According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the past several months there have been more jobs available than people switching jobs.
This puts many employers in a quandary. In this economic situation, companies can find that they have the market opportunity but lack the staffing capacity to complete the work. As the talent market tightens, not having the right staff with the right skills can prevent organizations from taking on new business and hinders growth.
Organizations are experiencing this type of talent shortage in high-skilled jobs, such as technology and other STEM-related jobs. However, organizations are also experiencing a talent shortage for entry-level roles, such as home health care workers, and skilled trades such as mechanics and bakers.
The limit of workforce skills at large can be a limiting factor for economic growth. This presents an opportunity to spur economic growth - workforce development. Workforce development refers to a societal-wide human resources strategy that focuses on the training and development of workers to drive economic competitiveness in a particular area or region.
For example, a state or municipality may want to develop high-tech skills within the population as part of a strategy to attract more high-paying tech jobs.
In addition to the economy, workforce development also helps individual workers. Many individuals are unemployed or underemployed and lack the skills necessary to get hired. By getting trained in a new set of skills, workers can secure better jobs, increase their income, and find more steady employment.
Communities that invest in workforce development would be smart to include formal mentoring support for transitioning workers. Mentoring supports workforce development in a number of ways:
1. Mentoring helps cultivate a culture of learning and development.
Mentoring involves a long-term commitment to an individual’s development, more so than a “one and done” training session or other one-time worker intervention.
Formalized mentoring programs send a message to the organization, workers, and other stakeholders that professional development is a worthwhile investment. Workers need to adopt a mindset of continuous learning and professional development, as the skills necessary for success change quickly.
2. Mentors provide encouragement and support for workers in transition.
Changing jobs and preparing to do new work can be challenging for workers. They must step out of their comfort zone to learn skills that they haven’t practiced before.
Often, workers may not have positive experiences and associations with school and training and may have anxiety or lack self-efficacy when learning new skills. In these situations, mentoring can be paramount, because the mentor will provide encouragement and reassurance to the individual. When workers know they have someone who is available to talk with and answer questions, they will be more likely to graduate training programs and complete other workforce development requirements.
3. Mentors help support the development of soft skills.
While the focus of many workforce development programs is on technical skills, these can become obsolete quickly as new technology changes the job skills market. However, soft skills such as collaboration, interpersonal skills, and leadership transfer to new situations and can benefit the worker for years to come.
Entry-level workers can benefit from the development of employability skills such as basic problem-solving, oral communication, and adaptability that are necessary for nearly any job. Mentoring supports these soft skills, giving the mentee an opportunity to try out new communication and interpersonal skills with the mentor. The mentor can also provide feedback and help the mentee identify specific skills on which to focus.
4. Mentors offer a support system and help grow the mentee’s network.
A mentor contributes to a mentee’s support system directly as being someone on whom the mentee can rely but also can help the mentee expand their network beyond.
The mentor can help introduce the mentee to other individuals who might be good resources for the mentee. For example, a mentor can help the individual get in touch with other government agencies that can provide resources (child care, transportation, etc.) which mentees need in order to be able to work.
5. Mentoring provides leadership development for mentors.
Besides benefitting mentees, mentoring relationships can also benefit the mentors. One way that mentoring helps mentors grow is by helping them develop leadership skills. Mentors have the opportunity to try out and practice different strategies to motivate others, explain new concepts, and provide feedback. These opportunities can make the mentor a more effective manager and leader in the future.
By including mentoring in workforce development efforts, communities and businesses can earn a greater return on investment in their overall training and development efforts.
Mentoring is a cost-effective way to provide workers with a support system, help them improve necessary soft skills, and promote a culture of learning and growth, resulting in a long-term investment in the community.