Heartland Workforce Solutions is a chamber of commerce-led initiative to strengthen linkages between workforce development services for low-income residents and economic development efforts in Greater Omaha. The initiative provides seed funding and technical assistance to promote, create, strengthen, and sustain workforce partnerships in five occupational sectors: financial services; health; information technology; transportation, distribution, warehousing and logistics; and advanced manufacturing and trades.
The funding collaborative was created, in part, to address the increasingly problematic issue of poverty in the Omaha Metropolitan Area and serve some of the area’s most vulnerable populations through enhanced employability and long-term job potential.
Heartland Workforce Solutions was established based on a model for workforce development that: engages both employers and workers; meets local demand in high-growth, high-demand industries; builds the capacity of workforce partnerships; and promotes the sustainability of workforce partnerships.
Heartland Workforce Solutions is led by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and three key partners: Metropolitan Community College; the Tri-County (Omaha) Workforce Investment Board; and the United Way of the Midlands.
The collaborative steering committee is composed of an executive director and the four key funding members, with plans to grow to eight members by 2010. Its activities include public policy advocacy, capacity building for the local workforce systems and partnerships, creating workforce partnerships, evaluation, and communications.
As a membership- and business-led organization, the chamber provides input on employer needs in key sectors that may lead to the formation of workforce partnerships. The chamber has a strong interest in identifying needs of groups of employers (often chamber members) and crafting solutions that align public and private resources to prepare lower-skilled residents to address those needs. Moreover, because of the strong role the chamber plays in Omaha’s economic development efforts, the relationship with the chamber helps the collaborative stay connected and participate in the economic development directions of Greater Omaha.
Heartland Workforce Solutions has identified and targeted five industries in which to support workforce partnerships: financial services; health care; information technology; transportation, distribution, warehousing and logistics; and advanced manufacturing trades. Each industry serves a broad range of sectors and all are critical to the ability of Omaha and the surrounding region to remaining competitive in a global economy.
Each of the five industry sectors to be addressed initially by the collaborative were selected based on the following criteria: anticipated job growth; current job shortages; projected wages (i.e., self-sustaining wages) and potential for worker advancement; basic competencies required for various entry points; correlation of targeted industries to regional economic growth; anticipated interest of employers; and anticipated pool of interested workers.
While the collaborative has identified key employment sectors in which to build workforce partnerships, the processes of forming the partnerships themselves are somewhat unique and reflect the role of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce. Currently, the collaborative plays a role of broker in the creation of workforce partnerships by identifying the needs of specific employers within a sector and then bringing together key service providers to craft solutions and develop a workforce partnerships.
A pilot project in customer service training in the financial sector has already resulted in graduates and placement for about 20 workers, and the employer partners have initiated a second round. As a result of this partnership, the employers have hired job and career coaches who collaborate with human resource departments to support program graduates and assist in supportive services. This has been successful enough that the employers are extending these services to other employers. Thus, the project model has resulted in changing HR practices among employers.
The following powerpoint provides an analysis of the Omaha regional labor market. The analysis is intended to provide a picture into overall employment conditions and structural changes in this local economy, focusing on the period from 2001-2007. Though this data does not capture changes associated with the recent 2008 recession, it should still provide useful insights into medium-term demographic and employment changes.
The data analyzed here comes from two major sources: The American Community Survey 2007 (and 1990 & 2000 Decennial Census for some charts) from the U.S. Census Bureau; and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For a full guide to the data content, structure, and how it might be used, please listen to the June 16, 2009, recorded webinar available here.