Three Workforce Trends to Watch in 2018

January 26, 2018

By: Caroline Alexander, senior consultant, TIP Strategies


Over the past decade concepts like full employment, the skills gap, and the gray tsunami—once primarily of interest to workforce professionals—have become pressing concerns in the economic development arena. Technological disruptions from automation and control engineering to digitalization and artificial intelligence, continue to cast a shadow on the future of jobs. In the face of these challenges, here are three trends that are worth paying attention to over the short term as you consider your community’s ability to support business growth.

1. The US Economy at Full Employment

Economists spent much of 2017 debating the point at which the nation’s unemployment rate dropped below “full employment,” a threshold where all workers who are willing and able are employed. There is little question however, that the most recent rate of 4.1 percent (December 2017) falls well below that mark. And there are indications it may decline further. The national unemployment rate, however, masks the underlying story of disparity. Race, educational attainment, and geography play a significant role in determining the labor outcomes of individuals. As a result, in spite of low unemployment at the national level, there are a number of pockets of available and potentially under-utilized labor pools.

For more, check out our Tableau data visualization, “The Economy at Full Employment?

2. Looming Retirements

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 percent of employed individuals will be eligible to retire in the next 10 years, implying a potential turnover of up to 35 million jobs. This transition will require a massive transfer of institutional knowledge within organizations as these experienced workers depart the labor force. While large companies have the training infrastructure to make sure this transition is relatively smooth, most small- and medium-sized businesses are not well-equipped for succession planning or for the kind of on-the-job training that will be required for this changing of the guard.

3. Digitalization of Industry and Jobs

It is no secret that digital technology has been, and continues to be, integrated into the workflow of a wide range of occupations, from low-skill to high-skill jobs. From handheld devices that delivery drivers use to record signatures to high-capacity super computers, most jobs now involve some kind of digital human-machine interface. A recent study [PDF] by the Brookings Institution found that the share of jobs requiring high and medium digital skills grew from 45 percent in 2002 to more than 70 percent in 2016. This implies that basic digital literacy has become essential for all workers—in the same vein as reading, writing, and arithmetic. Yet, large segments of the population remain without access to broadband, PCs, and even good cell service.

These trends are not new. Nevertheless, they will continue to influence labor markets in 2018 and to shape the fields of economic and workforce development. More importantly, these trends highlight the need for meaningful workforce planning—more, better, faster. While the future of jobs may be uncertain, one thing is clear: rapid technological advances and an insatiable demand for new workers with new skills will continue to be dominant trends in 2018.

What Are You Going To Do With That Degree?

June 26, 2014

By: Karen Beard (Intro)
Via: benschmidt.org
In recent years, the widespread availability of high speed internet access coupled with a proliferation of new technologies and the growth of transparency movements like the federal Open Government Initiative, have resulted in dramatic growth in data visualizations. In its broadest sense, the term applies to any pictorial representation of data including charts and infographics. But the true power of data visualization is best seen when the tools are applied to enormous data sets to reveal patterns that would otherwise be impossible to discern.
A new interactive data visualization from Ben Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University and core faculty at the NuLab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, is an example of this power. Schmidt’s flow diagram—presented under the heading “What are you going to do with that degree?”—visualizes employment and education data from the American Community Survey. The figure explores the relationships between college majors and professions.
In many cases, the data reflect the common wisdom that many people work in fields unrelated to their degree. For example, less than half of people employed as police officers have degrees in criminal justice. The visualization also highlights differences in employment outcomes between narrowly focused degrees and those that are more academic. As might be expected, career-specific degrees such as nursing and education, have more consistent outcomes while broader fields of study, like mathematics and communications, feed into a more disparate array of professions.
Additional data visualizations created by Mr. Schmidt can be found here.

Project Update: Greater Houston Partnership’s Regional Workforce Development Task Force

February 6, 2014

By: Caroline Alexander, Senior Consultant, TIP Strategies

Port of HoustonPhoto courtesy: Port of Houston Authority

Over the past 6 months, TIP Strategies has helped the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) facilitate their Regional Workforce Development Task Force and develop a strategic action plan.
The Greater Houston region is on the brink of unprecedented growth. With almost $20 billion in investment in new plants and facilities announced, the next 5 years are slated for rapid expansion. Employers, however, are concerned that the region does not have the talent it needs to fuel this expansion. Further complicating the labor market is the aging of the workforce and the pending wave of retirements.
In response to these concerns, the Greater Houston Partnership convened the Regional Workforce Development Task Force (RWDTF). The task force is composed of 104 members representing 79 organizations, including large employers, workforce and economic development, education, and social services. The task force met six times over the course of last half of 2013 with the intention of formulating an action plan to address the challenges over the next five years. The initiative focused in on the middle skills segment of the job market.
The RWDTF identified 4 gaps in the workforce development system that must be addressed in order to create the pipeline of talent required to meet the needs of the region’s employers. The gaps are:

AWARENESS
Potential workers are not aware of the opportunities in the middle skills segment or hold inaccurate perceptions of the jobs.
BASIC SKILLS & EMPLOYABILITY
Many potential workers lack some of the most basic hard and soft skills needed for any middle skills job.
COORDINATION
The landscape of programs and organizations with a focus on workforce is broad and varied, but also fragmented.
DATA
The lack of accurate, reliable data creates a disconnect between demand and supply.

The strategic action plan takes a sector-based approach to create a more demand-driven workforce system. The strategies are structured around addressing the identified gaps. The plan will be finalized at the end of February and GHP is already on the road to implementation. Stay tuned for more news as GHP hires a director of workforce development and launches its first sector council.

Practitioners’ Forum: What Does the Future of Jobs Mean for Your Community?

January 30, 2012

Over the past two months, we have been engaged in a conversation about the future of jobs with economic development practitioners at the TEDC and IEDC conferences.
Now, we’d like to create an open forum to continue this dialogue beyond the conference setting. In the comments section of this post, you’re invited to respond to the following questions, or pose additional questions for your peers.
How will the “future of jobs” change how you approach economic development?
What mechanisms have you created to support corporations and freelance workers in your community?

Below you’ll find a video of Jon’s recent IGNITE presentation from IEDC’s Leadership Summit in San Antonio. The IGNITE structure allows speakers 5 minutes total to present in the form of 20 slides, with 15 seconds per slide. A brief overview of the presentation follows the slide show.
The Future of Jobs from GIS Planning on Vimeo.

The Future of Jobs from GIS Planning on Vimeo.

This is a discussion about the future of jobs. The idea of what a job is has changed throughout history (and continues to change). Farmers and craftsmen have always had trades, or livelihoods. Since the industrial revolution, a fundamental shift in the nature of jobs has occurred; individuals are employed by entities (corporations) and in return for their labor (9-5), they are compensated (wages) and receive benefits (healthcare, etc.). When unemployment is high, as it has been in the aftermath of the recent recession, we must ask ourselves who should create jobs: the public sector? the private sector? Can the economy continue to grow, even if jobs are not being created? (answer: yes).
The economy grows when value is created. Corporations can create value by increasing productivity (but not necessarily increasing employment), and independent contractors can create value outside of a traditional employee-employer relationship. If we take this thought experiment to its logical extreme, could there be corporations without people on the horizon? Will trade guilds become an organizing structure for independent contractors in a variety of professions?
If jobs are no longer the most useful or accurate measure of economic development success, how can practitioners best promote economic vitality in their communities? Are there mechanisms by which cities, regions, and states can offer resources to corporations and freelancers that will support their ability to create value, regardless of hiring trends or employment status?
We invite you to participate in this conversation in the comments section below.