When it comes to keeping the workforce talent pipeline flowing, even the best partnerships and well-designed programs mean little without results.

“That’s sort of the theme of the conference,” Luann Dunsford said of the Michigan Works! Association’s annual gathering this week, Oct. 4-6. “Turning action into results” was the banner for making a strong economy better still.

Luann Dunsford, CEO, Michigan Works! Association

Luann Dunsford, CEO, Michigan Works! Association

Dunsford – CEO of Michigan Works! Association – said the challenges and agendas may have changed over the years, but the stability of established foundations remained intact.

“When the economy was really poor we worked on helping people retraining themselves and helping employers sift through a myriad of resumes,” Dunsford said. “The demand now is finding the skilled workers.”

That can best be achieved by connecting employers with the right pipelines, either through collaborations, educational institutions or workforce-specific agencies. Regional collaboration to meet the needs of all employers was among the top topics at the conference.

“It speaks to the work done on the ground and in our communities,” Dunsford said. “And certainly in collaboration with state leadership,” noting a conference highlight, “Leadership Connection with Gov. Rick Snyder,” held Monday.

The challenge of connecting skilled – qualified – workers with open positions may be harder in a thriving economy, with state unemployment at its lowest rate in nearly a decade.

“The talent pool is smaller and it’s now more of a matching situation,” Dunsford said. “In some cases it’s helping employers with retention so they don’t lose the talent they have.”

As it has been for years the conference was a, “Laboratory of ideas,” Dunsford said, which brought together at the same table, “Everyone from front-line staff to middle management up to top leadership. Everyone can hear the same information.”

Highlights from the conference included Monday’s “Great Practices Showcase,” breakout sessions on Micro-skills, A View From Washington D.C., and “Connect Central,” which included a “Digital Drop-In,” and workshops that introduced ways to put “common sense into common practice.”

In other words, turning action into results. Dunsford said that the various partners and pipeline programs work best once the many interested parties have a common understanding.

“You can’t build a system just when you need it,” Dunsford said. “Michigan Works has been around, and that was the point. Through the ups and downturns of the economy we’ve focused on what’s been launched and how to move forward based on the demand of employers.”

Written By: James A. Mitchell

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