Based on the research report Help Wanted by the National Center for the Middle Market and the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, the final post in our workforce development series describes how education, training, and job placement resources can better align their services with middle market needs.

According to our recent research, nearly four out of 10 middle market companies struggle to find the talent they need to grow. Considering the middle market’s crucial role as a driver of the economy, this is clearly a problem that goes beyond any individual company’s walls. And, while middle market firms can certainly be more proactive about how they find, train, and retain qualified individuals; they cannot solve the talent shortage alone. The workforce development ecosystem—made up of education, training, and job placement resources, both public and privates—needs to be a part of the equation.

4 Ways The Job Support Ecosystem Can Better Meet the Middle Market’s Robust Appetite for Talent:

  1. Pay more attention to the middle market as the provider of jobs. Organizations and resources that provide workforce support and skills development services will be much more effective when they train candidates for specific jobs available. Since jobs are primarily coming from middle market firms—the Center’s calculations show that mid market companies are responsible for 60% of all new jobs created—it would be wise for support organizations to better understand the middle market’s specific skill needs and tailor their programs to address them.

    Though the type of in-demand skills varies by industry, middle market companies are having the hardest time finding people at the top end of the skills ladder with capabilities to fill managerial, professional/technical, and sales roles. Mid-market firms also have an increasing need for talent with the “soft skills” needed to work well with others in a corporate environment. Educational and training programs that address these specific skills areas can play an important role in helping middle market firms find more candidates.
  2. Make available support resources easier to navigate and access. Beyond customizing programs to develop more people with the types of skills middle market companies are seeking, workforce development organizations can also make their services more relevant to mid sized companies by simplifying processes and bureaucracy. Middle market firms typically have lean HR staffs. They lack the time and resources to navigate cumbersome program applications processes or comply with complex participation guidelines. Streamlined, easy-to-access, and more responsive programs will be the best fit for middle market firms that often need to engage quickly and get qualified boots on the ground as soon as possible.
  3. Understand the differences between mid-sized firms and small businesses. When existing workforce initiatives do consider company size, they often lump middle market companies into the same category as small businesses. They look at these firms together as “SMEs”—small and medium enterprises. However, middle market firms have distinct needs. For one, they tend to be mature than smaller companies. As a result, they often have a more complex mix of workforce skill requirements.
  4. Make use of intermediaries. Intermediaries bridges the needs and interests of employers, workers, and educators and trainers. These intermediaries go by different names: workforce intermediary, employer collaborative, industry partnership. But they essentially exist to help employers and workers find each other.

    Intermediaries offer efficiencies by aggregating employer needs across a given sector so educators and other workforce development organizations can better address those needs. In some cases, intermediaries provide opportunities for medium and smaller businesses to work with larger employers for economies of scale in training investments.

When the workforce development ecosystem finds ways to better align with the middle market firms that are supplying the most new jobs, companies and communities both stand to benefit. For their part, middle market companies can be proactive about reaching out to workforce development organizations, making their needs known, and establishing relationships. But trade associations, educators, workforce investment boards, business development groups, and policymakers need to take action, too. Collaboration across the spectrum of interested parties can help the workforce support system do a much better job of matching talent supply with talent demand. And that’s a win for everyone.

Learn more about the middle market’s talent challenges.

For more details about the talent demand and supply mismatch in the middle market, and how companies and other stakeholders can help resolve the issue, download the Center’s full report, Help Wanted: How Middle Market Companies Can Address Workforce Challenges to Find and Develop the Talent They Need to Grow.


Others in this series
Post 1: Market Failure: Why the supply of talent falls short of demand in the Middle Market
Post 2: Five Ways Middle Market Firms Can Find and Keep Skilled Talent
Post 3: Partnering for People: How the Right Partnerships Can Help You Find the Right People for Your Jobs