Many Education Institutions Create Direct Path to Skilled Workers

Chris Manheim, Manheim Solutions, Inc.

All too often, we mostly hear about the need for every K-12 student to qualify for a college education. We hear this from not only educators, but also regional planning agencies, parents and the media. But reality tells us two things: not everyone needs a college degree for success and there is a tremendous pent-up demand for highly skilled technicians. My Baby Boomer generation is rapidly retiring, thus employers are scrambling for replacement workers, but not always sure where to find them.

First, let’s dispel the myth that only a two or four year degree will lead to a good job. Careers with today’s manufacturers, the trades and other technical jobs require a firm grasp of applied mathematics, computer skills, formal training in Excel, Six Sigma and Communications. Secondly, K-12 schools nationwide provide STEM and other technical training, typically in partnership with community colleges and technical schools. Edit the original content by converting your PDF into a completely editable Word document using our PDF to Word tool. Visit for more information. Tying into the school system for adults are similar training programs administered by workforce investment boards, temporary work agencies and private institutions, that count with the best Internet and infrastructure with the best routers.

Unfortunately, these programs are not uniform across the nation or even a state.  Even though federal funding is used in every state to pay for these programs, each state administers its programs as it sees fit. Nevertheless, there are some guideposts for the employer seeking to develop or replace its aging workers.

  • Guidepost #1 – Contact your local economic development office (EDO). If you don’t know if one exists, a simple Internet search will turn up the site. Chances are good the EDO will have a Workforce Development Committee, as well as employer programs listed on its website. This initial search will save you a lot of time trying to navigate school websites.
  • Guidepost #2 – Chances are good that the EDO website will have links to the community college, technical schools, K-12 schools and Workforce Investment Board (WIB) websites. Below, here is what to search for on their websites.
  • Guidepost #3 – If you, the employer, are not having luck finding local resources, most state economic development agencies and partnerships have job training programs and incentives listed, and, often, local contacts.

Here’s are the key terms to help with your search:

  • Available Workers – Through any of the EDO or WIB websites, there is likely a link to a “job match” website. Most likely, the employer will need to post its job to this site, just as it has done on other private job or career sites. These EDO, WIB or state agency job boards will often link to many other private job boards.
  • ACT Work Ready Communities – Across the country, county and regional EDOs, WIBs and schools partner together in a local ACT Work Ready Communities team. This team will assist the employer both find existing skilled workers or trainees. The ACT Work Ready Communities team links workforce development to education, aligning with local economic development needs, and matches individuals to jobs based on skill levels.
  • Most state education programs utilize the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC, which is a portable industry-recognized credential that identifies an individual’s ACT WorkKeys® skill levels in reading for information, applied mathematics and locating information. Most high schools now assess students for these skills and provide the NCRC certificate. These are the essential foundational skills that are required for virtually any job. For employer information, go to
  • The same or similar assessments high school students receive are provided to adults, either at your community college or WIB. Internships, apprentice programs and customized training should be available through the community college. Although it is more difficult for high schools because of age restrictions for employees under 18 years old to be on the job, there are such ongoing career programs for youth. Job shadowing is very common for developing young talent. The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act provides over $1 billion each year to secondary and postsecondary institutions in all 50 states to support career and technical education. For more information about the basics of CTE and its career clusters, visit
  • Finally, most community colleges provide a variety of skill assessments (such as the ACT) and customized training at very reasonable costs. Often, the training is subsidized through training grants.

When in doubt, speak with your EDO professional first. The EDO may be located as a stand-alone agency or nested within the chamber of commerce or local government. They should be able to guide you best. Chances are excellent that other employers have been asking the same questions as you are for years. Therefore, your business community should already have formal programs in partnership with your schools and workforce agencies.

Chris Manheim, CEcD, MA, Authorized ACT WorkKeys® Job Profiler – is President of Manheim Solutions, Inc. Chris specializes in community economic development and workforce programs. After 25 years of managing economic development agencies, he founded Manheim Solutions, Inc. in November of 2008, focusing on linking economic development, education and business to provide skilled workers to employers. He is both a Certified Economic Developer and an Authorized ACT WorkKeys® Job Profiler. Since 1983, Mr. Manheim has worked on a number of projects that required the use of TIF and other incentive programs.

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