When meeting with a Chamber member the question “what is the top challenge facing your business right now?” is always at the top of my list. Understanding these challenges allows the Chamber to tailor its programming, member benefits, and advocacy priorities to areas that will help address the various challenges facing our members.
With more than 800 members, we hear about a broad spread of business challenges, many that are unique to certain industries or business models. There are, however, many common challenges that our membership shares which is where the Chamber focuses its efforts. Rising costs associated with healthcare and energy, burdensome or confusing government regulations, where to find unique and high quality networking and relationship building opportunities, and creating innovative marketing and branding strategies that will help a business grow are all common challenges we hear from members.
Of late, recruiting and hiring quality talent is easily the challenge we are hearing most frequently from members across a variety of industries and from businesses of all sizes. This feedback syncs with the Chamber’s strategic plan, which based on member feedback and focus groups, selected education and workforce development as one of the Chamber’s top priorities. In response, the Chamber has ramped up its activity in this area with new programming and initiatives to help strengthen our local workforce, build partnerships with the Manchester School District, and aid Chamber members in promoting job openings in new ways. Current initiatives include:
Education and Workforce Development Committee – under the leadership of Chamber Board of Directors Vice Chairman Frank Wells, the recently established education and workforce development committee has focused its efforts on partnering the business community with the Manchester School District to improve educational outcomes. The success of our local school district not only is key to ensuring students are prepared to enter the workforce, but the perception of the district also impacts our ability to attract and recruit talented workers and their families to the area currently.
Educator Leadership Summit – a key initiative of the Chamber in this area is the Educator Leadership program. What started as a pilot program modeled after the Leadership Greater Manchester program, transitioned this year to a new format of a single day summit to connect local educators with business leaders to learn about workforce trends and opportunities. More than 225 Manchester educators attended the first summit on September 13th.
Manchester School District Superintendent Search – ensuring the next leader of the Manchester School District is ready to lead and partner with community leaders is critical. The Chamber, in conjunction with the Granite United Way, sought to partner with the School Board to support the search process with funding. While this partnership did not move forward, the Chamber has been an active participant in focus groups with the search consultants and hosted the finalists for the position at a roundtable with key business and community leaders prior to their final interviews with the school board. Ensuring the business community has a voice in this process is critical to ensuring the school district and business community are able to continue to partner to meet workforce needs.
Chamber Job Promotion– in the short term the Chamber is focused on what role we can serve to promote job openings at our member businesses. Harnessing the power of our extensive membership can help address this issue and is something we are exploring. Allowing our members to promote jobs through our website, e-news, and social media platforms are opportunities we are working to develop.
This is just the start of our efforts to help members address this critical challenge. If you have ideas or feedback on workforce development, or your own unique hiring challenges, please reach out to us and share.