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A Publication of WTVP

In previous articles, we've explored the ability of our region to produce a skilled workforce to meet the needs of a 21st century global economy. Recently, we began to explore the different worker groups and the challenges associated with each group. We also touched on the varying needs of businesses that employ workers and create jobs. These businesses range from small, single proprietor operations to large, multi-national corporations. The spectrum of business size and sophistication presents a number of challenges to the workforce development system.

Small businesses will produce the lion's share of new jobs for the foreseeable future. National estimates project approximately 80 percent of new jobs will be created by small businesses. These businesses have certain advantages in a changing economic climate. As entrepreneurial opportunities emerge in countless new areas, small businesses usually arise quickly to exploit untapped niches in the marketplace. While the size of a small business can range from one individual to as many as 100, the nature of these businesses brings a unique set of needs and challenges to the workforce development system.

All businesses need workers who are highly skilled, adaptable, and possess good soft skills. However the new knowledge economy demands shorter production cycles, increased use of technology, changing work processes, and adaptable and creative workers who have updated technical skills and necessary soft skills. These soft skills include communication, listening, teamwork, critical thinking, and customer service.

In addition to these necessary attributes, in small businesses, workers often need to multi-task to accomplish the wide variety of critical business functions with fewer people. Small businesses usually draw their workforce from the local community, and many don't have large human resource or personnel departments. But the human resource needs of many small businesses are extremely critical to their ultimate survival. The need for ongoing worker training has also emerged as a tool to help maintain their competitiveness.

For businesses to survive long-term, they must rely on the talent and capability of their workforce. However, with the rapid pace of change in the marketplace, the recruitment, retention, and ongoing development of the workforce of small businesses will be critical elements for survival. Since many small or start-up businesses have limited resources and have many competing priorities, many times resources may be diverted away from organizational or workforce development functions. This is where the workforce development system can assist small businesses.

Workforce development organizations can assist small businesses with an array of services that can add real value to their business operations. Workforce development organizations can provide such services as assessment of workforce needs; job profiling and occupational assessments; outreach and recruitment, screening, and assessment of workers for job openings; job matching; and incumbent worker training to constantly improve the productivity, skills, and abilities of the workforce.

As the success of small businesses becomes critical to the success of our economy, workforce development organizations can play a crucial support role. IBI

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