Jaimie Francis is vice president of policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. This nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to strengthening the nation’s educational standards and the quality of its workforce.
In this episode of the Leading Learning Podcast, co-host Celisa Steele talks with Jaimie about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management initiative and its related TPM Academy and National Learning Network. They also discuss general challenges and opportunities in workforce development and ways learning businesses can foster effective collaboration with employers.
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[00:00] – Intro
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce
[01:17] – Tell us a bit about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce, the work that it does, and maybe a bit more about your role there.
The U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce is a nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobbying organization in the country. It represents businesses large and small and an amazing federation of state and local chambers.
As the nonprofit side of the house, they have an opportunity to work with business communities to think about how they engage meaningfully in education and workforce training issues. They provide resources to help them make a difference in their communities. What that looks like can vary, but their center focuses on the entire education and workforce spectrum.
Jaimie’s role focuses more so on the latter end of that talent pipeline. From a workforce training perspective, it’s how they can work with the business community to be more effective communicators of what their job needs are and how to relay important messages to education/training partners and potential and existing employees. There’s a massive skills gap but through their Talent Pipeline Management initiative, they’ve had an opportunity to work with partners to think through how employers can be more engaged and effective leaders in organizing/managing their talent supply chains.
Defining Workforce Development
[04:02] – How do you define or explain workforce development?
I think of workforce development the same way as I think about learning is that it’s just continual. It’s constant. We’re all getting new skills every second of every day. At least that’s the hope.Jaimie Francis
From the context of their work, workforce development is ongoing learning (leveraging new technologies, training, or learning experiences) to help you develop for whatever your job is now, and in the future.
The Talent Pipeline Management Initiative (TPM)
TPM is based on supply chain management principles, and it rests on the idea of employer collaboration. So, if you got a group of employers to come together and determine their most critical job need and also think through what projections look like for those jobs with their own business assumptions baked in. The framework started to develop more as a theory of some ideas. After an initial white paper on the theory of TPM, they were able to get seven business-facing organizations to test the theory and put it into action.
Through that, they were able to develop a six-strategy framework to help employers better understand what their needs are. They call it the “doing their homework” stage of identifying the most critical skills for these jobs. It’s then looking to see if they can identify some shared language as a group of employers as to what their needs are for those jobs.
Then it’s how they can work with those education and training partners most effectively, so they design talent solutions together, rather than continuing to play the blame game as to why they don’t have the people they need. This framework has now been tested by partners all across the country over the past several years, and they’ve continued to make improvements to it because of their firsthand experiences implementing it in their respective communities.
[09:43] – About how old is the initiative?
The original white paper was released in 2014, with a pilot starting in 2015. They then started the TPM Academy to teach the framework in 2016.
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[11:07] – Tell us a little bit more about how the TPM Academy works.
When the Academy initially started, it had a lot of local chambers of commerce and state chambers of commerce, industry associations, and economic development organizations that would participate to learn the TPM framework. Many of them have existing public-private partnerships in their communities in which they have all the critical stakeholders at the table—the business community, the education and training community, the nonprofit communities, and sometimes local or state government.
What we saw as a missing piece or a critical element was that employers were often contributing to these conversations—but more so as ancillary voices versus really leading the conversation.Jaimie Francis
In addition to the TPM framework, the Academy teaches what key facilitation questions to be asking if you’re really going to have employers guide the process of better organizing their information to then relaying that to education and training partners.
It’s a team sport though and it’s meant for everyone to be working together. But they like for the employers to get their facts straight first, so the Academy is where they can teach this framework. The idea is that those participants then go back to their communities and start to implement the TPM framework.
Virtual TPM Academy
[14:16] – What does the virtual Academy look like? How long does that typically run and is there a set timeframe for starting and finishing it?
They’ve heard from partners that learning the TPM framework is like drinking from a fire hose, so it’s better to pace out the learnings. The Academy lasts four to five months, and they teach one strategy (maybe two) at a time. They then allow time for participants to digest the information and maybe start to implement those strategies before their next training. Once they conclude their Academy experience, participants are then a part of their National Learning Network, which offers continued support every step of the way.
Attendees of the TPM Academy
[15:59] – Tell us more about who shows up at the Academy, how you identify them, and what are some typical job roles/titles they hold?
The majority of participants to date have been from business-facing organizations (i.e. chambers, associations), but increasingly from the education community. They also get a number of people that are interested in TPM from the context of government, as well as some from workforce boards. It’s helpful for all types of partners to best think through how it is that they might benefit from the framework.
They are happy to expand their learning cohort to include representation from various stakeholder groups. They are also always looking to see how they can improve the framework and help all of their implementing partners. In terms of the exact roles within participating organizations, there’s a lot of variety, and it looks different from organization to organization. But if you’re worried about talent challenges and strategies, this might be good training.
The National Learning Network and TPM
[18:41] – Explain a little bit about the National Learning Network and what it does in relation to the TPM initiative overall.
As soon as you enroll in a TPM Academy, you become a part of the National Learning Network. This has been a key ingredient to TPM’s success to date. It offers a place for Academy participants to be vulnerable and talk about the challenges and successes they’ve had while implementing. It’s also led to countless changes to their Academy curriculum.
They recently connected with the National Learning Network through a biannual summit. USCCF thinks about it from different contexts, and for this particular summit, they focused on using the TPM framework to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within an industry.
TPM Academy Certification
[21:12] – Has there been thought of certifying those who go through the TPM Academy?
They are currently in the process of migrating from scheduled Academy experiences (determined by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation staff availability) to an online learning platform, allowing self-paced learning. TPM Co/Lab will be launched in late 2022/early 2023 and will give learners a chance to take an assessment to verify their understanding of the TPM framework and earn a digital badge. They will also eventually open up the opportunity for partners to submit a portfolio of work and apply for a peer-review process to get advanced standing to earn what they call a “TPMP”, Talent Pipeline Management Practitioner badge.
Advice for Learning Businesses Around Collaboration
[22:47] – What advice do you have for learning businesses that want to collaborate effectively with employers. Do you have any tips about what contributes to good collaborations and/or what tends not to work?
Based on firsthand experiences from those implementing the framework, to make a difference, we have to ask employers what keeps them up at night. Then allow for that pain point to determine every step from that point on. Eventually, you get waning involvement from people over time. If you’re allowing them to define the pain point and really help you understand what success looks like for them, it can lead to the shared value concept that also comes out of supply chain management (which is what TPM is really based on). Having employers define that pain point and define what success looks like can be really helpful to all parties involved. Ultimately, we’re all aiming for that learner and worker to benefit.
From the context of something that doesn’t work, Jaimie has found that employers are not interested in being completely sold to on a program because it feels like it’s being pushed them. It’s really about that accurate diagnosis of the problem at hand so that you’re not rushing to a solution in search of a problem versus the other way around.
So much of this, it comes down to communication as is often the case, right? With a lot of the challenges that we experience in workforce is it comes down to communication. So how can we really effectively listen to one another so that the solutions that we’re coming up with together are ones that really will attack the problem at hand?Jaimie Francis
Opportunities and Challenges in Workforce Development
[28:17] – What do you see as both the opportunities and the challenges in the workforce development space?
In terms of the talent shortage crisis, we need to see it as an opportunity. We’re getting employers from so many different industries willing to think through untapped talent pools that they haven’t in the past and recognizing that diversification of your workforce isn’t just a nice-to-do. It’s a must-do and that’s a really exciting opportunity. This is a shift from perhaps where a lot of communities were in the past.
Where they try to demonstrate that TPM can be a framework used for that opportunity, is to identify there are those who have been “off the bench” (i.e., those impacted by the criminal justice system, opportunity youth, veterans communities, etc.). Figure out how to get them connected to the pipeline in a meaningful way, and not just because we’re in the crisis we’re in. Think of that as part of your long-term talent strategy to be very intentional about it. Put it at the forefront of your efforts. It’s a great opportunity because of the challenge that we’re in.
[30:43] – Wrap-Up
Jaimie Francis is vice president of policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce. Learn more about the Talent Pipeline Management initiative and the TPM Academy.
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