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Talent pipeline flows through second year

New cohort continues work of identifying training needs and providers, building partnerships.

April 5, 2019
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TPM pipeline
Deb Lyzenga, formerly of West Michigan Works! and now with the state’s Talent Investment Agency, spoke about what she started last year in Grand Rapids. Courtesy Sharon Miller

A second group of West Michigan workforce developers is about to graduate from the Talent Pipeline Management Academy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce developed the program in 2015. Jackson-based Consumers Energy participated in the pilot.

In 2017, with support from Consumers and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the chamber launched the first statewide TPM Academy in the nation in Michigan, as the Business Journal reported last April. In May, Tennessee and Kentucky were selected as two additional states to host the program in 2018-19.

TPM Academy is billed as “a strategic alignment between classroom and career” in which participants learn how to be the link between employers and training providers to meet critical short- and long-term employment needs.

According to the U.S. Chamber Foundation, half of today’s available jobs go unfilled because of a shortage of qualified candidates.

“The demands of today’s economy require a strategy that connects workers to the jobs employers are trying to fill,” according to the organization’s website.

TPM Academy uses supply chain principles to help “train state and local leaders, business associations, employers and economic development agencies to drive partnerships with their education and training providers based on need.”

Whereas the first year’s class consisted of 20 leaders and CEOs from Michigan chambers, nonprofits, and economic and workforce development organizations, this year’s cohort is comprised mainly of “frontline” staff from those entities, as well as from the state government, according to Sharon Miller, TPM project manager and Michigan talent architect, Consumers Energy.

“The first academy, I think, we really needed those influencers, people who had the ability to make this authentic and say, ‘Yes, this is something that’s good and important,’” she said. “And we accomplished that because many of them are now sending their own people to attend the academy.”

Of this year’s class of 25 participants, three are from the west side of the state: Anne Pentiak and Kyle Tarkington, business solutions representatives with West Michigan Works!, and Ashley Iovieno, business services coordinator, Michigan Works! Southwest.

The first three meetups in the second cohort were held in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, and the fourth and final will take place in Gaylord in May.

Amy Lebednick is business solutions director for West Michigan Works! and supervises TMP attendees Pentiak and Tarkington.

“The Talent Pipeline Management Academy aligns really well with the work that we are already doing in our five high-demand industry sector talent councils, and so we really want to use this as a tool to bring back to those talent councils to help them build up the effective pipelines between training providers and employers,” she said.

The five talent councils she referred to are for the IT, health care, manufacturing, construction and agriculture sectors.

Deb Lyzenga, former regional director, business solutions at West Michigan Works!, attended last year’s TPM Academy just two months before taking a new job at the Michigan Talent Investment Agency.

Lebednick said West Michigan Works! was able to use Lyzenga’s experience at TPM to get the talent councils thinking about what occupations to target in terms of building a training pipeline.

“The work had begun, and the talent councils are familiar with the Talent Pipeline Management system because it was presented to them,” Lebednick said. “And so, they’ve had some time now to think about what occupations they’d like to tackle. As soon as our two employees finish (this year’s) academy, we’ll be able to get started one talent council at a time.”

She said workforce data shows 50% of the job market consists of “middle-skill” jobs, so West Michigan Works! is concentrating on those by “identifying where the pipeline is coming from and how you can enhance (it), working with the training provider and the partnerships that already exist, and enhancing or developing training programs that fit the needs of the employer.”

In some cases, she said this will mean partnering with an existing training provider to create a training program that is needed but doesn’t yet exist. In other cases, it will require helping training providers update their methodology to match the changing demands of the workplace, so graduates of training programs step into jobs with the right knowledge.

Iovieno, of Michigan Works! Southwest, said she is most interested in seeing how the structure set forth by the TPM approach will apply at the local level.

As the Business Journal reported last year, the TPM curriculum’s six directives are plan and implement an employer collaborative, engage in “demand planning,” communicate competency and credentialing requirements, analyze talent flows, build talent supply chains and continually improve.

“(We want to) bring that structured side of it to some of the collaborations that have already been formed or already had been in process, just so they have a pathway,” Iovieno said.

“Right now, my particular way I’m trying to implement it is with … the Battle Creek Manufacturing Consortium. … There’s not a lot that’s really been formalized yet. We’re at the stage of seeing how this structured process can work with an already formed collaborative and then basically bring that to them.”

Iovieno said it was helpful to hear from a guest speaker in one of the sessions who came from Kentucky to share how that state set goals to meet the talent needs of different sectors.

By July 2020, more than 25 employer groups will be convened to build talent pipelines for 75 high-demand positions, according to the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center.

Highest on the list are the manufacturing, health care, technology/business services, construction, logistics and equine industries.

Miller said Michigan can learn from Kentucky’s approach to implementing TPM Academy.

“They hired five full-time staff to actually divide up and support the people who go through the academy and help them continue to grow,” she said, adding Kentucky’s chamber divided its 40 TPM participants up into cohorts by region as well as business and industry sectors.

Miller said nearly a quarter of the members of the first Michigan TPM Academy cohort no longer work at the jobs they were in at the time, and some momentum was lost as a result.

In Lyzenga’s case, the job switch turned out to be a good thing for TPM, as she was able to send two people from the state to this year’s cohort, focusing on health care and other high-demand industries, Miller said.

Kevin Stotts, president at Talent 2025, went through the training last year and still is working on an energy sector consortium to provide support to companies like DTE Energy, which is currently in the middle of an infrastructure replacement in the Grand Rapids area and needed gas line workers.

Miller said although the turnover last year was frustrating, “We’re positioned very well for this to continue to grow and be successful in the state.”

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