EMSI CASE STUDY (See Full Archive)
Research from Monroe Community College points to a skills gap in greater Rochester, New York – one that is perhaps most felt by small manufacturing firms. This case study walks through how MCC diagnosed local skills gaps, and how the college is taking a programmatic approach with local labor market information, surveys, and dialogue with businesses to address them.
Employers can’t seem to find the qualified talent they need, even with unemployment still near recessionary levels in most regions. That’s the skills gap in a nutshell, and community colleges are increasingly being called upon to help understand the gaps in their areas.
At Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, administrators have an especially keen interest in the skills gap. Many of Rochester’s major employers, which include Kodak, Xerox, and Bausch & Lomb, have gone through rounds of layoffs. Middle-skilled workers in Rochester who once were employed in manufacturing and other sectors have been particularly hard hit.
MCC has taken steps to identify and combat skill mismatches through its Economic Development and Innovative Workforce Services Division, led by Vice President Todd Oldham. He and his staff started their research with two basic questions: “Where are the gaps within our region? And what is our ability to actually produce the worker that’s needed against the gap?”
Major Survey Efforts Helps MCC Determine Gaps
When Oldham started at MCC in 2011, the college began creating an extensive database of businesses in the Rochester area. It first worked through a huge list of business names from Hoover’s, then it hired a call center to verify information with local firms and ask them if they would be OK receiving information from the college.
“Once we built the database,” Oldham said, “the goal was to use that as a base to communicate directly with businesses, to survey them, to find out if they’re interested in participating in grants, advisory boards, and also to market our courses.”
MCC has since put together two surveys. One survey, the Rochester Area Skill Needs Assessment and Business Climate Survey, was in conjunction with the Center for Governmental Research (CRG) in Rochester and the Rochester Business Journal; the other was with the Rochester Technology and Manufacturing Association. For its skill needs assessment, Monroe focused on specific questions related to the training needs of Rochester-area businesses: What are the areas where you’re having trouble hiring? What skills are you looking for?
A big takeaway was that regional employers are feeling the pain of the skills gap differently, with their experiences directly related to their size and the wages they can offer to prospective workers. Manufacturing is a key sector in Rochester, and small manufacturers in particular are having a hard time recruiting skilled labor. Local manufacturers who responded said they struggled to find computer numerically controlled machinists, and they were looking for specific skillsets such as analytical troubleshooting, blueprint reading, and technical writing.
MCC’s Response: An Accelerated Machining Certificate Program
MCC knew it produced around 32 to 40 machinist graduates per year. It also knew by looking at EMSI data inside Career Coach that the Rochester area has about 100 job openings per year for machinists.
The clear gap that the data showed was reinforced even more firmly by local businesses, both in the college’s surveys and in general conversations MCC had with employers. “We are constantly hearing, ‘We need machinists,’ ” Oldham noted.
Armed with all this information, MCC launched an accelerated precision machining certificate program for displaced workers and military workers. It squeezed its standard 33-credit program into 22 weeks by offering evening classes, which means it can now produce as many as 15 additional entry-level machinist graduates every six months. In addition, the college partnered with a local machinist association to help place graduates from the program.
“The thing that I want to stress is that this is not a project; this a programmatic approach. We have dedicated person who does nothing but outreach for Career Coach. We take it pretty seriously. We are getting results and we are going to be in a default leadership position for having the most knowledge around the local workforce with actual significant data.” — Todd Oldham, Monroe Community College
In October of 2013, MCC’s accelerated precision machining certificate program graduated its inaugural class of 13. The college’s ultimate goal, Oldham said, is to get a secondary facility and more equipment through local partnerships so it can produce an additional 30 graduates every six months – or possibly an additional 60 if the glaring need is still there.
Monroe plans to continue conducting its skill assessment survey twice a year to make sure it is meeting the needs of businesses. Oldham also plans to do other occupational cluster analyses, particularly around middle-skill fields. For each cluster, MCC will use EMSI to determine the annual demand.
Not Just a Project: MCC’s Long-Term Programmatic Approach
With Oldham and his colleagues embracing data, MCC has become a go-to source in the region for local labor market and workforce information. Internally, the college uses data for grants, program review, and more – “at every level we can,” as Oldham put it.
But just using data isn’t enough to Oldham. “We have to start applying it,” he said. “It should be changing how we do things.”
Along these lines, Oldham sees the college’s investment in labor market data – as well as its research on local workforce issues and business needs – as more than just a short-term effort. “The thing that I want to stress,” Oldham said, “is that this is not a project; this a programmatic approach. We have dedicated person who does nothing but outreach for Career Coach. We take it pretty seriously. We are getting results and we are going to be in a default leadership position for having the most knowledge around the local workforce with actual significant data.”
Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a CareerBuilder company, turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Using sound economic principles and good data, we build user-friendly services that help educational institutions, workforce planners, and regional developers (such as WIBs, EDOs, chambers, utilities) build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions. For more information, email Josh Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.economicmodeling.com.