Successful workforce development programs are built on a clear understanding of current and future community needs, which can best be obtained through pre-assessment. A community pre-assessment consists of collecting and analyzing data from funders, practitioners and potential beneficiaries to identify the needs of the community that the workforce development program could address.
This blogpost by Social Solutions draws on material from its workforce case studies, specifically the case study of the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board, to discuss the benefits and strategies in effective assessment of community needs before implementation of a workforce development program.
The advantages of pre-assessment of community needs for a workforce development program were identified as the following:
- Enables objective identification of stakeholders’ “true” needs by testing preconceived assumptions through anonymous surveys, focus groups, and in-depth interviews and observations.
- Enables documentation of needs for purposes of making funding applications and building public and political support.
- Facilitates alignment of program strategy, elements and priorities with community needs.
- Ensures buy-in from stakeholders (community members, government representatives, employers, educators, and workers) by involving them in the pre-assessment.
- Nurtures partnerships and builds positive team dynamics by consulting those who will eventually be involved in programming and by using the experience to discover what works, improve dysfunctional relationships, and encourage partners to collaborate and support each other.
The organization identified four effective practices for practitioners to consider when assessing community workforce development needs:
- Recruit a strong assessment team to help design the assessment tool(s), oversee and assist with data collection, and contribute to the analysis and reporting of assessment results.
- Collect both quantitative data including employment, demographic, and economic statistics, and qualitative data about individual experiences and opinions.
- Capture both “insider” and “outsider” perspectives by working with local politicians, educators, business owners, social service providers, and other partners.
- “Dive deep” beyond high-level averages to get at the full range of user experiences, specifically to discover the views and needs of outliers to identify subtle details and experiences that are less obvious than when looking at the average user.
This blogpost would be of interest to practitioners considering implementing training programs in their community that would best address immediate or future community needs.