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Employers and states are putting analytics to work to close the skills gap.
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Today’s technology is boosting local economies by helping college students answer an age-old question: What should I major in? The idea is to use workforce analytics to better align postsecondary education options to the business opportunities that await students after they graduate, which can help shrink the nation’s skills gap.
Doing so has become increasingly urgent, given that the U.S. labor market has not yet fully rebounded from the Great Recession. Low labor force participation has created a significant talent shortage as well as a hypercompetitive hiring environment. Nearly 60 percent of employers have jobs that stay vacant for 12 weeks or longer, according to CareerBuilder research.
“Learners and workers need a modern guidance system with clear and comprehensive consumer information that will help them make good college and career decisions,” says Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), a nonprofit research and policy institute based in Washington, D.C., and the lead author of a study on states’ efforts to create career pathways.
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Workforce Planning]
A Data Framework
The report highlights several ways states are integrating data to:
“The challenge is to use local market data that is captured in real time so that students can see the relevance of what they’re learning and employers can see how those skills connect to what they need,” says Mike Knapp, CEO and co-founder of the job placement platform SkillSmart, which connects employers, job seekers and educational partners to help close identified skills gaps.
While some states currently use data to advise school systems on making curriculum modifications based on local market needs, more work is needed to link students to current job opportunities, Knapp says.
In Maryland, for example, state officials implemented several new assessments to ensure that high school graduates are “college- or career-ready,” but the tools don’t connect the test results to the skills employers say they need, Knapp says. “It’s still going to take a while for states to go from a theoretical exercise into a practical local activity that shows students how the skills they’re learning link directly to jobs in their communities.”
The states featured in the CEW report are in the early stages of turning integrated data into usable information. “The tools developed to date hold much promise and are a step in the right direction,” Carnevale says. “They also require an active outreach component to attract the intended audience. The good news is that states can borrow ideas from other states and implement tools in any one of these [areas] within a year or two.”
Workforce Planning in 4 Steps
Roy Maurer is an online writer/editor for SHRM who focuses on talent acquisition.
Illustration by Mister Phil for HR Magazine.
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