a locale may change for the better.
This, of course, is useful for both local businesses and those who may consider locating there in the future.
Workforce development and contract training are vital to both the community and economy.