by Brett Melvin
In June, I had the opportunity to build and moderate a panel of skills gap experts at the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference. The 3-person panel consisted of executives from three different and seemingly unrelated organizations. Tom Weisenbach, Director of Business Development at National Transportation Center (NTC), an organization that is dedicated to bringing the opportunities within the transportation industry to life for potential student and veteran prospective employees. Lois O’Connor, Executive Director of the Ammonia Refrigeration Foundation (ARF) is part of an industry that is dedicated to bringing career opportunities to both young people and veterans in the “green” ammonia refrigeration industry, and Brad Bentley, President of Fastport, an organization that is dedicated to helping veterans and their spouses find great career opportunities when they are transitioning into the civilian world. It just so happens that transportation is a major industry they assist in placing prospective employees.
By the end of our one-hour panel discussion, it became obvious there was a great deal of overlap between the organizations and the way they were addressing the skills gap challenge. Each organization has their own unique challenge, and either is or has built their own program, and they walked away realizing that there was a synergy to them all working together in the future. This is more of the norm than an exception when it comes to workforce development solutions. When individuals have a common challenge, we may all have unique and individual approaches to finding a resolution to that challenge. In the end, we all have the same overall goal and objective which is to build an employee pipeline to solve an industry’s skills gap problem.
The more I interact with people who have experience with the skills gap, the more I realize they have in common and can help each other. For example, NTC is trying to find students and veterans to work in various aspects of the transportation industry. This includes every position imaginable from drivers, to mechanics, to warehouse workers. ARF is working to help their industry find students and veterans to work in the refrigerated industry that also includes transportation and refrigerated warehouses. Fastport helps transitioning military veterans and their spouses, which both NTC and ARF need for their industries, including transportation and warehouses.
When asked about public/private partnerships, each of the panelists brought up H.R. 5153-The USA Workforce Tax Credit Act. They all believed that passage of this bill could serve to be a tremendous public/private partnership and could help make the needed difference to urge new businesses and organizations to develop the apprenticeships and training programs that will help us to truly make a difference in the skills gap.
Tom, Lois and Brad came to the panel thinking they would talk about seeking employees for their industry or finding jobs for their transitioning veterans. At the end of the panel discussion, the first thing they wanted to do was exchange business cards and set a time for when they could talk again. All too often, we begin by only thinking about our problem and how we can find a solution, but in the end, the more people we share and compare our problem with, the more solutions we can all find!
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