“Education and workforce systems in the United States are failing to keep pace with the changing needs of the economy, and employers are struggling to find skilled workers who can contribute to their companies’ growth and success.”

That’s the assessment of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in its 2014 white paper, “Managing the Talent Pipeline: A New Approach to Closing the Skills Gap.” The Foundation has puts its shoulder to the wheel to develop and disseminate “a workforce strategy for our time that can meet the needs of today’s changing business environment.” That strategy is talent pipeline management.

TPM applies principles of supply chain management to narrow the skills gap that is directly impairing companies’ ability to compete.

What is a supply chain?

According to the USCCF, “At its most basic level, a supply chain encompasses a set of business activities and companies involved in designing, making, delivering, and using a product or service. Supply chain management is the coordination of those companies and activities to achieve the best mix of responsiveness and efficiency for the “end-customer” being served.”

Over the past month, we at tekMountain have been focusing on one particularly nettlesome example of the growing skills gap: the nursing shortage, a reality with widespread and, potentially dire implications for millions of Americans. The five broad reasons for the nursing deficit have been the subject of previous installments:

Five Reasons for the Coming Shortage

  1. Baby Boomers retiring en masse.
  2. The aging American population needs more access to healthcare services.
  3. Greater access to healthcare services due to the Affordable Care Act.
  4. More nurse practitioners.
  5. The number of people with nursing licenses who don’t work as nurses.

The solution for narrowing any skills gap will be one that takes aim at the talent supply itself, making talent pipeline management a driver of competitive advantage.

Opening the bottleneck

This series has essentially been about the bottleneck in the talent pipeline. Lean Manufacturing Japan defines “bottleneck (or constraint)” in a supply chain as “the resource that requires the longest time in operations of the supply chain for certain demand.”

The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation articulated its impetus for TPM as an initiative devised a few years ago by civic leaders in Akron, OH. They envisioned “a system driven by reliable and actionable information about the skill needs of area employers, capable of getting the right workers with the right skills to the right place at the right time, and fed by education and training providers, creating pipelines of talent at various stages of development aligned with the needs of the end customer. In short, they envisioned a talent supply chain.”

Their initial efforts resulted in partnerships with regional career tech and higher education institutions that are spurring more comprehensive transformation and greater alignment between higher education and business needs.

Talent pipeline management is what the USCCF’s website describes as “a demand-driven approach to close the skills gap” within a supply chain management agenda:

Talent Pipeline Management


  • Organize employer collaboratives


Form new employer alliances to manage the talent pipeline around a shared need.


  • Engage in Demand Planning


Identify which positions and capabilities to focus on and how many workers are needed.


  • Communicate Competency and Credential Requirements


Specify what workers need to know, what they need to be able to do, as well as what evidence is needed to prove it.


  • Analyze Talent Flows


Identify current sources of qualified talent and where there are underutilized or alternative providers.


  • Implement Shared Performance Measures


Measure the success and return on investment of the talent supply chain.


  • Align Incentives


Improve performance through rewards and incentives.

Source: US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, “Building the Talent Pipeline: An Implementation Guide” (2015)

The idea, according the the USCCF’s TPM Curriculum is that “if employers play an expanded leadership role as ‘end-customers’ of a talent supply chain, they will be more effective at organizing performance-driven partnerships” with education and workforce training providers. The TPM curriculum is a set of six strategic initiatives to realize the full potential of talent pipeline management. Interestingly, a powerful tool for realizing the first five TPM goals is already available today.

CB BridgesTM can help

The first five TPM goals are the objectives for which CB BridgesTM was designed. Created by CastleBranch, the Fortune 500 giant in the field of compliance and employment screening, CB BridgesTM is a longitudinal repository of everything a skilled worker needs to show, everything an employer needs to know, leveraged by data analytics.

CB BridgesTM knows how millennials work today, providing a portable, scalable, comprehensive talent record. Take nursing again as our example: Hospitals don’t want to hire new nurse graduates who lack skills or experience. There’s just too much at stake. CB BridgesTM makes simple the job of matching new nurse graduates with specific jobs best suited to their specific skill sets. CB BridgesTM eliminates the bottleneck that student clinical rotations often become. Along the way, student nurses or early-career professionals can carry their entire e-portfolios of certifications, licenses, screenings, vaccinations, and more, along with them from nursing school onward throughout one’s career. Schematically it looks like this:


Source: CB BridgesTM

Partnerships are key to resolving the nursing deficit and closing the skills gap. As researchers for Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce have said, “Integrating workforce and education data will help individuals navigate the busy college and career maze” (Slide 4):

  • “Employers will reap the benefits by allowing them to identify and hire talented workers.
  • “Colleges can restructure programs to improve student outcomes.
  • “Policymakers can better allocate resources to build strong economies.”

How are you managing your talent pipeline? How effectively, how efficiently, are you marshalling the data—social, financial, criminal, residential, educational—and mapping it against specified job duties?

Speak to us at tekMountain today to explore the potential for machine learning to narrow the skills gap, resolve the nursing deficit, and keep your enterprise locked in its positive direction.


This blog was produced by the tekMountain Team of Sean AhlumAmanda Sipes, Kelly Brown and Zach Cioffi with lead writer, Bill DiNome.

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