Maher & Maher, an IMPAQ Company - Investment Advisors for Talent Development.
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Creating a Workforce Development Strategy to Support Atlanta’s Economic Prosperity

Invest Atlanta (IA), the City’s economic development agency, engaged Maher & Maher in a project designed to align AWDA, the City’s workforce development agency, with the City’s economic development strategy. Ultimately, the goal is to build a truly integrated and robust talent development system.

Maher & Maher team is working closely with IA, AWDA, its partners, and a constellation of related community stakeholders to ensure that AWDA’s strategies align with and support Invest Atlanta’s economic development strategies, both short- and long-term.  The approach to this effort is highly collaborative and transparent, with the goal of ensuring full partner engagement, surfacing new ideas and innovations, and creating a strong foundation for implementation and sustainability.

The project includes three primary phases, including: 

  1. Data collection and analysis, and stakeholder validation, of the current and projected gap between employers’ talent needs and the skill levels and credential attainment among the City’s workforce;
  2. Analysis of the current workforce system, including structure, operations, partnerships, services, and funding strategies, to determine the system’s capacity to fulfill talent needs long-term; and
  3. The development of a set of recommendations designed to align workforce development priorities and practices with the goals and strategies identified for Atlanta’s long-term economic growth and prosperity.

In building the new system, Maher is cognizant of studies that indicate a distinct lack of economic mobility among Atlanta residents. We feel that building the system around a regional sector strategies approach, combined with building and supporting career pathways, has the potential to impact this situation.

Thus far, we have successfully completed all three phases, and are about to seek adoption of our recommendations by the Mayor’s Office.  After that, we will form a region-wide Strategic Implementation Group to work with the City and our consulting team to develop an implementation plan. Our recommendations involve a number of changes in how Atlanta would carry out its workforce development business, including:

  • Restructuring the relationship between the Atlanta WIB and the City’s WIA operating agency, AWDA, to ensure that strategic matters receive full consideration and focused action; revitalizing the WIB in various ways; and creating a WIB Executive Director position to which the City’s Chief Workforce Operating Officer would report;
  • Creating a Regional Data Team to serve the LMI needs of the five WIBs in Metro Atlanta, and to periodically help identify target growth industry sectors on which the System will focus;
  • Piloting, and then instituting sector strategies and career pathways as the City’s operating framework, and connecting comprehensively with the other four Metro Atlanta operations to create regional approaches to developing and utilizing Industry Partnerships; and
  • Adopting a regional approach to providing Business Services, thereby allowing for specialization of workforce staff in various growth industries, among many other benefits.

In our work thus far, we've found that some of the Workforce System’s “early adopters” around the country experienced serious growing pains in creating the kinds of approaches represented by these recommendations. By learning from those experiences, Atlanta is hoping to move away from a strict “measures-based” culture to one that is designed to strategically meet regional industry and jobseeker needs.

Led by Mayor Reed, Atlanta is reimagining its service delivery framework and approach at the same time as it is reorganizing internally, revitalizing its WIB, and also filling some key leadership positions.  Our work in recruiting regional leaders to support the change effort, and proceeding to create an integrated implementation plan, has the effort off to a good start.

Next, we will move next to deliver our final recommendations to the Mayor and Council, and transfer ownership of implementation off to the region-wide Strategic Implementation Group established to carry this effort forward. With the continuing engagement of political and business leaders in Atlanta, the City stands to achieve a better integrated System for managing the regional talent pipeline and better serving both jobseekers and employers. We look forward with great enthusiasm to what these committed leaders will achieve!