May 25, 2022


As a part of our Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) National Learning Network Spring Summit last week, the Chamber Foundation hosted several panels and breakout sessions to explore pipelines of talent for new hires, upskilling, and diversifying the workforce.

The number of TPM Academy graduates has grown to 485 individuals, with an additional three TPM Academies to launch this year. The talent supply chain strategies are also employed in 40 states and Canada, with more than 2,500 employers.

The Opportunities Panel, moderated by David DeLong, hosted Sharon Miller and Laurie Mays as speakers. Miller, director of the talent pipeline at Consumers Energy, and Mays, equine and agriculture workforce project manager at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation, found ways to harness talent in their regions by prioritizing opportunity populations to deliver critical support in their communities. Opportunity populations are groups of people who experience barriers to education and employment opportunities and can include formerly incarcerated individuals, people with disabilities, and immigrants.

Consumers Energy first utilized the TPM framework in 2015, when they saw a gap in its electric line workers, especially as more workers reached retirement age. Since then, Consumers Energy has established multiple partnerships with local community colleges to create training programs. Over the past four years, those programs have trained more than 200 people in electric line work. Despite this progress, this new group of hires did not include a significant number of female and minority workers, and Consumers Energy regrouped to target those job seekers over the past two years.

“Diversity and reflecting the diversity of our community makes us a better provider to our community,” Miller said. “Innovation comes from diversity. When you are trying to do problem-solving, you get a much better perspective than when you have all of the same demographics in the room.”

On the other hand, Mays first began her efforts in 2018 when the U.S. Chamber Foundation approached Kentucky to apply a state-wide TPM model. She is one of six project managers in Kentucky, but she specifically focuses on the agriculture and equine industry. The Kentucky Chamber Foundation launched an equine industry initiative in late 2019, in partnership with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation's (TRF) Second Chances program. The program, based at Blackburn Correctional Facility, a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky, began in 1999 and offers vocational training to inmates on horse anatomy, injury care, equine nutrition, and other aspects of horse care with off-the-track thoroughbreds that are retired from racing.

Prior to the partnership with the Kentucky Chamber Foundation, individuals trained in the program did not have the opportunity to connect with specific employers in the horse industry or receive resume or interview training.

“We really use a collaborative approach to make sure we not only connect individuals to meaningful employment, but we also support our employers for employing that population,” Mays explained. “Because oftentimes, they do not know those strategies for best workplace practices, so we help to educate them through those programs or connecting them to other resources.”

Learn more about the U.S. Chamber Foundation’s TPM program and the TPM Academy here.