We have long heard about the skills gap facing the nation’s labor market. In the Capital Region alone—from Baltimoreto Richmond—research indicates that employers risk 60,000 tech and tech adjacent jobs going unfilled annually through 2025 (The Capital Region Faces a Huge Tech Talent Shortage).
Meeting this need requires a cross-sector approach to engage current and future workers, which is why Greater Washington Partnership launched the Capital CoLAB in 2018. The Capital CoLAB (“CoLAB”) is an action-oriented partnership of business and academic institutions that develops the talent pipeline for the jobs of today and tomorrow, with a vision of making the Capital Region the most diverse digital tech workforce in the country. This partnership relies on a continuous feedback loop between employers and educators with clearcommunication about talent demand, skill needs, and opportunities to address it, which is why the Greater Washington Partnership was thrilled to host its annual CoLAB Principals Meeting in tandem with the release of anEmployer Insights Brief in October.
What We Heard
On October 11th, the Partnership convened almost 40 company executives, university presidents, community college presidents, K-12 leaders, senior administration officials, and other regional executives at its annual CoLAB Principals Meeting. Leaders came together for a dialogue around the region’s greatest talent opportunities, challenges, and vision for working across the entire talent ecosystem. Through CoLAB, these leaders aim to ensure those who grow up here, learn here, and live here can launch and build careers here.
The in-person discussion began with a conversation on accomplishments and lessons learned to date, and several key themes emerged as attendees explored the opportunities ahead as the region emerges from the pandemic, confronts new hybrid work realities, and grapples with a tight labor market and increasing economic uncertainty:
Employer Signaling.With its network of the region’s largest employers, the Greater Washington Partnership is uniquely positioned toshare real-time insights on the most in-demand competencies. CoLAB enables employers to share their hiring trends and educators to accesstimely industry data. This is even more critical in rapidly evolving fields that depend on a technically proficient workforce. Educators reiterated the value of this demand signal and howunderstanding the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed by industry allows them to adapt and shape curriculum to best prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
“Greater Washington Partnership employers, while they hail from across the Capital Region and represent many industries, all require a digitally proficient workforce to be competitive. We believe that, in order to have a strong talent ecosystem, employers need to play a proactive role in communicating their most critical skills needs, and that’s precisely what we’re doing,” said Kathy Hollinger, Chief Executive Officer at the Greater Washington Partnership.
“Northrop Grumman is committed to working with the Greater Washington Partnership to strengthen talent across the Capital Region. Our community is in a strong position to meet the demands of an evolving workforce and economy. Leveraging shared insights, resources and momentum across private and public partnerships creates opportunities to attract, retain and prepare talent now, and in the future,” said Kathy Warden, Chair, Chief Executive Officer and President of Northrop Grumman Corporation.
Creating an avenue to share real-time insights at a regional level was a driver behind the Partnership’s recentEmployer Insights Brief, which it previewed at the Principals Meeting. The brief is part of the Partnership’s broader Employer Signaling System to combine labor market information with employer insights to develop and refresh the knowledge, skills, abilities, and credentialsneeded for entry level tech and tech adjacent jobs in the region.
“We know that transparency into skills and hiring trends is key as education and training providers evolve programs to support learners entering the workforce. We hope this brief and our work can be a resource for stakeholders engaged in education and workforce initiatives,” said Francesca Ioffreda, Vice President for Inclusive Growth & Talent Initiatives at the Partnership.
Career Awareness.Principals Meeting attendees also emphasized the importance of building career awareness around the jobs and skillsets that emerge from the Employer Signaling System,both at the secondary and postsecondary levels. This includes information on specific skillsets needed to succeed in today’s economy and concrete information about the diversity of in-demand jobs in the region.Tech skillsets are broadly applicable across all industries in our region; as we continue to build career awareness around the myriad opportunities available here, we’ll emphasizehow workers can apply these skills in different companies and contexts.
Still, we know thatmany learners in the region do not have a personal connection to the jobs that utilize these tech skillsets. Chances are, many did not grow up knowing someone who held one of these positions—perhaps because of economic disparities in their neighborhoods, or even because many jobs today did not exist 20 years ago. Either way, employers and educators can work together through networks like the CoLAB to make these careers more tangible and in reach: both for learners and for current employees looking to take their career in a new direction.
Storytelling.Finally, CoLAB Principals resoundingly emphasized the need to tell our region’s story and highlight its many assets, pointing to CoLAB as a model forcollaboration between private, public, and nonprofit sectors.Fosteringthese connections across the talent ecosystemwill cement the Capital Region as a place where employers can access an unparalleled workforce, learners and workers can access a wide range of career opportunities, and educators can receive specific, reliable information about industry hiring trends.Storytelling will make this collective effort,employer signaling, and career awareness come to life.
The time is now to amplify how our partners work together to strengthen education-to-workforce pathways. CoLAB partners have much more to do together, but also have a lot to be proud of. Since 2018, we have:
–Launched the Digital Tech Credential at 18 universities to embed industry-validated, digital tech competencies into curricula.
–Created a CoLAB Digital Tech Credential Scholarship program for students pursuing digital tech pathwaysand curatedprofessional development events with area employers at CoLAB partner universities.
-Engaged over 10,000 high school students in TalentReady IT course pathways.
Over the next year, there are many ways to engage in the CoLAB network:
–Partners can nominate industry subject matter experts working in Cybersecurity, Data Analytics and Management, Machine Learning, Networking, and Software Development to refresh the knowledge, skills, and abilities that academic partners embed into curricula.
–Employers can share internship and job postings with CoLAB students, participate in career awareness panels, or host a career exploration event for Digital Tech Credential Scholarship recipients. Check out our recentStudent Career Exploration & Networking Event with Monumental Sports & Entertainment to see us in action.
–Educators can launch a Digital Tech Credential program to ensure students are learning industry-validated skillsets.
-Other regional stakeholders can partner with us to align on other workforce efforts, research initiatives, and policy.
Investing in talent development will support a thriving and inclusive region, and the Partnership is committed to providing visibility into job opportunities and in-demand skillsets.We look forward to collaborating with you!
The following partners attended the 2022 CoLAB Principals Meeting:
Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP – American University – Bowie State University – Clark Construction Group – Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area – Deloitte – EY – Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond – George Mason University – Hood College – JPMorgan Chase – KPMG LLP – Marriot Foundation – Marymount University – Maximus, Inc. – McKinsey & Company – Microsoft – Montgomery College – Monumental Sports and Entertainment – Northrop Grumman – Prince Georges Community College – Prince George’s County Public Schools – The George Washington University – Towson University – Trinity Washington University – Truist – U.S. Department of Education – United Way of the National Capital Area – University of Virginia – Virginia Tech – Washington Gas