Emsi Case Study (Full Archive)
In Michigan, like every other state, the businesses that form the local industry base are different from county to county. This has implications for a state program that helps students with disabilities transition to adult life—a transition that includes trying to find the right job.
Public Sector Consultants (PSC) is a nonpartisan public policy firm in Lansing, Michigan. One of PSC’s focus areas is education, and it has worked with the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education’s secondary transition project, the Michigan Transition Outcomes Project (MI-TOP) and local school districts.
MI-TOP builds local school district capacity to improve outcomes for students with disabilities to successfully transition to life after school. Intermediate school district transition coordinators are tasked with preparing students with disabilities for adult life. This can include a wide range of skills, such as applying for a college or helping with Medicaid services, but it often involves helping students find a job or prepare for a career path.
A few years ago, Jeff Williams, CEO of Public Sector Consultants, was at a MI-TOP conference when he picked up on a common theme from transition coordinators. With the state’s economy in a prolonged funk, companies had canceled or postponed internship and co-op programs for all students. Transition coordinators struggled to support local districts to help find job opportunities for students with disabilities.
“This caused no small amount of panic as they were looking for employers,” Williams recalled. “So I said, ‘We’ve got this dataset. What if we ran at the county level the biggest employers, the fastest-growing occupations—just some basic, eye-opening statistics?’ ”
Williams was referring to Emsi’s county-level employment data, which fit the bill perfectly.
Giving Data to Non-Data People
Public Sector Consultants created one- to two-page fact sheets that quickly became a hit. The fact sheets summarized growing and declining industries and occupations, earnings for the top-growing industries, largest companies by number of employees, as well as totals for population, jobs, and the number of unemployed. PSC also included data on education trends. It tailored all the data to the county or counties for each school district.
The goal, Williams said, was “to give transition coordinators a high-level overview of ‘meet your county.’ ”
Because transition coordinators are educators and not workforce or labor market experts, they welcomed the data. PSC has continued to provide fact sheets to Michigan transition coordinators on an annual basis the last several years, and it’s done similar reports for coordinators in Iowa. “They know a lot about students, but a lot of this is giving them new places to look for employment opportunities for their students,” Williams said.
The regional economic summaries are also meant to help transition coordinators—and the whole education community—become more data-savvy.
Taking Action with Local Data
The data that PSC hands out helps reinforce to coordinators the importance of understanding their local economies: the businesses that make up key industries, the promising occupations inside those industries, the unemployment picture, and more. Most of the data elements on their own aren’t new to the coordinators, Williams said, but since the data is on their communities, it resonates.
In the past, noted Craig Wiles, a senior consultant at PSC, transition coordinators may have looked at graduation and dropout rates, assessment scores, and other data in isolation. But now, the regional summaries have encouraged the transition coordinators to use more data and resources in a more coordinated way. For instance, some have taken the job information from Emsi and further investigated growing occupations using O*NET to give their students an idea of the type of work involved in each field.
“This is about data-based decision-making,” Wiles said. “It is as much about what they do with the information as it is the information itself.”
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.