Workforce Focus: Never Stop Learning

From longstanding partnerships to targeted instruction, companies seek training options that fit their needs.

By Anne Cosgrove
From the March/April 2023 Issue

Partnerships in their communities can be invaluable for helping businesses respond to growing talent needs. These programs can offer employers a reliable way to cultivate an educated and trained workforce. It can also reduce employers’ training costs, while improving productivity retention.

Colleges and universities are an important part of employee training programs. And companies are looking even further out to partner with the communities in which they plan to locate or expand. In addition to educational institutions, economic development organizations are an ideal source. When these programs can be customized to the business at hand, the benefit of training can go even further.

(Photo: Adobe Stock)


Training and retaining a workforce that is ready for the current and emerging needs calls for business to have partnerships with a variety of groups—industry, educators, workers, state and local governments, and nonprofits. Business leaders are in the position to communicate the real demand they are facing into their industry, and in their individual company. They can talk about the skills needed by employees today.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), in 2019 consumers spent nearly $250 billion on higher education and vocational programs, and according to one survey, training expenditures by U.S. employers totaled $83 billion that year. Through partnerships, businesses can help create new pathways that enable all workers to bridge the skills gap, grow their careers, and contribute to productivity and profitability.

Meanwhile, automation and digitization are accelerating the speed of change, and this is changing the skills businesses need and hire for. As a result, in some spaces job definitions are also changing. This pace demands a workforce of lifelong learners to continually learn and develop new and needed skills.

In a 2021 document, The Conference Board shared recommendations for a collaborative training plan. This included a checklist for business leaders, educators, and training providers as they partner to grow and fortify needed workforce skills.

  • Grow and diversify talent pipelines that include support of underrepresented or economically vulnerable groups, such as workers economically impacted by COVID-19.
  • Design curricula and training for the skill sets and experience employers need from new hires.
  • Determine credentials based on attainment of skills instead of degrees.
  • Engage with state and local workforce boards or employer-driven regional consortiums to improve the quality of publicly supported training pathways.
  • Participate in sector-based initiatives that deliver learn-as-you-earn opportunities to draw in workers who would otherwise be excluded due to financial circumstances.

The Conference Board also recommended that business leaders identify and fill worker skill gaps and facilitate career mobility. To achieve this:

  • Prepare strategic assessments of emerging technologies and map the skills and roles needed to apply them.
  • Empower employees to control their own careers by redesigning human capital processes to show employees clear career pathways, the skills they require, and ways to attain those skills.
  • Embrace competency-based hiring and promotion models that identify skills rather than degrees, cultivate and leverage overlooked sources of talent, and encourage employees to continue to advance their careers.

Louisiana: Training To The Hydrogen Future

The state of Louisiana is mapping a path to a low-carbon, hydrogen-powered future. Among the most promising new energy frontiers is hydrogen, with planned production quadrupling by 2030. Louisiana is prepared for the surge, upskilling members of its energy workforce and training future researchers and engineers in low-carbon technologies.

Two recently announced initiatives exemplify those ambitions.

Louisiana, together with Arkansas and Oklahoma, established the HALO Hub for development, production, and use of hydrogen as a fuel feedstock. The agreement provides for:

  • Promoting infrastructure investment.
  • Prioritizing carbon capture.
  • Connecting high-carbon facilities with a hydrogen infrastructure that reduces CO2 emissions.
  • Supporting hydrogen production for all phases of industry.
H2theFuture could halve total emissions produced by hydrogen in Louisiana, representing millions of tons of CO2 otherwise released into the atmosphere. (Photo: courtesy of GNO, inc.)


H2theFuture is a groundbreaking project to create an offshore, wind-powered hydrogen energy industry cluster that is highly integrated with higher education institutions to provide a skilled hydrogen workforce. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2022 Build Back Better Challenge awarded $50 million to jump-start its initiatives, which include:

  • H2W, workforce training for the more than 20,000 workers from the oil and gas industry, rural residents, and minorities. The Louisiana Community & Technical College System will lead training and retraining. The region’s four HBCUs—Dillard University, Southern University, Southern University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana—will create an energy specialization to position students as hydrogen industry leaders.
  • H2T, higher ed-based “testbeds” to research low-carbon hydrogen technologies at four of the state’s universities. Nicholls State University’s Institute for Engineering Technology will create a new degree. Louisiana State University Carbon Center will focus efforts on carbon capture, utilization, and transport. The University of Louisiana at Lafayette Green Hydrogen Center, already part of the Halo Hub, will further advance its research into alternative and traditional energies. The University of New Orleans will create a Maritime Green Energy Lab to serve as a development center for hydrogen-fueled ships.
  • H2N, the New Energy Center of the United States at the University of New Orleans. NeXus will be housed at The Beach, a research and technology park with more than 30 tenants from government, nonprofits, and private sectors. NeXus will serve as the physical and programmatic hub for a range of new energy initiatives, with classrooms, labs, offices, and coworking spaces.

Private Sector Investments. Meanwhile, Louisiana’s private sector has already announced over $20 billion for renewable energy projects, including:

  • Clean Hydrogen Works is proposing a $7.5 billion large-scale hydrogen-ammonia production, carbon capture and export facility in Ascension Parish. The project would establish Ascension Clean Energy (ACE) in partnership with Denbury Carbon Solutions and Hafnia.
  • Air Products is laying the groundwork for its $4.5 billion hydrogen energy complex in Ascension Parish. The company plans to capture and sequester 95% of the process facility’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

“This landmark megaproject will not only create jobs, but make Louisiana a leader in the U.S. clean energy transition,” Air Products CEO Seifi Ghasemi said. “We are fully invested in and committed to projects that leverage our build-own-operate, technology, financial, and sustainability capabilities, and this project brings all of those core strengths together.”

Visit for more information.

Missouri: Meeting Companies’ Needs With Flexibility

Missouri One Start, the state’s workforce recruitment, training, and upskilling division, offers well-established programs that have trained more than 900,000 workers to date. Its programs are highly flexible and designed to work in lock-step with eligible companies to address their workforce challenges. Companies within the program can utilize industry or in-house training experts, either at their facility or via an industry-recognized training facility, or they may choose to utilize training funds via Missouri One Start’s extensive network of community colleges and tech schools. Missouri One Start’s programs ensure businesses have employee training and upskilling to remain competitive, reduce turnover, and excel in the marketplace.

Supervisors from SRC Electrical in southwest Missouri are enthusiastic about the skills they gained through a customized leadership development program from Missouri One Start. (Photo: Missouri One Start)


Just one example is SRC Electrical in southwest Missouri.

As a longtime participant in the Missouri One Start Customized Training Program, HR Director Erin Malone fully recognized the importance of upskilling the SRC workforce. After conducting an employee satisfaction survey, she discovered a growing concern surrounding front-line leadership—a lack of cohesive supervisory skills.

To address the issue, Malone took the survey information to their Missouri One Start Local Education Agency, the OTC Center for Workforce Development (OTC-CWD). Together, they developed a comprehensive Leadership Development program for Supervisors and Team Leaders. The new program was designed to address the distinctive issues facing the company, and included leadership essentials such as improving communication with others, managing conflict, and developing and coaching others.

Fifteen participants, Supervisors or Team Leaders for both production and warehouse departments, took part in half-day sessions held over 10-weeks. Comprised of both tenured and newly-promoted team leads, the program was designed to provide participants with energy, new ideas, and a better understanding of how to lead and motivate their employees.

Participants embraced the Can/Can’t Will/Won’t Matrix and began using it immediately with their staff. Once the leaders knew where their associates lay on the matrix, they reported better understanding in working and creating an environment where people are motivated to succeed. Immediately following the 10-week Leadership Development program, positive results were seen. Malone reported that all 15 supervisors provided the same feedback—that the training was fantastic and that they learned a lot about themselves and the best ways to communicate.

workforceImmigration Reform Could Be Key For Labor Shortage

A report from The Conference Board’s Committee for Economic Development points to immigration policy as an essential key to mitigating workforce shortage challenges in the U.S. market. Read more…

Malone noted that SRC Electrical has participated in Missouri One Start’s Customized Training Program for more than 10 years and said the following regarding their partnership with OTC-CWD and the training opportunities provided by Missouri One Start’s assistance: “The partnership with OTC-CWD and SRC Electrical has never been better. We are so fortunate to work with a group of people who are passionate about training and developing the workforce. OTC-CWD listens to our company needs and has proven time and time again to be a solution provider. I highly recommend that companies apply to Missouri One Start’s program. Training and developing your workforce are key to retention. Their programs give companies the ability to pair the right training to your individual business challenges.”

The Show-Me State continues to demonstrate its commitment to a skilled workforce. With a myriad of programs and opportunities available, it’s easy to see why businesses in Missouri continue to be recognized on Fortune’s list of best companies to work and why the state continues to see hundreds of millions of dollars in investments.

Visit for more information.

Check out the latest workforce development-related economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion, and site selection news.