Connecting the dots is important. Think back to your grade school days and “connect the dot” puzzles. Before putting your pencil to paper, the paper contained random dots. But once you started connecting the dots by numbers 1, 2, 3, you could start guessing about what image was appearing. By the time you reached 20, 21, 22, you could clearly see the design magically taking shape.

Business leaders can think of their daily challenges as those random dots. There’s not always a set pattern or system for tackling those challenges.  But one of the best approaches is to talk to business leaders within your industry because chances are, someone else has experience facing similar challenges and can offer ideas and solutions. Colleagues can help you connect the dots.

This model exists in our region! The South Central Pennsylvania Next Generation Initiative is inviting and gathering manufacturers to come together to identify and address issues affecting them: rising costs, technology, education, workforce development, and other topics, within our shared labor market region.

Tom Palisin, executive director of The Manufacturers’ Association, York, describes it this way: “What keeps you up at night?” Those are the questions Next Gen partnerships are looking to solve.

Through regular quarterly meetings, industry leaders gather to share these challenges, not only learning from each other, but also involving area economic development and manufacturing experts who can lend their advice and recommend resources (more dot-connecting).

“The Next Gen Model will solve these critical issues by following a formal process to bring together all the resources available from economic development, education, workforce partners, business associations, government and other non-profits. The partnership is focused on action – getting things done that employers have identified as their top priorities,” Palisin says.

In addition to The Manufacturers’ Association, Next Gen partnerships are supported by South Central PA Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP), and South Central PA Works (SCPaWorks).

“This Next Gen Manufacturing partnership is only a few months old, but past examples have focused workforce development and training as top priorities,” Palisin says. “The manufacturers in the partnership in the past identified common training needs and came together to ‘buy down’ the training cost by aggregating their needs among the partnership companies. This allowed small companies to benefit by accessing critical training. More recently, the Partnership companies launched a business to business portal that will be used by the C-Level members to share information, network, and ask for resources and advice among themselves. The companies are also working on sharing curriculum to support implementation of a pre-apprenticeship program.”

The Alliance encourages area manufacturers to join! The bottom line, end result is an enhanced regional economy for all.

“If manufacturers want to work on solving the most critical issues for their business, this proven national model of Next Gen Industry Partnerships can tackle these challenges and use the critical mass of business leaders to take action on solutions,” Palisin says. “This initiatives takes down silos across systems, organizations and jurisdictional boundaries—it doesn’t change the need or any of our community organizations but captures the power these organization to solve the issues championed by the employers.”

Interested in joining Next Gen? Contact Kaycee Kemper, Vice President of Adams Economic Alliance, at 717-334-0042, extension 2.

This column was originally published in the Gettysburg Times, May 9, 2019.