With an unemployment rate lower than the state average, competition for talent in the Memphis region can be intense. Fortunately, higher education institutions and workforce development organizations are working hard playing matchmaker and finding innovative ways to connect businesses with talent.
A community resource dedicated to improving employment opportunities in Memphis, Shelby County and Fayette County, the Workforce Investment Network integrates the resources and activities of several federal programs. WIN helps match job seekers with local businesses that are hiring and provides residents with services, training, skills and education to promote personal growth and professional advancement.
“Our workforce development specialist will serve over 14,000 job seekers this year, and our business services team will engage over 500 companies to help them recruit and retain employees as they grow their businesses here in our community,” says Kevin Woods, WIN executive director. “We assist existing and new companies with identifying applicants, hosting job fairs and hiring events, screening of applicants and even on-the-job training.”
In partnership with the Greater Memphis Chamber, WIN developed the “Made in Memphis” initiative, which focuses on creating a workforce skilled for opportunities in manufacturing.
Tools for the Trade
The Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce was created as an initiative of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Council and local government. After being awarded a $6-million federal grant in 2016, GMACWorkforce created an initiative focused on providing job placement and assistance to more than 1,000 individuals in the medical device manufacturing sector.
The alliance developed the MemphisWorks mobile application, which is particularly appealing to the region’s growing millennial population. The app features more than 5,000 local job openings, listed by location, industry and video testimonials. Applicants can also upload resumes from the app.
William R. Moore College of Technology (Moore Tech) is another crucial link in the talent supply chain. The school offers associate degrees and certificates in half a dozen subject areas, and boasts a 100 percent job placement rate in applied technology, machining technology, maintenance technology and industrial electricity and plant maintenance.
“When we say placement, we mean placement in their field. We don’t mean that we graduated somebody in welding, and then they got a job at McDonald’s. We mean they got a job welding, or in whatever their major was,” says John Malmo, chairman of Moore Tech’s board of trustees and a long-time Memphis advertising executive. “When new businesses come and talk to us about their needs, we work with them to provide people to fill those needs — even adapting the curriculum to ensure our students are receiving the training needed to fill those jobs.”
The University of Memphis has developed a central resource, Tiger Talent, for students seeking employment and employers looking for talent. It is a one-stop shop that lets companies reach out to students, whether it’s for an internship, part-time employment for full-time students or hiring students after graduation.
The university has established a graduation incentive program called Finish Line. The program targets former students with at least 90 credit hours, offering reduced tuition to allow them to complete their degree. In the 2 1/2 years the program has been in place, the average cost has been less than $1,000 and less than nine credit hours have been needed for people to finish their degrees.
David Rudd, University of Memphis president, says increasing the educational attainment rate of the workforce makes Greater Memphis even more attractive to relocating businesses.
“The No. 1 issue for any employer — and I’ve heard this consistently throughout the three years that I’ve been president — is the workforce and whether or not there is an available workforce in terms of education preparation and competency to fill the positions that an employer would bring with them,” he says.