The President’s Pen is a weekly blog written by Jonathan Smith, New Vision’s President and CEO about local economic development projects and initiatives. It also covers economic trends, workforce issues, business climate policies, and manufacturing news.
We stand at the edge of the biggest opportunity for economic development in generations. Our region sorely wants good paying jobs and we want to keep our talented young people in the Yakima Valley. We can achieve both of these critical goals but it is going to take a lot of teamwork and change.
Some of our region™s future job opportunities will come from new or expanding companies that grow payrolls. Many more of our best employment options in the future will come as a result of retirement. No doubt about it “ as our baby boomer generation gets older it is only a matter of time before we have enormous holes to fill at many area employers. This movement of workers toward the exit door is already happening but it will further accelerate over the next 10-15 years.
Local businesses of all shapes and sizes face huge issues as the biggest generation of American workers gets older. Subsequent age groups, whether they are X™ers or Millennials, are smaller than the baby boomer generation so many companies are rightly concerned about finding talented employees in the years ahead.
In the Yakima Valley at least one trend is in our favor. With a relatively youthful population our region probably has a bit more time to adjust to the generational workforce shift. We have over 50,000 kids going through K-12 schools so there is definitely a conduit to potential talent that is ours to realize.
Developing our kid™s aptitude is a must but it will not happen automatically. Our region must embrace and move STEM education initiatives forward aggressively. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, but it more broadly means making education more hands on and relevant to kids. Giving our kids critical life skills, not facts and figures, is the key to igniting their energy and their minds.
Providing students real world exposure will depend on effective partnerships with business. Our organization recently held a meeting with local employers and we identified several strategies that could work towards this end:
The businesses did not prioritize which strategies might be most successful or workable. Instead the group recognized that these initiatives should be flexibly applied based on the capacity and interest of participating businesses (and schools).
Our next step is to ensure that these partnership ideas get implemented at local schools. New Vision is working with the Educational Service District (ESD) 105 to get these strategies incorporated into their regional STEM plan for all schools in Central Washington. This plan is only a starting point though and it must give way to effective partnerships if we want to realize our opportunity of a lifetime.
To learn more about local STEM planning efforts click here. New Vision™s annual meeting on March 26th also features Dean Allen, Chairman of the Washington STEM Board and CEO of McKinstry. Dean will talk about innovation and the importance of STEM education. Click here to learn more about or to register for our annual meeting.