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Workforce: Ideas to Navigate This Challenging Landscape

October 18, 2021 | Economic Development & Workforce

Workforce is the hot topic these days with businesses struggling to find qualified workers to fill many open positions. Recently, Dr. Kim Becicka, retired Vice President of Continuing Education and Training Services at Kirkwood Community College, offered up ideas and possible solutions for businesses dealing with workforce issues at the Workforce Leaders Awards. Becicka spent more than 30 years of service at Kirkwood and is recognized nationally as an expert in continuing education, training and workforce.

When it comes to our current workforce situation, Becicka says it is very complex. Several factors are contributing to the workforce shortage; there is not one simple fix to the problem. Becicka says the rate of change has accelerated. The workplace has changed. Job candidates are being choosier, and people are demanding higher wages. According to Becicka, “Candidates are in the driver’s seat.”

As a result, employers should evaluate their job candidate decision-making process and the length of the process. “Time is of the essence. Call candidates back quickly,” says Becicka. She notes that “the days of higher education delivering students to your door is not happening now” as most students have jobs well before their final semester of education. Becicka’s advice: Create your own direct pipeline by forming relationships with Kirkwood and educational institutions.

Becicka also advises employers to invest in capacity-building workforce strategies. Capacity-building looks long-term at workforce within a company. Ideas of capacity-building include:

  • Job training opportunities, invest in current employees
  • Develop internal career pathways.
  • Invest in earn and learn programs where students can earn a wage while learning a skill and going to school.
  • Partner to offer paid internships.
  • Develop in-depth relationships with higher education. institutions and non-profit organizations that serve diverse and available workforce populations.
  • Becicka does not see a quick end in sight to the current workforce situation. She says this particular recession, caused by the pandemic, is behaving differently than past recessions and therefore it requires different thinking and approaches. Here are the reasons Becicka cites are contributing to the workforce shortage:

    1) More jobs than people available to work.

    2) Skills gaps still exist. Many are not qualified for the positions that are open.

    3) The accelerated rate of automation combined with a lot of change is exacerbating the skills gap.

    4) The pandemic caused a change in how we view work environments. Employers are trying to recruit employees while also rethinking work environments and how they can remain competitive.

    5) A reassessment of work caused by the pandemic. Many workers are re-thinking how they view work and what they’re willing to do or not do for an employer and/or occupation.

    Becicka says, “It’s a sellers’ market. Job candidates are being choosier because they can be.”

    The Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance salutes Kim Becicka and thanks her for her expertise and many years of service to our region. We wish her much happiness in her retirement.