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Working Together: Fostering a future workforce for the greater Reno region (voices)

Amy Fleming

Special to the NNBW

Amy Fleming
Courtesy EDAWN

RENO, Nev. — The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN) is charged with supporting economic growth of the Reno Metropolitan area by supporting development of businesses, primarily those that generate more than half of their revenue from outside the state — bringing dollars from the outside, in.

Three teams approach this support through Business Attraction; Entrepreneurial Support; and Business Retention, Expansion and Workforce Development (BREWD). This column will zero-in on the last piece of that third group: Workforce Development. 

Given the current economic climate, workforce is front-of-mind for many in our community and across the country. We are pleased to have the opportunity to share insights into Workforce Development activities in our region as well as national best-practices, innovative ideas and trends. Workforce Development is, essentially, a broad reference to activities that strengthen a community’s workforce to better meet employer needs, reduce barriers to economic mobility and increase resiliency to changes in the environment or market. 

It’s old news that Northwest Nevada has been experiencing record growth in both jobs and population, going from 14% unemployment in 2010 to the current 2.6% — .0.1% shy of the 20-year low. This, coupled with record lows across the nation and newly diversified employment opportunities, presents local providers with a unique set of challenges. We’ll explore the local Workforce Development landscape to see how organizations and innovative companies provide services and opportunities. We’ll look at employers that are having a particularly positive impact on Workforce Development both within and beyond their current employees.

In addition to addressing current challenges, we must also have eyes on the future. Regardless of how our economy continues to diversify, automation will continue to impact our landscape as work functions across industries are becoming more efficient. Partners in our region are working to prepare for the impending increase of automation given that many studies rank Nevada as one of the states most vulnerable to these technologies.

The Workforce Development team at EDAWN supports three main areas: Incumbent Worker Training (Upskilling), Pre-K to PhD Education (Pipeline), and Skilled Talent Attraction. We’ll dive deeply into those topics, but we’ll also cover broader topics such as strategies for Collective Impact and Workforce Retention in a competitive market.

Much of EDAWN’s strength comes from an ability to promote, strengthen and leverage partners, and this exercise will be no different. We’ll be arranging for you to hear directly from partners in education, workforce development, community development, and others. 

So, who am I? I grew up in Reno, earned my B.S. in Biology from UNR, and recently moved back to the area after having spent 10 years in Boston. As a Mom of 2 young girls, I could probably dedicate an entire second column to the challenges of being a working mom … but given that the number of women in the workforce now exceeds the number of men, it’s likely many of you could write that article as well. I ski, love the outdoors and am very active in the music community as a choir director and performer. 

Before moving back home, I was most recently the Program Manager for Competitiveness and Economic Development for Michael Porter at Harvard Business School’s (HBS) Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness. My major focus areas were Microeconomics of Competitiveness (how businesses drive economies) and Shared Value (businesses solving social problems with their business models).

At HBS, I had the opportunity to develop and manage courses, research and write cases, and manage a network of more than 500 faculty across 150 institutions in more than 60 countries, all working and teaching in the competitiveness or economic development arenas. I worked with heads-of-state and heads-of-major-corporations to help them communicate experiences from which others could learn.

I worked on the Fortune Magazine Change the World List for several years and worked closely with groups running the US Cluster Mapping Project, The Social Progress Index, and Shared Value Initiative. I’ve been in Workforce Development with EDAWN for a little over a year. 

This experience is always with me as I work to strengthen our workforce development system to best support the needs of our employers. I’m excited to go on this journey with you and hope to emerge more enlightened and inspired to facilitate the development of our remarkable community. 

“Working Together” is a recurring Voices column in the NNBW authored by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. Amy Fleming is manager of workforce development for EDAWN. Reach her for comment at fleming@edawn.org.