Workforce Solutions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (TX) – Business Intelligence Survey

ChallengeIn recent years, Workforce Solutions has been at the forefront of the movement to link workforce development with the needs of industry. In 2005, the organization hired TIP Strategies (TIP) to conduct an industry cluster analysis. The purpose of the analysis was to identify those clusters with the greatest potential for enhancing the regional economy, along with the occupations needed to support them, so that programs and services could be realigned to better match local demand. Discussions with employers, training providers, and economic development officials also pointed to a number of human resource challenges facing the region. As part of the realignment of services, Workforce Solutions created the Office for Business Partnerships (OBP). The OBP provides business consulting services to local employers and is part of Workforce Solutions’ commitment to employ a business-driven approach to talent development. One focus of the OBP has been creating a workforce intelligence system, a charge which stems, in part, from the industry cluster analysis which identified a lack of business and workforce information as a challenge facing the region.

ApproachTo help address this challenge, TIP was engaged to facilitate the business intelligence survey initiative. The primary focus of the work was a scientifically valid survey of employers. The phone survey was conducted by PTV Datasource, using their Edinburg-based call center, in the months of October and November 2008, with oversight from TIP. Firms with five or more employees were selected at random from a database of employers in the three-county region purchased from a private vendor. A total of 505 firms completed the survey representing more than 56,000 employees. In addition to an analysis of the survey results, TIP also facilitated the purchase of a database of employers in Workforce Solutions’ three-county service region (Hidalgo, Starr, and Willacy) and advised the organization on a mechanism for ongoing data collection.

OutcomeThe Business Intelligence Survey strongly suggests that the organization’s focus on human resource challenges is still appropriate. Evidence is particularly strong for entry-level positions, with two out of five employers surveyed reporting trouble finding qualified workers for entry-level jobs. A closer look at recruitment challenges points to many of the very issues identified in the 2005 analysis: lack of a career mindset, attendance problems, and the inability to pass basic screening processes, such as drug testing and criminal background checks. For existing workers, broad-based employment skills also top the list: communication skills, customer service skills, and basic competencies in reading, writing and mathematics were all cited among the top challenges. Findings from the survey are also supported by our conversations with employers across the country and our understanding of national workforce trends. While some industries face specific skills shortages, the need for “soft skills” is a constant. Improving educational attainment levels and increasing basic skill levels is a critical component of competitiveness. Without these building blocks, workers in the region will continue to lack the necessary foundation upon which to build a solid career. Without a literate and engaged workforce, employers will continue to face obstacles to economic vitality.

TIP Contact Tom Stellman