By Lucia Cape
Senior Vice President Economic Development, Industry Relations & Workforce
Huntsville/Madison County Chamber
Since 2010 the Huntsville Metro has added more that 23,000 new jobs to its economy, and our employment and population growth have been robust as well. A Deloitte study shows that we still have workforce capacity in our target industries, but the Chamber is committed to staying ahead of the talent curve. Based on our experience following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure that brought nearly 5,000 new jobs to Redstone Arsenal, the Chamber has initiated a strategy to increase career awareness among students and the un/underemployed while attracting skilled and educated people from other parts of the country.
The three main components of this strategy are youth engagement, both during and outside of the classroom; promotion of “smart careers” that will continue to be in demand across the region; and recruiting in targeted locations that have high concentrations of the types of workers we need. The Chamber has conducted workforce activities for decades, but recent growth has given us the opportunity to increase our efforts.
Youth engagement will focus on building a network of resources – people and materials – that can be used to excite students about careers in aerospace, defense, information technology, advanced manufacturing and life sciences. Focus groups will help identify the most effective resources, and the Chamber will coordinate “boots on the ground” to supplement existing career prep resources.
“Smart Careers” will utilize an online portal that will integrate career, training, and employment resources for students the un/underemployed population. The Chamber will support development and implementation of the portal and provide opportunities for regional employers and partners to have a presence on the site.
National recruitment will take our Smart Place message on the road to hiring venues for tech workers, college graduates, transitioning military, and security-cleared individuals. A commercial technology task force that met throughout 2017 has provided insight into reaching non-traditional audiences, and market analysis will be used to identify the best locations to target. ASmartPlace.com will be revamped to serve as a one-stop for regional employment and relocation support.
Existing Chamber partnerships with The Chamber Foundation and The Schools Foundation for Industry Insights, State of the Schools and College and Career Fair will continue and other joint efforts added as needed to meet the needs of students, teachers and parents. These activities can be expanded across the region in partnership with Chambers, school systems and workforce development organizations.
The Huntsville Metro has a reputation for its skilled technical workforce that has attracted new companies while enabling existing companies to expand. As our reputation grows, we must ensure that our ability to deliver keeps pace. The Workforce4theFuture strategies are designed to do just that, for the benefit of our employers, their employees and communities across North Alabama.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.