Pipeline Assessment: Engineering Awards by State, 2011-2012

In the region-to-region battle for jobs and investments, having a postsecondary training pipeline aligned with industry needs is a nice competitive advantage. When examining postsecondary awards data for engineers, for example, it is easy to see inequalities in the system that can contribute to shortages or surpluses in some regions of the nation.

In the 2011-12 academic year, an estimated 113,742 awards were granted in the United States that flow into careers in engineering occupations. (An aside: Chmura Economics & Analytics models the complex interaction between graduate supply and occupation demand. Through this model, every award is linked to an occupation for which it provides training. The occupation awards data cited here are the product of this modeling.) The map below shows the production by state for all engineers as well as five specific types of engineers—use the dropdown box to update the map.

If You Train Them, Will They Come?

Chris Chmura joined a distinguished panel in Washington DC on Sunday, April 14th to kick off the International Economic Development Council’s Federal Economic Development Forum. The plenary session, entitled “Workforce Development: If You Train Them, Will They Come” set the stage for a lively discussion around the importance of workforce development, the ever-changing needs of business and industries, and how the federal agenda may help shape the intersection between the two.

Big on almost everyone’s mind was the topic of the nation’s skills gaps, broadly defined as the mismatch between the skills and qualifications of the labor force and employers workforce needs. Chris’ remarks offered a unique perspective and practical advice on how economic developers can better understand and harness the power of their regional workforce (and workforce systems) to improve their economic development outcomes.

Chris shared specific examples and data supporting the need to better align economic development and workforce development strategies. She also underscored the importance of developing a deeper understanding of regional labor markets and external market forces to point to new, unexplored opportunities or mitigate risks for communities.

Other notable panelists included Jane Oates, Assistant Secretary of Employment & Training Administration, who shared her view of economic development and workforce development as synonymous—the public workforce system role is to help people connect to jobs.

Mary Jo Waits, Director at the National Governor’s Association Center for Best Practices pointed out three best-practice models where businesses are successfully working together to drive change: the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Virginia, Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, and Kentucky’s Automotive Technical Education Collaborative.

Karin Norington-Reaves, CEA of Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, spoke of the need for workforce investment boards to make a paradigm shift from social service delivery to business service delivery. She now has 7 employees in her new business relations and economic development group that are focusing on 40 occupations with the greatest needs.

Also on the panel was Peter Cappelli, with the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School. Mr Cappelli was not as confident a skills gap exists at all and called on employers to renew investment in training and skills transfer in their organizations.

The IEDC Federal Forum is an annual event providing opportunity for the economic development community to get educated and advocate for federal policies that will encourage and support economic growth. You can view Chris’s entire presentation here.

Pipeline of Highly Educated Workers is Misaligned in Localities Big and Small

Ever wonder if your colleges and universities are aligned with the needs of your industries?  Sure, it is easy to pinpoint the number of engineers or biochemists in a given market, but what about the pipeline and how many employers are chasing these graduates? Put another way, given the size of the industries in your region that employ highly educated workers, is your area graduating enough postsecondary students to adequately meet demand? The answer can surprise you. In big and small markets, most areas do a good job of graduating students with some work-relevant degrees, but fall below average in some segments. A case in point, the fast growing cities of Texas are struggling to align their higher education programs with the ever evolving needs of industry in a few areas. 

Chmura created its training concentration index to answer precisely this question. Is this area graduating a sufficient number of postsecondary—associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees—students given the demands of the area’s industry mix? If the answer turns out to be a deficit in certain skills areas, companies in these sectors are either importing talent from outside the region or hiring employees without the work-related skills and background they need, and thus committing themselves longer training periods and probably more turnover.

In the table below, Chmura’s economist calculated the training concentration at the 2-digit SOC aggregate level for several MSAs of different sizes. What this table showcases is that it is neither geography nor size that predicts if an area is producing a sufficient number of college graduates given the industry size and mix. In the table below, the red arrows indicate an occupational grouping where the MSA is not graduating enough degrees that track into these occupations given the size of the industries that use these employees. Green cross-arrows indicate approximate equilibrium between supply and demand for degree awards that feed into these jobs, whereas the blue arrows indicate a regional oversupply of students earning degrees that track into these positions.

This analysis helps JobsEQ® users demonstrate their area’s relative strengths in terms of the education pipeline as well as understand areas where there may be opportunity to work with local education providers to expand programs that feed into occupations important to an area’s industry clusters. JobsEQ® enables this analysis at a more granular level—for an individual occupation—and for any kind of geography—county, group of counties, or at the state or MSA level. However, when using this analytic, it is important to define your labor shed appropriately to take into account natural commuting patterns into and out of your region.

Training Concentration Table

Closer Alignment with Labor Demands Justifies Higher Education Investment

An article written by Chris Chmura was recently published on evolllution.com. Read the full article here.

Now, perhaps more than ever, education providers of all types can reap the rewards of adjusting their curriculum and programs to the needs of their region’s fastest growing industries. Two trends have come together to provide a once-in-a-generation chance for institutions of higher learning, career and vocational schools, and workforce training centers to boost their market share and improve student outcomes.

First, the Great Recession has completely up-ended the status quo in the U.S. labor market. We have the largest number of unemployed and under-employed individuals in a generation, and there is a tremendous amount of training money available from Washington to help retrain these folks. From community colleges to career schools, from traditional four-year universities to workforce training centers, funding can be obtained if you can demonstrate that your program will result in a “positive student outcome.” In other words, you need to build a skill-set in your students that leads them to a job. However, many schools, colleges, and workforce training centers struggle to understand which fields are growing the fastest, which industries have the best long-term prospects, and what competencies are needed for today’s “in demand” occupations.

Read more.