Emsi Case Study (See Full Archive)
Summary: In Decatur, Illinois, there are jobs to be had—solid-paying ones, in many cases. The problem, until recently, was that there wasn’t a good way for local students and jobseekers to see which skills employers needed the most and how they could go about getting those skills. Emsi Career Coach fills that hole, giving students information about jobs and how to acquire the skills necessary for those jobs.
- Richland Community College partnered with local economic development agencies in Decatur to provide Career Coach, a shared community resource that links Richland’s programs to local jobs.
- The City of Decatur and the local EDC see Career Coach as a way to strengthen the Decatur workforce and thus bolster regional economic development.
- Career Coach has helped raise the profile of Richland Community College as a key provider of education and training that equips local residents with in-demand skills.
Decatur’s Problem: A Persistent Skills Gap
We’ve got people and we’ve got jobs. How do we connect them?
That question was the focal point of a roundtable discussion in early 2015 between college and economic development leaders in Decatur, Illinois. Representatives from Richland Community College, the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County, and the City of Decatur came together to talk about equipping local residents with the right skills to fill available jobs.
The skills gap is a nagging issue in Decatur. Macon County, in the heart of central Illinois, is a major area for manufacturing and agriculture, particularly agricultural manufacturing. The manufacturing floor is “no longer dark, dusty factory work,” says Ryan McCrady, President of the EDC of Decatur and Macon County. As manufacturing technology develops, the skills that manufacturing workers need are continually changing.
Richland Community College was acutely aware of the need to equip the local workforce with the skills that Decatur-area businesses demand. The tricky part, however, was capturing that need and relaying to students and workers the skills that are required to fill open jobs.
Dr. Gianina Baker, Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning at Richland, knew the region needed a good data tool. So she called a meeting with McCrady and Patrick Hoban, Economic Development Officer at the City of Decatur. And that’s when they discovered Emsi Career Coach, an online tool that Hoban calls the “huge missing piece of the puzzle for establishing buy-in from students or prospective workers.”
Career Coach: A Key Part of the Solution
When Baker and other leaders at Richland Community College first saw Career Coach, they immediately realized it would fill a major need. Hoban and McCrady had the same reaction when they saw how Emsi’s tool connected Richland’s educational programs to local, sustainable careers via local labor market information, and up-to-date job postings. The fact that Career Coach had a built-in career assessment and résumé builder further convinced them of how valuable the tool would be to students, the underemployed, and others in Decatur.
Dr. Gayle Saunders, President of Richland Community College, saw Career Coach as a way to engage students “in the creation of a career vision [that] assists them in creating a well-defined educational plan that allows them to speed time to degree completion and to leave Richland prepared for the workforce.”
Workforce preparation is also critical to regional economic development. Hoban and McCrady both view Richland as a huge player in developing the workforce that attracts and retains businesses. That’s why it made so much sense for the city and EDC to partner with Richland to introduce Career Coach to the Decatur community in 2015.
“Thanks to Career Coach, I have a job that I am pursuing and a résumé that is saved on my computer, ready to be printed when I need it for my next interview.” — Miracle Dodd, Richland Community College student
“The data shows that there are jobs available in this community and there are people available,” McCrady says. “But the gap was getting them the proper training to qualify for available jobs. And that goes right into workforce development, which is the absolute most critical thing we do in economic development.”
“As the local economic development corporation,” McCrady adds, “it was important that we were involved in this partnership, because our businesses in Decatur want to see that we’re working hard to get them the best-possible employees.”
Raising the Profile of Richland Community College
The introduction of Career Coach has also helped Richland become even more of a strategic player in the Decatur area. Career Coach resides on Richland’s website. As word spreads about the free tool for the community, Richland’s profile as a nimble institution that adapts to employers’ latest skill requirements increases.
“We try to respond to community needs,” Baker says, “so by having a place that connects the jobs, the wages, the growth with our programs means we are definitely instrumental in obtaining skills. But again we’re part of the community, so the more that we can drive people to us, even if it’s for a class or two, I think that that’s where Patrick [Hoban] and Ryan [McCrady] see us as a real community resource.”
Hoban, a graduate of Richland and Decatur native, says the city has always considered Richland a gem for the community. Richland likewise sees the city and EDC as invaluable partners. The Career Coach project was just one manifestation of the strong partnership between all three.
“Since our middle name is community, Career Coach is a perfect tool for the community,” Baker says.
What Richland Students Are Saying About Career Coach
“I found it quite easy to find a career that I am interested in. I found helpful information about vocational nurses on the site and read over it more than once to get information I needed to study more on that subject. Thanks to Career Coach, I have a job that I am pursuing and a résumé that is saved on my computer, ready to be printed when I need it for my next interview.” — Miracle Dodd
“I have worked directly with Career Coach while working on my résumé. It was very helpful in that it showed me what a résumé looks like so that I can change some things to make it my own. It has helped me get a great start on it. It was very easy to know what information I needed to enter in and where. It was the easiest way for me to get a start on my resume and has helped me out a lot.” — Gabby Brix
For more information on how your institution or organization can use Career Coach or Emsi’s other labor market tools and services, please contact us. Follow Emsi on Twitter (@DesktopEcon) or check us out on LinkedIn and Facebook.