Community Development and Policy Studies Update

April 6, 2015

In the Community Development and Policy Studies (CDPS) Department’s field work throughout the Seventh District, CDPS contacts – in varying contexts – have voiced concerns about conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities. CDPS’ goals include conducting research on community and economic development topics that impact lower-wealth, lower-income, and recent immigrant populations, as well as other economically disadvantaged communities. CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve LMI communities in varying ways. CDPS survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of: real estate development; finance; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services. This blog is a summary of workforce development responses from the latest CDPS survey in conjunction with feedback from recent publications and a Federal Reserve conference.

After exploring the question of workforce skills shortages and/or mismatches with city leaders during the Industrial Cities Initiative, CDPS has put workforce development front and center. From the most recent survey, echoing past observations from city leader interviews, the broad consensus is that high school students are not learning the fundamental skills in school or that there is a mismatch between what the companies are looking for and the skills that job candidates have to offer. (There is much debate, however, about the role of structural versus cyclical forces impacting worker demand and employment levels. Peter Cappelli, Professor of Management and Director at the Center for Human Resources, Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, spoke about this at the Future Focus: Preparing for Workforce 2020 conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in February 2015. For further information, please see our prior blog about the conference.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago is engaged in the workforce development discussion and has published a couple pieces on the subject since the topic was one of the themes raised during our Industrial Cities Initiative. A 2013 edition of ProfitWise News and Views highlighted community college efforts to partner with major employers to train workers: Community Colleges and Industry: How Partnerships Address the Skills Gap. CDPS is continuing to learn about the actions that community colleges take through our survey. During this round of the survey, we learned that community colleges around the District are: (1) taking an active role in helping students determine what jobs will be in demand after graduation; (2) becoming more attuned to demands of manufacturers and other higher skill industries in the community; and (3) creating more industry/college partnerships.

In 2014, an entire edition of ProfitWise News and Views was dedicated to leading workforce development practices: From Classroom to Career: An Overview of Current Workforce Development Trends, Issues and Initiatives.

CDPS has further examined the subject by co-hosting a one-day conference with Northern Illinois University Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) entitled Future Focus: Preparing for Workforce 2020, on February 19, 2015. The event brought together approximately 100 academics, workforce intermediaries, financial institutions, and municipal leaders to discuss both workforce development challenges and successes locally, regionally (specifically in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin), and nationally. Please visit the Future Focus: Preparing for Workforce 2020 website for a detailed agenda and links to the presentations from the conference.

The views expressed in this post are our own and do not reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System.


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