EMSI CASE STUDY (See Full Archive)
The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board uses local labor market data to identify in-demand occupations and support its economic development partners. Both tasks are important, and the ability to quickly tap into high-quality data from EMSI has made the board more efficient and more effective – as well as helped bring jobs to a struggling regional economy.
The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board covers more than 5,000 square miles across 11 counties, making it the largest workforce investment area geographically in Tennessee. The board partners with a Career Center Consortium to operate 11 career centers, one in each county it serves. Additionally, the board enjoys robust partnerships with economic development agencies, community-based organizations, and education providers.
The board’s size, combined with the rural region it serves, provides a few distinct challenges. The area has had double-digit unemployment for most of the past five years. Because manufacturing jobs comprise approximately 24% of the local economy and the region has lost over 4,200 jobs since July 2011, middle- and high-paying jobs are rare in some of the 11 counties. Some residents of the most isolated parts of the region have to commute up to two hours to larger cities like Dyersburg – where the board’s administrative entity, Dyersburg State Community College, is based – or even to southeast Missouri or eastern Arkansas to find jobs with solid earnings.
The high unemployment in northwest Tennessee means the region’s career centers get a lot of traffic. “Due to the steady 11-12% unemployment rate we have experienced over the last few years, we work with a lot of dislocated workers,” says Margaret Prater, vice president for workforce development at the board.
And when those who are out of work need to be retrained, labor market data becomes very useful.
On the Front Lines at Career Centers
Jobseekers who come into a career center typically fall into one of two camps: they have the skills to get a job but need help searching for one, or they need to be retrained to find employment. The Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board, like others across the state and U.S., uses Workforce Investment Act funds to pay for training – but only if there’s documented demand for the occupation that the jobseeker wants to pursue.
“In order to be good stewards of our funding, we’ll only fund people for training if they are looking to enter a career in an in-demand occupation,” explains Lori Marberry, the board’s director of public information. “EMSI provides us with an easy way to do that.”
“In order to be good stewards of our funding, we’ll only fund people for training if they are looking to enter a career in an in-demand occupation. EMSI provides us with an easy way to do that.” — Lori Marberry, Northwest Tennessee Workforce Board
More than 20 of the board’s staff members – from executives to career advisors on the front lines – have access to Analyst, EMSI’s online labor market research tool. Each of them can pull industry and occupation information for an individual county or any combination of the 11 counties that the board serves, as well as the surrounding counties in Tennessee and bordering states. The ease of use and quick answers to occupational demand questions is especially useful for career advisors, who are often inundated with jobseekers coming into the career centers.
Marcia Fields, a career advisor in Union City, says EMSI data has become a central part of the checklist that she goes through with clients who are job-hunting or are in need of training.
“Typically the largest population I deal with are those that want to go into training,” Fields says. “I have a checklist for each customer that I use to see if the program or the credential they’re wanting to earn is on the state-approved provider list and is an in-demand occupation. That’s where the EMSI system comes in. I check to see if that particular career pathway will allow my client to be successful in finding a job in when they get through the training they’re requesting.”
Board Helps Recruit Manufacturer That Will Bring 510 Jobs to Region
In addition to the career centers and other data that the board gathers, Prater works with local chambers of commerce and industrial boards to provide data for economic development-related requests. She typically has only a day or two to piece together the numbers, which is why she values how simple and quick it is to log into EMSI’s Analyst tool and grab the data she needs.
Once she’s defined the appropriate region in Analyst, she can very quickly create a report and send it off.
Recently, Prater showed the available workforce in the region to a prospective firm interested in locating in northwest Tennessee. She first tallied the number of people who lost their jobs by industry, and then with EMSI’s compatibility index, she showed how many of them could easily transfer to the key occupations that the employer needed to hire.
“For example, I use the compatibility index to show prospects that the recently dislocated workers in a specific job title had a 93% compatibility rating with a targeted job, and another one had a 96% rating,” Prater says. “We take industries that we have lost jobs in and correlate them over to the new industries. We then work with our state labor market partners to get the actual number of people looking for jobs.
“When we see a negative growth in a prospect’s job target in EMSI, that’s actually a good thing for a company that’s looking to move here. That means we have a workforce that unfortunately has been negatively impacted. But for them, it means we have a workforce ready and waiting.”
This type of analysis was beneficial to state economic developers in landing an office furniture manufacturer that chose to locate in northwest Tennessee based on the available workforce. The firm will eventually bring 510 jobs to the economically distressed area.
Showing available talent to a prospective firm is often valuable in the site selection process. For Prater and her team, it’s just another helpful data piece that EMSI provides in very little time.
Emsi 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.