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Sunday, 20 December 2015 22:31

Q&A: Kevin Stotts, President, Talent 2025 Inc.

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Experts predict that the labor shortage will continue to impact the majority of business sectors in 2016. With West Michigan’s unemployment rate tracking around 3.2 percent, businesses need to focus on retraining workers who are reentering the workforce after leaving in the recession years, says Kevin Stotts, president of Grand Rapids-based Talent 2025 Inc.

What’s keeping you up at night regarding talent development in 2016?

I really worry about the declining labor force participation rate that we have here in the region. After the recession, there’s been a drop in the labor force participation rate. We’re trailing some of the top-performing communities by about 5 percent and that equates to about 20,000 adults 24 to 54 years of age who have just chosen to not look for work or to be employed. That group provides a huge potential labor force because you have 30,000 jobs that were in the region that were open and posted in October. That would go a long way in meeting that talent shortage.

How could increasing the labor participation rate boost the economy in West Michigan?

We’ve done some analysis, and our guess is that if we can get those who exited the workforce back in the labor force and help that group of working poor get above a survival budget threshold, then that would be $1 billion in additional economic activity for the region. These are big numbers, and it would be a huge impact if we can figure it out.

What’s standing in the way of reintegrating those people into the economy?

These people have all kinds of barriers: character skills, as well as technical skills and education they’d need to be employable. So I spend my time thinking about how we as a region — employers, educators and workforce development leaders — will help that group overcome whatever barriers there are, because that’s ultimately going to impede our economic success.

What sort of strategies will companies use in 2016 to develop their talent?

I think one would be partnering with K-12 education to really start to create pipelines of students graduating high school and having a pathway into a job. The second would be to look at new efforts to work with those individuals in the adult workforce who might have challenges with deficits in soft skills or technical skills and employers picking up the cost or working with different agencies or local community colleges to fill that knowledge or skills gap.

I think employers are going to be much more engaged and instead of expecting the candidate have 100 percent of what they’re looking for, maybe they’ll have 70 percent of what they’re looking for and then they’re going to find partnerships that help that person get that other 30 percent.

Interview conducted and condensed by John Wiegand.

Read 2272 times Last modified on Monday, 28 December 2015 10:31

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