Getting to the root of our labor shortage

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The current labor shortage is front-of-mind for many area businesses, elected officials and community leaders. Although New Hampshire’s issues have been significantly aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is not a new problem. At our recent Economic Update forum, Dr. Osborne Jackson, Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, explained that although our state’s unemployment rate is low, labor participation, which is not factored into our unemployment rate, has dropped significantly since the start of the pandemic. This is a sign of many issues, including the nationwide struggle for women to reenter the workforce and the related issue of childcare shortages, but New Hampshire’s challenges are also a sign of a persistent problem—our workforce has been steadily aging out.

But besides finding the issues and advocating for young people in the Granite State, we’ve taken a hands-on approach to workforce development in the Greater Concord community. Our efforts include a variety of programs and initiatives that have one thing in common: We’re working to get to the root of workforce development, and that starts with building relationships between young people and Capital Region business leaders.At the Chamber, our mission includes a promise to strengthen our business community, and this means working to replenish an aging workforce. We’ve been lucky enough to work directly with influential leaders and organizations who work to attract younger people to the state. Two Chamber committees—the Local Government Affairs Committee and State Government Affairs Committee—have advocated for the next generation of workers. Our Vice President of Operations and Programs, Bryanna Marceau, served on the Governor’s Millennial Advisory Council. This task force created a comprehensive report that outlined areas of focus for state policy officials to address in order to attract a vibrant, talented workforce. The Concord Young Professionals Network (CYPN), an initiative of the Chamber, works closely with 

Stay Work Play New Hampshire (SWP), an organization focused on attracting and retaining young people in the Granite State. SWP and CYPN co-hosted the Greater Concord Policy and Pints pop-up event, which enabled SWP to hone in on issues important to young people in the capital city, and begin to address them. CYPN and SWP partnered again to host the Greater Concord Matters of State event, which connected area legislators to their under-40 constituents, giving young New Hampshire citizens the opportunity to converse directly with their state representatives.

As one of the state’s most vibrant young professionals’ networks, CYPN has made a significant mark on our area’s workforce development efforts. CYPN’s motivated young participants bring a unique perspective to our business community; their voices are innovative and crucial for a growing organization to hear. We’ve successfully recruited past and present CYPN Steering Committee members into many of the Chamber’s own committees, including the Creative Concord Committee, Local Government Affairs Committee, Leadership Greater Concord Committee, Board of Directors, Executive Committee and many more. These young leaders—fostered in CYPN—are now an integral part of our Chamber leadership, and have moved into leadership roles throughout our community as well.

CASL touring the New Hampshire State House

You may be familiar with our Leadership Greater Concord (LGC) program. This year-long course on the inner workings of the capital city is geared towards adults who are interested in making a greater impact on their communities. With that program as inspiration, the Chamber established Capital Area Student Leadership (CASL)—the only program of its kind for high school sophomores in the state. This highly immersive program is designed to foster independent thinking, community engagement, and develop key leadership skills. Just like with LGC, we’ve seen CASL graduates go on to accomplish impressive things. Carolyn Herrick, a young entrepreneur and owner of Homebody in downtown Concord is a CASL graduate, and shared how this program made an impact on her, even as an adult. “Participating in CASL is like getting a behind-the-scenes peek of how the City of Concord operates, from the perspective of some of the most influential leaders and thinkers in the Concord area. It is a wonderfully unique opportunity to be exposed to the culture and history of downtown Concord through guided tours and activities, all while building relationships with peers from the Concord area,” said Carolyn. “I am honored to now be spending my days in one of these very historical buildings that we learned about on our tour. I know my 10th grade self would be proud that I am now a part of the thriving downtown area!"

Another Chamber effort focused on supporting area students to succeed in adulthood is the Business Grants for Teachers initiative. Our Business and Education Task Force awards grants annually to teachers who propose unique projects that develop practical skills, offer hands-on experiences, or inspire students to pursue new interests—ultimately preparing them to choose and pursue a career path. Our area students are important to us; they are the backbone of a healthy economy, community and future. That’s why we took these initiatives a step further, and are actively working to support students in a deeper level, in the way the Chamber does best—through relationships with community partners.

One of our partners is already doing incredible work in this field of workforce development. Concord Regional Technical Center (CRTC) is located within Concord High School, but serves students across the region by helping them earn college credits, certifications and gain valuable work experience—all before graduating from high school. For the second year in a row, we have partnered with NHTI-Concord’s Community College and CRTC on the Orthopedic Technology Career Pathway program, to give high school students hands-on work experience in the high-demand medical field. Our brand-new program with CRTC will drastically widen opportunities for area students by connecting them directly with local businesses in every industry. Earlier this month, we hosted part one of this effort—a webinar with Amy Tietjen Smith of CRTC and Kathi Terami of Careers CLiC, who shared an overview of how businesses can help foster the next generation of workers. They discussed how participating organizations can create a custom plan for their involvement with area students; simply hosting a facility tour is a great, low-commitment, way to start. If your team is looking for a deeper level of commitment, you can offer workplace shadowing, provide an internship opportunity and much more. Each interested business is encouraged to pick and choose the best options for them. These opportunities will be outlined further, and next-step processes will be shared, during part two of this Career Pathways series. All are welcome—whether you attended the first session, or not—to join this roundtable-style virtual meeting on Tuesday, January 25 at 10 a.m. You can learn more and register by visiting concordnhchamber.com/key-events. This is a great opportunity to build relationships with future workers in your field.

We’ve collaborated with our members and community organizations, through the Chamber’s educational initiatives and programs, to make a difference in our region’s workforce sustainability. But with the current environment of staff shortages, limited resources for employees—such as childcare and housing—and a future full of unknowns, there is still work to do in workforce development. As the capital city chamber of commerce, we hope to serve as a catalyst for real progress and change in this area by connecting businesses and nonprofits to area students, introducing them to real work opportunities. You’re invited to join this effort to make the Capital Region a healthier, stronger community for all.

Incorporated in 1919, New Hampshire's state capital chamber of commerce—the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce—develops economic opportunities, strengthens the business climate and enhances quality of life in the Capital region.

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