Is Your Company Taking the Lead on Talent Development?

November 20, 2014

(Above: U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President John R. McKernan speaks at the Talent Pipeline Management conference on Nov. 19, 2014.)

American companies are a consumer of our education system, and it’s time for them to take a more active role in creating and managing a pipeline of talent and help close America’s skills gap.

That’s the message coming out of a November 19 conference hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

The event centered on addressing one of the nation’s biggest policy problems: the disconnect between the millions of unemployed Americans and the millions of jobs left unfilled due to trouble finding qualified workers.

“It’s really been left largely to policy makers to fix,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President John R. McKernan Jr. “As the top consumer of our education system, we believe the private sector has a huge stake in addressing this challenge.”

More than 90% of company CEOs said there is a skills gap in America, and more than 50% said they have trouble filling certain positions. Estimates show that the skills gap could reach 5 million jobs unfilled by 2020.

The Chamber Foundation, in partnership with USA Funds, is urging a new approach to closing the skills gap, centered on treating the talent acquisition process like a supply chain. In a new white paper, the Foundation outlines a demand-driven approach that links talent strategy to business strategy.

 “What we need is a talent solution for our time, not one to meet the needs of the past,” said Jason Tyszko, senior director of education policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and a lead author of the white paper. “We think employers can lead the way, and they can do so by applying the lessons learned from supply chain management.”

The November 19 conference included panel discussions with several major corporations, including Alcoa, one of the global leaders in aluminum production and metals technology.

Despite big investments in building a workforce through its Foundation, the company found that it still lacked the breadth and depth of talent to meet business demands. So in 2014, Alcoa underwent an internal reorganization, with the Alcoa Foundation reporting directly to Human Resources. The new structure played a role in finding entry-level talent to build aluminum wheels at its facility in Baberton, Ohio.

Alcoa officials said they’ve been aggressive in targeting college campuses and offering young people real-world experience.

“Our internships are real internships … they are working on the shop floor and we get a lot of positive feedback from that,” said Greg Bashore, Alcoa’s global director of talent acquisition and workforce development.

The Chamber Foundation is urging more companies to follow Alcoa’s lead in using a supply chain approach to talent management.

“Despite pockets of progress and examples of success, we’re lacking scale that’s going to truly address the skills gap and the millions of jobs that could be filled,” McKernan said. “We need a systemic approach.”

For more information on Talent Pipeline Management and to download the white paper and case studies, go to TheTalentSupplyChain.org.