In a recent conversation at Workforce Central on BlogTalkRadio, EMSI joined Ron Painter, CEO of the National Association of Workforce Boards, to discuss the new stipulations under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for measuring the impact of workforce boards.
“If we thought WIA was interested in data, WIOA…is obsessed with data,” Painter said. Simply put, WIOA is going to require a lot more of it. In the 35-minute radio discussion, EMSI economist Brian Points and senior consultant John Hawkins considered how workforce boards can step up to the plate, and how EMSI—a “data heaven,” in Painter’s words—can help workforce boards via labor market information and impact analyses.
According to Brian Points, one of the best changes under WIOA are the new, highly specific metrics that will allow workforce boards to focus on clear goals. But these new metrics are also one of the most challenging changes. When it comes to a number of activities that workforce boards are involved in, “we know intuitively they have a positive economic effect on their region,” Points said, “but they’re sometimes difficult to measure; they’re sometimes intangible.”
Another intense challenge for workforce boards, Points said, will be ensuring that each strategic plan includes an element of cooperation between economic development, education, and workforce development. The objective is to develop a common vision and strategy for what is most important in the region—“certainly a noble objective,” Points said.
The problem is, not every board has managed such cooperation in the past. “We’ve dealt with some regions where you have a very good economic development entity and you have a very good workforce development entity, but their collective impact is muted by the fact that they aren’t cooperating in terms of—what occupations are most important to the region? What industries should we be nurturing? They’re each doing their own thing, and that can hurt.”
EMSI provides economic impact analyses to help workforce boards quantify their work, but these studies aren’t always as powerful as they could be. EMSI clients have discovered valuable work missing from the studies—simply because the boards couldn’t provide EMSI with the data on their activities.
How can workforce boards start to fix this? “Capture what you’re doing,” Hawkins said, speaking of activities such as coaching people in résumé workshops and holding job fairs with local businesses. “These are the fantastic things rippling through the economy, but if you can’t capture it,…you can’t prove an impact.”
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Or expensive. “We’re not telling everybody to spend $20,000 and put in some elaborate data-tracking system,” Hawkins said. “It could be something as simple as a spreadsheet or a Word document…. Just keep track of the number of events and the number of people you helped. Snap a couple photos and stick them in a folder.… Whatever works. Whatever you can afford and whatever make sense for your staff. It’s definitely going to be a cultural change for a lot of folks—getting that mindset of ‘we need to be documenting this stuff.’ ”
Certain aspects of the new WIOA requirements are intensely focused on labor market information—another key help provided by EMSI. Our labor market data analysis tool, Analyst, fits well into the expanded world for workforce boards, giving them “the decision-ready data that they need,” Hawkins said. “They don’t need to spend months scraping data. We want to set up our tools with the reports ready for them to analyze.” But even better than simply providing a ton of raw data, EMSI also designates Analyst experts within our customer service team to coach clients through the tool, highlighting “the metrics you should be looking at and why,” said Hawkins.
Listen to the full discussion: “WIOA: Measuring Economic Impact.”
EMSI will be at NAWB Forum taking place March 28-31, where John Hawkins will be on a panelist on the “Putting Business First” session (12:00 p.m., March 29) and presenting a session on “Targeting Local Business Partners through a Data-Driven Industry Analysis” (11:00 a.m., March 30).