Last week I broke down some of the programs the Regional Chamber of Bath Brunswick runs throughout the year to give an overview of what our chamber does. In this column, I introduced our newest, and perhaps most needed program, Chamber Works 2030, which is our decades-long commitment to innovative, tangible workforce programs to better connect schools. , businesses and municipalities.
Chamber Works 2030 was built by three dozen business leaders who evaluated nearly 30 potential programs, before selecting six new workforce programs for this inaugural year. We announced these programs at our Chamber Awards Night on March 11, but I want to walk you through the programs in more detail so you can see exactly what our goals are.
Before we get to the programs, I think the process by which we arrived at these choices is very important, because every year we will re-examine these 30 potential programs and probably add more programs as people share their ideas with us. For starters, the list of potential programs is something I’ve cultivated from 15 years of working at the chamber, borrowing good ideas from other chambers, creating some of my own and ideas that have cropped up in the room.
It’s important to recognize that there isn’t just one reason employers can’t find employees right now – there are many reasons. Some people are not aware of a career path or do not have the level of education required to fill the positions. Other times it’s because of obstacles in their lives that they have to overcome, such as not having childcare coverage so they can work outside the home, or not having transportation to get to work. Last Monday, ABC News conducted a study based on Department of Labor statistics highlighting how many would-be employees have become caregivers not just for children but also for adults since the pandemic began. This ABC News report estimated that up to 1 in 4 unemployed workers are out of work due to caring responsibilities.
When we launched our workforce program, we knew we had to consider all of these reasons when evaluating potential programs. Thus, we have divided the programs into three buckets. Pathways & Partnerships aims to connect schools to businesses and help unemployed people find desired career paths. The Barrier Solutions bucket included nine societal barriers preventing employees from pursuing careers. The third bucket we named Community Uplifting Projects that were mostly single topic ideas that were unique to the 21st century or had never been tackled before (and a catchall bucket for programs that didn’t fit into the two more buckets).
When we narrowed down the list, we actually had 11 programs that the team also felt compelled to do, but we knew that 11 new programs were too difficult to undertake in the first year. From there, we narrowed the list down to six programs which consist of three pathway programs, two barrier solutions programs, and one community upliftment project.
We described the first two programs last week, as they were somewhat self-explanatory. Career Counselor Bus Tours is the premier program and involves school administrators getting on a bus every month for company tours so they can learn about the careers available in our communities and the job requirements. ‘education. One-minute job posting videos are the idea that if potential employees can’t find job postings in the usual places, but everyone is watching videos on social media regularly, then why not creating job posting videos that are short, fun, high-energy, and available positions to reach that audience?
The third program creates a task force to submit a paid internship proposal plan to the state of Maine for a portion of the US bailout dollars that are set aside for people to do “paid and meaningful work.” This group will also review potential student credits. These funds will be competitive, but if we can secure these funds, we could potentially share wages with employers so they can hire inexperienced employees who may want to pursue a career in their field. It’s a huge undertaking but very possible with the right plan.
The last three programs, we call them our discovery programs, because we are still deciding which part of these we will undertake. Let me be very, very, very clear, we are not falsely claiming that we can solve all of these problems in a year – they are far too big. What we’re hoping to do is take one side of the problem and work towards a tangible solution for that side, and then maybe look at another side of it.
Our three discovery programs are worth considering: Housing Solutions for Affordability and Availability; Overcoming barriers and expanding child care, and; Update and streamline accreditation standards to support critical employees.
We don’t know which aspects of these issues we’ll address until we bring our experts in these areas together to discuss them, but we will certainly work towards a tangible solution in each one. An actual example is easier to understand, but be aware that this is just an example. For childcare, our expert team might suggest that we look at the ratios of children in classrooms, or look at on-site childcare requirements, or nearby childcare, or after-school programs, or raising workers’ wages. Once we have selected one of these aspects, we will develop a work plan towards a tangible solution such as a policy change or a new chamber program.
I am not an expert in any of these areas, nor should I be. But as the executive director of our chamber, I can be the organizer of those conversations. I can get the right experts in the room to help create new solutions. It’s necessary and exciting, and I’ll tell you more about each of these programs as new updates become available. If you would like to discuss this with me further, or find out how your company and sponsor this work, call me at 725-8797 or email [email protected]
Cory King is the Executive Director of the Regional Chamber of Bath-Brunswick.