Case Study: A Better Workforce Pipeline informed by Everyday Expertise: OhioMeansJobs
Sector: Workforce Services
Client: OhioMeansJobs at Hamilton County Job and Family Services
"[Cohear's] methods were impressive. We took tangible steps on seven fronts to redirect staff, dollars, and priorities... The recommendations were valuable, the process used to gather those recommendations was compelling."
–Hamilton County OhioMeansJobs Director, Kevin Holt
OhioMeansJobs (OMJ) at Hamilton County Job and Family Services recognized a twofold problem: many workers without four-year degrees are caught in a cycle of low wages and high turnover in volatile sectors, such as leisure and hospitality. Yet, employers in industries like logistics, the building trades, and manufacturing struggle with staffing shortages despite often offering stable career paths for this demographic. Equity concerns are central to these problems, since more minorities lack degree qualifications compared to white peers, and many high-demand industries (e.g. construction) can be heavily male-dominated.
Solving for these needs meant taking on a complex tangle of challenges all along the workforce pipeline—from education, to training, to recruitment, to retention—so OMJ partnered with Cohear to learn directly from the everyday experts who know these issues best to brainstorm solutions.
We leveraged our Bridgebuiler network to bring hundreds of “everyday experts”—the people who live the issues every day—to the table with OMJ leadership for productive, solutions-oriented conversations.
9 focus groups and 23 qualitative interviews with over 80 everyday experts all along the workforce pipeline, including employers, workforce training providers, educators, and job seekers without four year-degrees.
“[We need] something that really is able to come alongside employees in their first 3-6 months, when they begin to run into the inevitable barriers and issues that they run into with a car repair, or a sick child, or something like that.”
–Workforce training provider
“These different businesses and career paths, you need a step-by-step [process], you need someone to literally hold [your hand] when it’s something new.”
–Job seeker without a four-year degree
Though these conversations included participants from diverse backgrounds and all sides of the workforce issue, a similar set of recommendations emerged from the discussions time and time again:
Provide one-on-one case management for trainees and new employees to help them overcome the biggest barriers to success when transitioning out of poverty: unstable transportation and childcare, the cliff effect, family emergencies, and interpersonal challenges at a new workplace.
Invest long-term in career preparedness for middle and high school students of color, including paid internship opportunities and hands-on job shadowing.
Intentionally recruit underrepresented populations to living wage jobs by:
Highlighting current employees belonging to underrepresented groups in marketing materials and on recruiting teams
Creating a respectful, flexible workplace culture in order to retain them
Create flexible, affordable childcare solutions to allow parents—particularly women—to access work and seek out additional career training and certification opportunities.
OhioMeansJobs both heard these ideas directly from the everyday experts and walked away with concrete next-step pilot ideas from Cohear’s strategy report. Some of the resulting changes that have already been made include:
Hamilton County Job and Family Services (HCJFS) will be investing $5,000,000 annually in a year-round paid youth experience program with an emphasis on vocational skills, independent living skills, and job readiness programming.
HCJFS and the The Southwest Ohio Region Workforce Investment Board have invested $55,000 into an inclusive marketing effort to seek out diverse job candidates and to highlight their opportunities for high-quality job opportunities with living wages, benefits, and robust worker support.
Increasing diversity of OhioMeansJobs staff and providing trauma-informed training to help employees cope with impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.