Workforce Solutions of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (TX) – Industry Cluster Analysis

ChallengeDespite its largely positive economic climate, the Lower Rio Grande Valley faces daunting workforce development challenges. Nearly one-half of the region’s working age population does not have a high school diploma and only 1 in 8 have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. In addition to educational attainment issues, employers face a number of workforce challenges, including employees with limited experience, language barriers, and a lack of technical and managerial skills. Yet, federal funding for workforce training continues to decline even as employers demand workers with higher skill levels. Recognizing the importance of a targeted approach to workforce development, Workforce Solutions engaged TIP Strategies to conduct a regional industry cluster analysis to identify those clusters with the greatest potential for enhancing the regional economy.

ApproachThe project began with an assessment of the region from an economic development perspective. Based on this assessment, industry clusters were selected using a three-pronged approach: quantitative, qualitative, and strategic. The quantitative approach used standard statistical techniques to analyze historical employment patterns, as well as a review of employment projections for the four-county economic region. The quantitative analysis was supplemented by interviews with economic development professionals, employers, and local trade associations. Finally, the experience of the consultants combined with national and global trends were considered. Industry focus groups were used to verify the targets and to identify human resource challenges faced by employers.
The resulting industry clusters were translated into occupations and skill sets and evaluated using a weighted matrix of selection criteria, including wage rates and overlap among industry clusters. Using this process, a list of demand occupation was developed.

OutcomeBased on the results of the industry cluster analysis, the leadership and staff of Workforce Solutions aligned program delivery with the region’s changing economic conditions. The sector task forces created as part of the work continue to be used as feedback forums for addressing workforce-related challenges and opportunities. A new “workforce intelligence” system was developed to better meet the needs of regional businesses and economic development organizations. The cluster analysis was also recognized by the state of Texas as representing cutting edge work.

TIP Contact Tom Stellman