Workforce Development

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"Workforce development" is an ambiguous concept. On the one hand and informally, it can mean enhancement and adaption of worker skill and attitude sets to established and specified jobs; on the other, it can be interpreted to mean adaptation of jobs to existing workers and their attributes. In general and intuitively, it is the former sense that is likely to come to mind in connection with workforce development.

More formally, it is takes two forms: location-based strategies or enterprise sector-based strategies, i.e., development of a geographically identified workforce or of an industry-identified workforce-at either a micro-economic or macroeconomic level, e.g., for a specific company or neighborhood vs. for an entire (sector of an) economy or large region.

Ever since Darwin's Origin of Species was published, evolutionary and developmental perspectives (as opposed to static classifications, e.g., of creatures, tools and jobs) have permeated almost every area of human thought and interest. Organizations are no exception to that influence-especially in the modern era of accelerating change in virtually all enterprise domains. Although "workforce development" would have been regarded as bizarre among Neolithic or even 19th-century farmers, it is, in the 21st-century a virtual given for organizational advance, if not for survival.

In a broad sense, workforce development is the process of creating job opportunities for workers and vice-versa. In a narrow sense, it is an organization's investing training, education, etc., in its employees to improve their performance. Organizations often partner with government or private agencies dedicated to workforce development to create initiatives to improve the internal and external workforce. Workforce development initiatives focus either on industries or on geographical locations.

Managers and human resources departments should offer training opportunities to their current employees to improve workforce capabilities. Employees should be willing to learn and better themselves by gaining as much experience, training, and education as possible. As a whole, organizations should be involved in community and industry efforts to improve both job opportunities and training opportunities.

Development is important because as an organization grows, jobs and workers evolve and adapt. Employees must be able to adapt to the changes through more training and education. Often, for example, because of technological advances, the jobs have to be adapted to the innovations. Additionally, an organization should invest in the external workforce so that when more employees are needed, there will be enough available. Obviously, a well-developed workforce is vital to a healthy economy and organization.

Organizations should offer workshops, mentoring, apprenticeships, coaching, certification, tuition assistance, and the like to develop the current workforce. In addition, they should partner with outside agencies to help identify weaknesses within the workforce at large. Moreover, organizations should make known what kind of skills they are looking for in job candidates so that educational institutions can prepare individuals to earn a living wage.
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