August 2, 2019 by Clare Coffey
How do you turn raw data into a compelling narrative that highlights the best your community has to offer? Just ask Jamie Loyd.
As vice president for economic development at Columbus Technical College in Columbus, Georgia, Loyd sees himself first and foremost as an advocate for CTC’s service region. “In order to promote economic growth and attract new businesses, our college serves as the primary hub for regional workforce development,” Loyd says.
In this capacity, CTC’s primary objective is to ensure that regional business and industry partners have the requisite human capital necessary to succeed, and to promote their region by demonstrating that not only do they offer a strong workforce, but they also boast a dynamic workforce development system producing future talent.
“Our economic development department works with many regional economic and workforce development partners to develop training programs, write grant proposals, strategic plans, and provide real-time and meaningful labor market Information to make better Informed decisions,” says Loyd. “I’m right in the middle of it.”
The local workforce board, chambers of commerce, development authorities, school systems, several non-profits, and the Georgia Department of Labor (not to mention many other state and local government entities), often turn to CTC for accurate and meaningful labor market (and economic) information. Which means they turn to Loyd.
A seasoned 20-year veteran in both economic and workforce development, Loyd knows there are many factors that contribute to regional competitiveness, but none are more critical than a region’s workforce. In order to accurately identify workforce strengths, weaknesses, and/or gaps, he complements quantitative data (Emsi) with qualitative data (in-person discussions and surveys) to present a complete, nuanced picture of the regional workforce.
Over the years, Loyd has witnessed many decisions made based on erroneous or incomplete data, grant proposals written without enough supporting data, and training programs initiated without adequate demand. “I realized early in my career there is an art to collecting, processing, and presenting meaningful information,” says Loyd. “I have always searched for new data sources, new ways to use traditional data sources, and creative ways of using data to tell a story.”
It seems Loyd has also perfected a discerning eye for identifying and articulating any competitive advantages his region may possess. In his view, too many communities (and organizations) sabotage their efforts by not using data effectively to create a compelling business case. “They often end up presenting information that may be technically true, but woefully incomplete,” he says.
Whenever Loyd is called on to deliver workforce presentations to prospective businesses from communities across Georgia and Alabama, he begins by seeking to understand the prospective employer’s workforce needs. “The initial information provided by the company (or site selector) is usually vague at best, and often misleading,” Loyd observes. “So this is an area where Emsi data can be extremely helpful.”
Loyd uses a combination of Analyst and Developer, two of Emsi’s labor market analytics tools. First, with just the industry (NAICS) code, he uses the “Staffing Patterns by Industry” and “Compatible O*Net Occupations” reports in Analyst to gain a better understanding of the occupations the company will employ. Then he turns to Developer to analyze the region’s competitive advantage regarding the industry and occupations.
Within reason, Loyd will expand the boundaries of the region, using a broader level industry (NAICS) code and/or occupation (SOC) codes, in order to capture relevant program completers from all regional institutions, and also crosswalk military occupation skill sets to civilian occupations so he takes into account the human capital leaving the local military base each year. “This is most often where I see others come up short in their presentations,” Loyd notes. “Others often use extremely narrow parameters in conducting the analysis.”
Loyd stresses the fact that presenting incomplete data can be just as misleading as painting a deceptively positive picture. “You never want to misrepresent, you always want to be realistic,” he says. “But you can certainly accentuate the positive. Trust me, nobody’s going to go looking for your region’s strengths if you don’t. You’ve got to tell the whole story.”
There’s no better example of Loyd’s determination to tell the whole story than his recent business case for a tire manufacturing company. When the company eyed Columbus as a potential site for its new manufacturing plant—a move that would bring over 500 new jobs to the region—the Chamber of Commerce asked Loyd to present an overview of the local workforce.
“My goal was to demonstrate to the prospective employer that our region has the requisite human capital (workforce) needed for them to be successful,” Loyd says. But after using Developer to run an industry report for tire manufacturing, a problem emerged. There were no identified employers in the region with that specific industry code.
By stopping there, his region would not even be considered for the relocation. So Loyd ran the report again, this time using a higher-level NAICS code to include industries that required the same or similar skills as tire manufacturing. Since workers with related skillsets would be easy to upskill or retrain, he might be able to offer the expanding company a ready or near-ready workforce after all.
“The results now showed 18 establishments employing nearly 1,500 workers in our region,” Loyd says—a very different picture. He was then able to connect the specific occupations involved to post-secondary programs throughout the region, effectively demonstrating a steady pipeline of talent.
“The workforce presentation impressed the business owners and consultants,” he says. “We have since been informed we are on the ‘short-list’ and a follow-up visit is scheduled!”
As mentioned earlier, combining quantitative and qualitative information has been another hallmark of Loyd’s approach to workforce development. Emsi data offers the quantitative: it brings hard, objective, numerical answers to labor market questions. But for qualitative information—subjective perception of the situation on the ground—Loyd turns to conversations with local business owners.
For example, Loyd regularly combines Emsi data with feedback from local companies to conduct a gap analysis. How well are CTC and other regional post-secondary institutions meeting employer demand?
First, Loyd uses Emsi data to compare the number of completions for a given program against the number of relevant hires by local employers. If hires significantly outnumber the completions, the college might need to produce more workers—and vice versa.
This is the data he presents to industry partners. “That’s the beauty of Emsi,” he says. “It provides hard data, and starting the conversation with hard, meaningful data provokes deep discussion. For instance, if the data indicates there are more than enough program completers to fill annual openings, but employers are having difficulty filling the positions, then we are led to ask why?”
Loyd also gathers feedback on how well CTC graduates are performing in the field. If he hears that the alumni don’t have the skills and abilities necessary to fill open positions, he knows CTC should consider revamping the program in question.
Thus, Emsi data helps Loyd identify any gaps between CTC’s workforce development and local talent needs, while personal conversations help him pinpoint the root of the problem. “It’s hard to beat that combination of Emsi data and local knowledge,” he says. “Quantitative and qualitative.”
Loyd credits his team at CTC for their role in helping him be the workforce advocate for the region.
“I’ve got great team members that focus on developing and implementing the training programs we identify through workforce analysis—so I can be more involved on the economic development side,” he says. “That’s some of the most exciting work I do: showcasing our region. When the phone rings and a mayor or chamber president asks me to come up with a competitive business case, or a solution to a specific workforce problem, I get excited! Being the ‘epicenter’ of the regional workforce system benefits the college by keeping us aligned with the needs of our business and industry partners. It benefits the entire region.”
Jamie Loyd will present on this case study at Emsi2019, our ninth annual users’ conference, September 16-18, in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Seating is limited! Register here. Contact Gwen Burrow, [email protected].