Colleges Want More Real-Time Labor Information

Published dec. 09, 2011

Since our recent announcement of the Credentials That Work project along with the release of our report, Aligning Community Colleges to Their Local Labor Market: The Emerging Role of Online Job Ads for Providing Real Time Intelligence about Occupations and Skills in Demand, we have received a large volume of inquiries from community colleges, universities and workforce development programs about the project. This response suggests to us that there is growing interest in the emergent innovation of real-time labor market information. While we are currently unable to work with individual institutions and systems beyond those who are members of our Network, we are committed to communicating with all those are interested in real time labor market information in general and the experiences with applying these new technologies among the Network institutions we are working with.

We are undergoing a very disruptive time in the continued evolution of our economy. The loss of 7 million payroll jobs between 2008 and 2009 has deeply impacted nearly all industries and regions. There are 14 million Americans who are officially counted as unemployed and college graduates have entered a weak labor market now for four years in row. At the same time, we are seeing the Occupy Wall Street protests grow in size and frustration, partly be cause of the lack of jobs, we are also hearing from some employers about their difficulty in finding workers with the skills they need.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article written by Senators Mary L. Landrieu (LA) And Patty Murray (WA) they cite date from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the about the approximately three million job openings, all waiting to be filled. The Senators ask: “With so many Americans out of work, what is the delay? Workers want to work, and so many businesses want to hire—but there is a widening "skills gap" that prevents many Americans from filling the jobs of the 21st century economy. If we want to get our economy back on track and get workers back on the job, we will have to address this issue in a better way.”

Earlier this year, a new study from Manpower, Inc. reported that 52% of employers responding to recent survey reported “difficulty in hiring mission critical positions.” This was from 14% of employers responding to similar question in 2010. We certainly do not have a shortage of people looking for work.

The U.S. economy is demanding a better-educated workforce with higher skills. While post secondary degrees continue to assure higher lifetime earnings, increasingly, the kinds of skills and specialized credentials that worker offer will influence their employment and earning success. Post secondary institutions are challenged in a dynamic global economy and with rapid technology innovation to ensure relevant programs of study producing future workers with the right skills and credentials.

Traditional labor market information and occupational classification systems are inadequate to provide postsecondary institutions with the needed market research inputs to guide investments in program and curricula improvements. Innovations in real time labor market information offer promising data sources and technologies to research current labor market developments.

Real-time data can help improve the understanding of hiring trends, employer demand, including certifications and skill requirements by drawing on current information and consistent signals from the labor market. In the months ahead, we will be posting examples of the work from our Network institutions who using the new real time labor market information tools. You will see how these institutions assess regional economies, evaluate their programs of study, review curriculum content and empower their students to make sound choices in selecting programs of study using this new and exciting technology.

Photograph courtesy Community College of Denver, 2004