Regional Workforce Study Results Announced-United Way to Take Action to Address Workforce Challenges

June 24, 2015

Via: United Way of Cass-Clay

A study commissioned by five local agencies and 16 community partners lays out four areas of action that could help ease the workforce shortage in our community. The results were released this morning and the Executive Summary is available here.

Six-months of research, surveys, focus groups and in-person interviews by TIP Strategies, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, have culminated in a 100-page report that details the environment surrounding regional workforce and the challenges and opportunities we face recruiting, retaining and developing our workforce.

The Greater Fargo Moorhead region currently has more than 6,700 job openings, and the 11-county labor shed has more than 11,000 job openings. Within the next five years, the region is projected to have more than 30,000 openings, and the labor shed is projected to have 55,000 openings. These jobs openings include both new jobs and replacement jobs which are open due to natural turnover in the workplace.

Employers across the region are already having difficulty securing the talent they need. Some of this difficulty is consistent with challenges employers across the US are facing – the mismatch between the skills that available workers have and the skills employers need. This is known as the skills gap.

In the Fargo Moorhead region the workforce challenges are further complicated by the low unemployment rate and the high labor force participation rate. There are not enough workers in the region to fill these job openings.
The report includes a four-point framework with priority projects to tackle the region’s employment challenges. The strategic plan aims to address ways to cultivate and develop local talent, attract new talent to the region, build a strong path towards financial stability for those who need it and encourage innovation to maximize the region’s use of human capital.

The Greater Fargo-Moorhead region is an economically diverse employment center with a strong pipeline of talent to support current and future employers.

To strengthen the regional workforce system to support regional employers and to address the gap between available positions and qualified workers.

Regional Workforce Development Strategy and Framework for Action:

  • Cultivate: Strengthen the pipeline of local talent to support employers in the region.
  • Attract: Enhance and coordinate efforts to bring new talent to the region.
  • Build: Develop a framework for financial self-sufficiency and upward mobility for workers in low-wage and basic-skill jobs.
  • Innovate: Encourage the development of innovative solutions to address the region’s workforce-related challenges.
  • The five lead organizations, including United Way of Cass-Clay, will drive the implementation of the four strategies and evaluate progress strengthening our workforce system to continue to support business growth.

    The Regional Workforce Partnership & Collaboration involves the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Chamber, the Fargo Moorhead Area Foundation, United Way of Cass-Clay and the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau.

    Many local companies have pledged their support as sponsors of the partnership and its efforts including:

    Sanford Health
    Minnesota State University Moorhead
    City of West Fargo
    Meinecke-Johnson Company
    Forum Communications Company
    Border States Electric
    Essentia Health
    Eide Bailly
    American Crystal Sugar
    North Dakota State University
    Industrial Builders, Inc.
    Trail King Industries, Inc.
    Moorhead Economic Development Authority
    North Dakota State College of Science
    O’Day Equipment, LLC
    Dakota Medical Foundation

    If you or a representative from your organization is interested in serving in a leadership role to implement these strategies, please contact Missy Froeber at the Greater FM Economic Development Corporation at

    PowerPoint Presentation from Regional Workforce Study Event on 6/18/15

    Regional Workforce Development Collaboration Summary

    Greater Fargo-Moorhead Regional Workforce Study EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (PDF)

    Greater Fargo-Moorhead Regional Workforce Study FULL REPORT (PDF) (104 pages)

    Study Confirms Not Enough People to Fill Jobs in F-M Metro Area

    June 20, 2015

    By: Dave Olson
    Via: Inforum

    Photo credit: Nick Wagner / The Forum

    MOORHEAD – A workforce study released Thursday confirms what many employers have been painfully aware of for some time: There aren’t enough people living in the Fargo-Moorhead area to fill available jobs.

    But the study went one step further and stated that over the next five years, at least 30,000 new job openings are expected, with close to half of those being low-paying positions that make it difficult for workers to cover the cost of child care, transportation and housing.

    “If we don’t address this problem, this issue is going to get worse and worse,” said Jim Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., speaking to an audience of community leaders who gathered in Moorhead to hear highlights of the workforce study.

    The 100-page report was prepared by TIP Strategies, a consulting firm based in Austin, Texas.

    Tom Stellman, president and CEO of TIP, told the group that the Fargo-Moorhead area is at a tipping point. The community is small enough that individuals feel they can still make a difference, but large enough to be a competitor nationally when it comes to attracting a qualified workforce.

    He said the challenge becomes how to convince people to live here when many areas around the country are also striving to attract and retain workers.

    “This is a national issue,” he said.

    One thing the study highlighted is a pay gap when median wages in Fargo-Moorhead are compared to national numbers.

    Local numbers tend to lag the national figures, particularly at the high end of the wage scale, where the difference between what companies pay here and what they pay elsewhere is greater than 20 percent, Stellman said.

    Charley Johnson, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said local employers have started raising pay, but he said the pace may be too slow to make an impact when people are deciding where they want to live and work.

    “This (pay gap) is a huge part of it,” he said.

    Some other findings of the report:

    • The number of jobs in the Fargo-Moorhead area grew by nearly 30,000 between 2004 and 2014, a 24 percent increase.
    • That compares to a 5 percent increase in the total number of jobs in the U.S. for the same period.
    • There are now about 6,700 job listings posted online in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

    Stellman said one approach to attracting more people to the area would be to embrace one of its perceived weaknesses, its northern climate.

    “Embrace the cold,” Stellman said, adding that organizing something along the lines of a communitywide winter carnival should be made a priority.

    He said current efforts that promote the Fargo area as a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurial drive should be supported and he suggested a contest could be organized that invites the public to offer ideas on how the worker shortage can be turned around.

    Gartin agreed community input will be valuable in finding solutions and he challenged those attending Thursday’s gathering to give of their time and energy.

    “This is just the beginning and we need your help,” he said.

    WIOA Offers Opportunities for Both Workforce and Economic Developers

    June 2, 2015

    By: Jeff Marcell, Senior Partner, TIP Strategies

    Image Credit: Workforce 2011 Job Fair at Blaisdell Center by Daniel Ramirez via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

    The release of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) report, Shifting Workforce Development into High Gear, signals significant changes ahead for workforce development activities. The “shift” the report refers to will be seen in full when the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) takes effect in July 2015. I am proud to say that I worked closely with the Workforce Development Council (WDC) of Seattle and King County when I led the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County before joining TIP Strategies. Our collaborative effort was included as a case study in the IEDC report, along with several other best practice examples.

    As an Executive Committee member of the Seattle WDC, I had the honor of representing the organization at the National Association of Workforce Boards’ (NAWB) annual meeting in Washington DC in March of this year. The four-day conference was held at the same time as the IEDC Federal Economic Development Forum a few miles away. The NAWB saw record attendance, a tribute to the speakers (national experts and leaders in the field of workforce development) and an indication of the interest in hearing more about WIOA.

    This is an exciting time for workforce development professionals because they have been seeking a reauthorized national workforce law to replace the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998. However, it is also a time of uncertainty. Now, there is greater pressure to perform at a more advanced level than ever before.

    It is already clear that the new law will drive a cultural shift at workforce development organizations across the country. The law will require Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) to approach their work as an integral part of a larger economic system that includes the entire education system (early childcare through higher education institutions), transportation, and other areas. WIOA will require WIBs to increase their scope of “customers” to include not just job seekers but employers as well. They will have to identify, build, and maintain a larger network of relationships.

    WIOA will require WIBs to:

    • Be data driven and prepared to track and report on their work with increased specificity.
    • Consolidate with other WIBs, when appropriate, to serve local economies rather than political boundaries.
    • Understand industry sectors in their local economies and establish strategies to serve them.
    • Engage other organizations and reconfigure their boards to become more inclusive.
    • Coordinate with existing community programs including working with local economic development efforts.
    • Diligently identify their communities’ specific needs.

    One message was clear at the conference: WIBs shouldn’t delay in implementing as much of the new law as possible. It was also made clear that WIOA isn’t just a repackaged WIA; the new law features significant changes, including new partnerships at the federal level (such as the Department of Labor working more closely with other federal agencies like the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services).

    Secretary of Labor Tomas Perez was the center of attention at the NAWB conference, and he conveyed enthusiasm for the new law and its impact. Perez emphasized that the aim of the law is to scale the workforce development system by building partnerships—to serve more people and businesses through collaboration. He also stressed that the workforce development system needs to be driven by demand and acknowledge multiple paths to prosperity for young people, from 4-year colleges to 2-year degree and certificate programs.

    Under this new law, WIBs have a lot to prove and must create a larger impact than ever before. The ultimate goal is to improve the workforce development system throughout the country, not simply to implement individual workforce development programs. WIBs will have to understand the needs of businesses. To succeed, they’ll have to develop good working relationships with business leaders. This is one area where economic development professionals can help.

    If you are an economic development practitioner who hasn’t engaged your local workforce board, I strongly encourage you to offer them your assistance. Economic Development Practitioners know how businesses function and what they need. They have established relationships, and they know what drives the local economy. These are all things WIBs will need to understand under WIOA. On the flip side, Workforce Boards provide a connection to a business resource, one that is arguably more valuable than any other: the talent pipeline. Collaboration will have multiple benefits for both economic and workforce developers, not the least of which will be the unification of efforts to reach out to local businesses.

    To learn more about WIOA, reach out to your area Workforce Investment Board and visit the WIOA resource website. I welcome the opportunity to discuss WIOA and alignment of workforce development and economic development with you at any time. Feel free to reach me at