Oh, the tough love of a consultant. Much like a trainer or doctor, or, if you’re me, my mother -- a consultant’s job can be to make plain what you most likely know deep down.
Future iQ CEO David Beurle laid it bare for Limaland Thursday when he said: “What we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got. And it’s not good enough.”
Beurle said this from a place of love - after more than two years of consulting on projects here, the folks at Future iQ are fond of the Lima region. It shows in their work. But, their work is nearly finished, and it’s time for ours. We are left with challenging but achievable economic development goals. When you ask whose responsibility this is, I suggest to look in the mirror.
It’s been a look-in-the-mirror kind of week for community leaders, as a packed house Thursday received that unvarnished but constructive way forward from Future iQ and Allen Economic Development Group for our economic development goals.
The Collaborative Growth Plan is the culmination of work that’s also produced quality information about our region’s supply chain and workforce, and holes in those things, among other reports. With Future iQ’s help, we’ve learned a lot about our strengths, who talks to each other and who doesn’t, and the significant gaps we need to bridge to achieve our economic and community goals.
The plan shared Thursday is a path to achieving three goals, decided on by Allen Economic Development Group after hours of interviews and focus group conversations facilitated by Future iQ:
The growth plan details seven challenges that must be overcome to achieve these three goals. At the top of the list, not surprisingly, is a quantity and quality gap in our workforce.
Buerle called it the “burning bridge” issue. If it’s not addressed, nothing else matters. So, where are we finding 22,000 people in less than a decade? Many of them are already here, it turns out, and it’s a job for each of us to help keep them.
Some of these folks will need attracting and recruiting. But others are here. High school graduates who realize a good job is in their own great hometown. College graduates who would return home, with the right job and an improved quality of life. Graduates of regional colleges who could stay, if the place they interned hired them. People who have become disengaged from the workforce. And people who could retire, but don’t, because employers crafted flexible schedules and renewed purpose by having them mentor those college grads.
Each of us must play a role. Maybe you’re a CEO and worried about losing experienced workers and attracting talented new folks. Give an older worker extra vacation and ask that they stick around another couple of years to mentor that 20-something full of potential. Maybe you’re a member of the Lima Young Professionals, and you’re creating partnerships with area colleges and universities, to connect with students before they graduate. Maybe you’re an ALL graduate and you need to serve on a board of a nonprofit that helps move people into the workforce.
For nearly 30 years, Allen Lima Leadership has contributed to workforce development. We’re starting to see a generational effect: Some of our recent Signature Course adult graduates also graduated from our high school youth program. That’s long-term work, keeping people engaged in their community. But, what we’re doing is getting us what we’ve got, and it’s not good enough. So, this year we strengthened our leadership development curriculum. We’re creating an alumni association. And we’ve recommitted to making positive change, by increasing the number of ALL grads who serve on boards (If you need a board member, or want to serve, call me!), and improving the quality of those board members with board leadership training.
I would challenge you to ask what more could you be doing. To put that 22,000 number in perspective, Future iQ’s modeling shows that if we did nothing, we’d have a workforce shortage of 11,000 people. Doing what we’re doing would grow the workforce by 1,500 by 2025. But we need 22,000. And every other economic region is facing exactly the same workforce issue. The bridge is burning. How are we getting across?