Across each occupation, there is an established new normal. To stay informed, career exploration and career development is key to future sustained employment. Helping your job seeker clients find the occupations that fit their interests, values, and aptitude is usually the first step in selecting an appealing occupation. However, understanding the demand and sustainability of this career is even more crucial. Workforce development organizations gain this understanding by assessing the most current and relevant labor market data.

One common source for labor market data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), within the Department of Labor. Data about labor supply and demand, earnings, employment and unemployment statistics, job outlook, and demographics of the labor force make up what is known as labor market information – or LMI. However, LMI data can lag up to 18 months and may lack the specificity required for decision making. BLS uses industry codes for data collection that tend to be broad in nature and may not include discreet occupations. For example, data associated with the growing field of cyber technologies is typically listed under the broader category of information technologies, yielding skewed information that may not meet the job seeker’s needs.  Additionally, job forecast data may be unreliable since hiring trends are rapidly changing, especially when examining opportunities within your specific city or geographic area.

To be most effective, workforce boards must utilize real-time labor market data. The goal of successful employment is defined by employment sustainability, not the initial job placement. In other words, will your job seeker be employed in this occupation a year from placement? The best way to ensure sustainability is to build relationships with the employers in your region and continually survey them on their employment gaps. Now more than ever – this is so important, with new demand for changing skills as occupations are being redefined by the use of technology. That is why it is imperative that workforce boards thoroughly understand where the opportunities are, what training may be needed, and who can provide the training that aligns with the employer’s needs.

Workforce boards are most effective when collecting timely and relevant local occupation data by consistently surveying and seeking hiring trends with the largest employers. These monthly surveys unmask the current opportunities and the corresponding required skills, yielding successful job placements. Single system case management tools that can promote employer interactions, create and analyze surveys, and refer job seekers to the appropriate opportunity is the game changer needed for the advancement of workforce development.

About the author:

Ellie GilesDr. Ellie Giles served as the first CEO of WorkSource Montgomery, Inc. (WSM) WSM is a talent development non-profit connecting employers and job seekers.  WSM works with current employers and new employers to support their talent needs.  Additionally, WSM creates strong talent pipelines for jobs of the future by establishing career pathways through collaboration with strong and relevant training and community resources. Prior to this position, Dr. Giles was the Director of Operations for Montgomery Business Development Corporation (MBDC), the first public/private economic development agency in Montgomery County.