Author Archives: Shabaka Gibson

Workforce Readiness Certifications as a Talent Development Tool

There has been a lot of effort recently to certify communities and workers as workforce ready. I applaud any effort that helps to improve the talent picture within a community. However, I believe that there is a deeper play for these certifications.

Workforce readiness gives an indication of an individual’s readiness to perform at a basic level. The certification tests tend to be given to high school juniors and seniors at the earliest, but more often, to post high school graduates who have not gone on to college, tech, or trade schools. I argue that if a community is going to use these certification tests, they should be given to students as early as the 8th or 9th grade. From there, these students now have time to work on their areas of deficiency. 

My rationale is pretty simple. If you give a workforce certification test to a young adult after they have left high school and they don’t qualify, they have limited options. They are no longer in the school system. Thus, the options are: 1. Society gives the young adult condolences on not being prepared to work or 2. The community has to invest additional resources to get that person to the most basic level of workforce readiness.

To be competitive for medium to higher wages, they will need more.

If the test is given at the 8th, 9th or as late as the 10th grade, there will be awareness. There will be time to work on the student’s workforce readiness while society is still obligated to spend resources on that student. In my opinion, the earlier, the better. Once individual workforce readiness has been established, it should be the basis from which a student increases their usefulness to employers – meaning tech, trade, 2-4 year college.   

Individual workforce ready certification is no substitute for individual trade certification, technical training, or higher degrees. However, workforce certifications can be used in a way that adds value to the education and workforce training process.

For more about talent strategies or to learn about Ady Advantage and the services we offer, visit our website at or give us a call at 608.663.9218. I or a member of my team would be happy to speak with you.

Building Defense Economies Resilient to the Defense Industry

The defense industry is notorious for its boom and bust cycles. Almost anything can affect it, including public policy, global affairs, technology, and funding. For some local economies that are heavy into the industry, this can, at times, cause economic uncertainty. Employment goes up and down, talent disperses, and the robustness of the local economy is at the mercy of the next congressional budget cycle.

Defense-based economies can find success and stability by diversifying vertically and horizontally through the industry. What do I mean by this? Every economic sector overlaps with others. Defense is a great example of this as it touches on everything, and that creates economic opportunities for communities.

To diversify vertically, look at what areas of defense your local businesses are currently serving. Also look at areas of the defense sector that could be served by the current assets in your community but are not. Try to attract growth opportunities that can take advantage of these assets as well as support the existing defense businesses. The goal would be to build a defense sector economy that is diversified on the supply chain front, from top to bottom.

Additionally, the workforce and other regional assets may be useful to other sectors/industries. Remember, defense doesn’t operate in a silo. It is a sector of the economy that cuts across multiple industries. Thus, understanding the full spectrum of industries in your area could yield non-defense related growth. The goal should be to have businesses with similar labor and other asset demands but do not depend solely on the defense industry. This would allow for workforce absorption during the bust cycles and add resiliency to the area’s economy.

Defense will always be an appealing target for many companies. But that target is often not as stable as many would like. By diversifying vertically within the industry and horizontally into industries with similar asset demands, a community can help shield itself against the pitfalls of defense spending cycles.

For more about defense community growth strategies or to learn about Ady Advantage and the services we offer, visit our website at or email us at [email protected]. I or a member of my team would be happy to speak with you. 

AS I SEE IT | Building Talent Attraction Strategies that Work

As most economic developers will tell you these days, businesses go to where the talent is located. So, many regions understand that business attraction often means talent attraction. Here are a few thoughts on building talent attraction strategies that work.
  1. Realistically identify your assets.  Similar to site selection, there are assets that communities can sell to potential talent. Sometimes it’s a great climate or access to outdoor amenities.  Other times it’s a sleek urban lifestyle, high density of jobs in a specific industry, low cost of living, or maybe just a favorable brand. Every place has something to offer. It is important that every community identifies its competitive advantages and is honest about its shortcomings.
  2. While identifying your assets, don’t forget that there are different layers to your strengths. People are dynamic, and their lives are layered. There are social, professional, and recreational aspects of people. Each aspect matters when trying to recruit talent. Looking at talent attraction in this manner allows communities to narrow their focus and make more relevant pitches to potential new residents.
  3. Don’t forget your students. I often hear that students at the local colleges and universities stay on or near campus, and then leave when they graduate. It’s important to understand that students don’t live in your community. They live in “student world.”  It’s this magical place where everything important is within a brisk 15-minute walk or an easy bus ride away. This isn’t their fault. They are focused, as they should be. Once school is over, they get the opportunity to join the rest of the world. Communities and regions should consider strategies that court them while they are students, not when they are about to graduate. In addition, since they are living in “student world,” they are not yours to retain. So, approach them with a mindset of talent attraction.
  4. Speaking of retention, my last thought is simple. Don’t forget to retain the talent after you attract it. There are a plethora of great strategies to attract talent to an area. But if a person doesn’t integrate into a community, then they are susceptible to being poached by another community. Some of this can be avoided by adequately targeting the right talent to recruit. Nonetheless, ensure that you help create a sense of ownership over time. A good talent attraction plan addresses community integration as part of the strategy.
For more about talent attraction and retention strategies or to learn about Ady Advantage and the services we offer, visit our website at or give us a call at 608.663.9218. I or a member of my team would be happy to speak with you.