We all make decisions—hundreds every day. What should I wear? Where should I eat? What time do I need to be at the airport? How do I get to that meeting? What should I get my daughter for her birthday?
Today, answering many of these questions requires nothing more than your phone. Just like that—huge amounts of data and analysis in the palm of your hand. As cars revolutionized the way we get from point A to point B, so technology and information have revolutionized the way we get from question to answer. We are making smart, informed decisions faster than anyone else in history.
Here at EMSI, we are in this business of providing data that improves decision-making—specifically, labor market data for larger organizations like colleges, universities, state and local governments, and major companies. And we’d like to talk about how it can revolutionize your work.
Bad Decisions are Costly Decisions
The services we provide help you make better decisions about an essential economic ingredient: People. The workforce. Human capital. Talent. Why is this important? Just think about two critical facets of employment:
(1) How people prepare for careers—the time and money that parents, students, taxpayers, and governments spend on college and workforce training programs, and
(2) How companies search for talent—the time and money that companies spend trying to recruit the right people for their business.
But there’s more at stake here than just time and money. Success—for individuals, companies, and our overall economy—rides on people making the right decisions. Whether it’s deciding the educational programs to offer, the degree to pursue, the job to apply for, the training the workforce needs, the types of business to prioritize, the best region for a particular business, or the right place for recruiting workers, making smart decisions about career and talent matters.
Bad decisions are inherently expensive. This is easy enough to understand on a small, personal level. If you make a wrong turn and get lost on your way to a business meeting, you waste time and gas, create stress, and perhaps miss out on an important opportunity. But what about bigger decisions involving education and career?
Look at this example. The average graduate from a public law school (in 2012) was $75,700 in debt. We might think that since the median earnings for a lawyer are more than $50 per hour (some $100K per year), the cost isn’t so bad; the student should be able to pay it back in short order. However, what we don’t realize is that in 2013, over 58,000 new lawyers entered the economy while the need stopped at about 20,000. Supply overwhelmed the demand. Now we have a lot of graduates shouldering massive debt with a low chance of landing a high-paying job. This isn’t to say that aspiring lawyers should quit tomorrow, but how many of these students would have decided to go for something else if they had had this information ahead of time?
Consider the following examples of how the right data can solve significant problems in our economy.
1. Higher Education
The problem: A college is thinking of offering a program, but data confirms that the program might saturate the market with too many graduates for a particular career.
The fix: The college develops a program more aligned to market need and with less regional competition, thus ensuring that graduates have more opportunities in their field of study.
Those impacted: This includes taxpayers who support the college, parents who send their students to the college, students who attend the college, businesses that hire the students, the college itself as it works to measure its effectiveness.
2. Workforce Development
The problem: A public workforce agency is dealing with a layoff scenario and having little success in finding new opportunities for out-of-work welders.
The fix: The agency uses data to analyze industries that hire a lot of welders, then contacts the companies to determine their needs. A transition program is set up to provide extra training to prepare laborers for new positions.
Those impacted: These include taxpayers whose dollars support the workforce board, unemployed workers who have new opportunities, businesses who find new employees, and the region that now has to provide fewer services to unemployed workers.
3. Talent Acquisition
The problem: A business sends recruiters to dozens of colleges, but gets lost in a sea of other businesses and somehow can’t attract the talent it needs.
The fix: The business uses college data to be more strategic in targeting campuses, and sees a huge increase in the number of qualified candidates.
Those impacted: These include businesses who find talent, students who find better opportunities, colleges who can talk about where their students go, and parents no longer anxious about what their kids will do for work.
4. Economic Development
The problem: An economic development organization has a broad, unwieldy focus and can’t establish a real strategy for growth.
The fix: The EDO uses data to determine a few key industries. By focusing on a handful of really productive businesses, the EDO now drives better employment and earnings in the region.
Those impacted: These include the region that gets better employment opportunities and income, people who gain new jobs, and employers who now have the talent necessary to succeed.
The Why, How, and What of EMSI
So, why does EMSI do what it does? To help organizations make better strategic decisions regarding workforce planning and development issues. How do we do it? By providing comprehensive labor market data and analysis through user-friendly tools—plus training to ensure you are comfortable using them. And what do we ultimately give our clients? The ability to make sharper, more objective decisions regarding two main issues: careers and talent. The following section explains how EMSI focuses on these issues.
1. The Career Question – How can we make sure people find good careers?
Today, the career conversation often starts with education and workforce development. This is because an increasing number of young people report that the primary reason they choose to go to college is so that they can get a better job. As a result, the nation’s postsecondary system needs to think about how its programs (especially those that are more occupation-specific) are aligned to the demands of the labor market. While the point of higher education isn’t job training, colleges and universities nevertheless must demonstrate how a particular area of learning will boost students’ chances of success. Similarly, the workforce system, which is highly job-specific, must create training programs that efficiently connect people to employers. In each case, data is key.
Step One: To build the right programs, your college/university or workforce agency should start by getting a handle on the big economic picture. It’s all about knowing the current supply of graduates/programs (in a given area) and the relative demand for those graduates/programs by businesses or employers. EMSI provides this analysis through our Gap Analysis, a high-level, executive report that allows you to evaluate the entire ecosystem and determine the areas that deserve attention, and helps you defend or build strategies for educational or workforce program development. To learn how a college in North Carolina used the Gap Analysis to manage program decisions, click here.
Step Two: In order to vigilantly adjust programs to the demands of the market, staff members (the ones ultimately responsible for building and maintaining programs) must have access to live data itself—not merely a static, one-time report. EMSI provides this live data in Analyst. Read our case study featuring a New York college that used EMSI data to win grants and launch a program uniquely connected to the real world.
Step Three: Communicate with parents and students about the connections between programs and careers. For this, EMSI created Career Coach, an online tool that allows students and jobseekers to explore how education and training lead to in-demand jobs. Read our case study on Algonquin College, where 60% of students who use Career Coach enroll in classes at the college.
2. The Talent Question – How can we be more strategic about finding talent?
In the wake of the Great Recession, a strong talent strategy has become a big deal for many businesses and economies. Such a strategy involves understanding the people who are currently employed (perhaps at competing companies or other industries), the under- or unemployed (the people who might already have skills that could help you; you just haven’t found them yet), and the soon-to-be college graduates. If a business or regional economy is going to succeed, they need the type of people who can ultimately create success. This impacts hiring, recruiting, site selection, business recruitment, and a whole host of other factors where access to human capital is paramount.
College Recruiting – EMC’s recent success is a good example of how data can turn a college recruiting strategy around. EMC, a global IT company based in Boston, used EMSI data on program completions, ethnicity & gender information, and students’ home states in order to focus its efforts, save time, and hire with confidence. “I now finally feel like I have someone backing me,” said Marie Gunning, senior manager of university relations. “I am a big fan of this tool. I love this tool. I can’t say enough about it. It has literally changed my life.” Read the case study here.
Economic Development – Access to talent has become a top priority for economic developers promoting business growth in their own communities. (Jacksonville’s successful recruitment of GE Oil & Gas is a great example of this.) And so we recently created EMSI Developer, a new decision-making tool tailored to the needs of economic development professionals as they field requests and questions about talent in their economies. Read more.
EMSI’s Next Big Step
At the beginning of our discussion we talked about the needs of everyday consumers: What should I wear? Where should I eat? Now we can add: Where should I go to school? What career is best for me?
EMSI has recently turned its attention to the needs of America’s youth—specifically, high school students as they (and their parents) struggle to make good decisions about careers and college education. With high unemployment rates and lots of college debt the new norm, young people are concerned more than ever about picking the right career path. So now we are testing and refining a new youth-oriented service called Find Your Calling. The goal is to create a free, national website that helps students discover the careers that suit their personalities and the college education that can prepare them for those careers.
It’s all connected. EMSI’s mission is to help you make better decisions that lead to economic prosperity—for your business, your community, yourself, and your kids.