4 Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Their Workforce Development Programs

Workforce development programs empower communities to thrive by providing people with the skills they need to build successful careers, particularly within sectors or industries with labor shortages. Let’s take a closer look at why these programs matter, how they’re defined in the health and human services sector, and four actions your organization can take to improve its workforce development program.

The health and human services sector is critical to our well-being and quality of life. In many areas of the United States, particularly rural communities, geographic isolation limits access to quality healthcare. The Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) designates shortage areas in particular need of health workers. It provides financial support for the education of primary care practitioners in exchange for their service in these communities. These programs exemplify how workforce development focuses on stretching limited resources where there’s the greatest need.

4 Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Their Workforce Development Programs

What Are Workforce Development Programs?

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, signed in 2014, has bolstered the infrastructure for these programs nationwide. By bridging the gap between the available workforce’s skills and experience and employers’ needs, workforce development programs can stimulate economic growth, mitigate inequality, and drive innovation.

To succeed, nonprofits engaging with workforce development need clear goals, strategic partnerships, and sound stakeholder reporting. But despite increased federal, state, and local support, workforce development programs can still be improved to better serve job seekers and employers. 

Here are four top actions nonprofits can take in 2023 to improve their workforce development programs and cultivate healthy relationships with employers.

1. Build Evaluation into Every Stage of the Process

Employer partners in nonprofit workforce development participate out of a need for reliable, quality staff members — and they want to see proof of impact. Measurable results are how you demonstrate the value of your programs to partners and earn their trust. While sifting through data and reporting on it can feel time-consuming, it’s essential to retain employer partnerships. The earlier your reporting plan is built into your process, the more consistently it can be applied throughout, and the more successful you’ll be.

Ideally, workforce development is a win-win for communities, job seekers, employers, and your organization. For example, employers stand to reduce training costs or meet their diversity objectives. Consider the needs of these groups as you determine how success will be measured and communicated.

2. Engage Employers More Deeply

An effective way to mitigate employer hesitancy about your workforce development program is to engage them more deeply. Not only does transparency breed trust, but giving key stakeholders a voice in your programs helps you to see your mission from all perspectives.

Here are some of the ways nonprofits can successfully engage employers:

  • Include business leaders on advisory boards
  • Seek employer data on industry trends and needs
  • Create pathways for workers to participate as volunteers
  • Solicit employer feedback on program content
3. Coordinate and Collaborate with Other Organizations

Internalized pressure to “do it all” is normal, but your organization doesn’t have to be everything to everyone. You may not have all the resources, expertise, or reach to achieve certain elements of your mission.

Take a look at your workforce development programs. Are certain aspects particularly challenging that could be better achieved with support from another organization? What value could your organization provide in return? If your agency specializes in performing skill assessments and an external agency focuses more on recruitment, a collaboration could help improve outcomes for job seekers and employers alike. These partnerships can exist along a continuum of involvement from cooperation to coordination to collaboration.

4. Use Case Management Software

Software can help streamline operations and improve service delivery by enabling your organization to track client progress and employer needs. With customizable dashboards, skill assessments and reports, and resource management, case management software like CaseWorthy puts all your essential data in one place, making your workforce development work more efficient, organized, and successful.

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