Jobs for the Future, an EMSI client, has partnered with Credentials That Work on a new report — “Aligning Community Colleges To Their Local Labor Markets” — that provides insightful research on how some workforce groups and colleges are now using online job postings to help determine real-time demand for occupations and skills.
David Altstadt, the author of the report (PDF), details the pluses and minuses of using real-time data, particularly to help offset the mismatch between the careers that colleges and training providers prepare workers for and the skills that employers need.
Aggregating job postings can give “broad, detailed, and timely information” on in-demand jobs and skills for any region, Altstadt notes. This intelligence includes hiring activity by industry or occupation group, education and experience requirements for job openings (including specific skills and certificates), and salary information. The report gives examples of how the Maine Department of Labor, the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, and other groups and initiatives have used real-time data.
But there are limitations to online job postings, and Altstadt points those out too.
As the building blocks for analyzing real-time labor market demand, online job ads have three substantial shortcomings:
> Not all job openings are posted online, distorting the employment picture.
> Deriving an accurate count of job openings posted online, comparable over time, is not yet possible because current technology cannot eliminate all duplicates and find all ads.
> Few online job ads include complete information about desired qualifications.
The bottom line, concludes Altstadt, is that online postings are “best used to complement–not replace–other ways community colleges can identify labor market needs.”
Pairing online job ads with government-backed statistics and projections and business outreach efforts can dampen shortcomings inherent with each approach and provide the best insights on immediate and ongoing occupational and skill demands. While online job ads are better for uncovering immediate job openings and emerging skill requirements, government statistics offer a broader assessment of economic conditions, such as employment levels, earnings, and the number of establishments within industry sectors.
EMSI has incorporated job postings, via Indeed, in our labor market and career research tools. But we always caution — as this report suggests — that they should be just one component to any analysis. The real potential seems to be combining traditional and real-time data, which Altstadt points to in his conclusion: “Additionally, utilizing both real-time and traditional labor market information opens up new forms of analysis. Matching job-ad data to Unemployment Insurance records can reveal workforce shortages or surpluses for in-demand occupations.”