Skip to main content
Banner for the Cleveland Fed Digest: Get to know us

Why is it a challenge for workforce development strategies to prepare workers for future jobs, and how can they contribute to local economic growth?

Drew Pack
Drew Pack, Community Outreach Manager, Community Development Department

As appeared in the Cleveland Fed Digest's Ask the Expert on 10.02.2018

Issue #19 | October 2, 2018

Workforce development—training and education to help enhance people’s lives through career advancement—can be difficult because the economy is always changing and the labor force is always changing with it, and it’s hard to project what the jobs and necessary skills of the future will be. For instance, in trying to forecast what jobs will be needed in a region, there might be a company that leaves and there might be a company that enters, and either one could change the skills that are needed locally. It’s a moving target.

One important contribution workforce development strategies can make is to provide clarity in terms of what skills translate into current and future career paths. For example, there are countries that have what are called “occupational standards” that outline the skills and certifications that are needed to enter occupations and to advance in the field, so there’s a clear roadmap for people. Parts of the United States are moving toward this model of set occupational standards. I talk to so many people who say they wish when they were younger that they had had a better understanding of all the job opportunities that existed and the skills that would be needed for particular jobs. Occupational standards could give them that information.

With an unemployment rate around 4 percent, employers are having to look in places they hadn’t looked before to find qualified workers. There are manufacturers that could be running at full capacity but aren’t because they can’t find enough employees to fill open positions that require certain skillsets. So, there’s more pressure for the workforce development system to attract and develop enough workers to meet the needs of regional employers and to help companies and the economy grow.

Check out more

Drew Pack is a community outreach manager in the Community Development Department at the Cleveland Fed. He works with community members in Pittsburgh and Erie, Pennsylvania, and Wheeling, West Virginia, to stay informed about community and economic development challenges and to facilitate collaboration among organizations, including foundations, banks, and universities.

Cleveland Fed Digest delivers Cleveland Fed work right to your inbox once a month. Read, download, and explore just some of what the Cleveland Fed offers the public, from economic research and special reports on housing, banking, and labor markets to community development analyses and graphics that examine issues and illustrate trends. Of course, you can also check out all of our published work anytime right here on If you’re not yet a subscriber to Cleveland Fed Digest, share your email address with us to receive the e-newsletter each month. We welcome your feedback, too! Contact with questions or comments.

Rest assured, we do not sell or share your email address, and you may unsubscribe at any time.