By Zafer Sonmez
An earlier blog post described the online tools and information provided by O*NET Online. This post focuses on how workforce development agencies and potentially economic development policy makers could utilize O*NET data.
The core mission of workforce development agencies is to help workers and businesses transition in a changing economy. These agencies constantly strive to align their policies and programs with projected labor market demands. They also try to influence future demand by increasing the supply of workers with certain skill sets, with the end goal of aiding the growth of targeted industries (e.g. green industries) in a region.
O*NET provides key components of the data needed in this process. Below I discuss three specific areas where O*NET OnLine could be a primary data source for workforce development agencies in advancing their goals.
One of the primary goals of workforce development agencies is to identify those occupations that are critical for their regions’ sustainable growth in select industries and economic development in general. Defining critical occupations requires a robust understanding of a multitude of factors, including the current and future state of the economy, projected industry demand for different occupations, changing skill requirements for newly created jobs, etc.
O*NET OnLine provides information on nearly all occupational characteristics that are necessary for such identification. For example, a community with a large manufacturing base might be interested in identifying occupations related to industrial manufacturing of green technology as well as energy efficient manufacturing processes. For this purpose, O*NET provides the user with a list of all green manufacturing occupations with labels corresponding to different levels of green skill requirements and growth status in the near future.
Identifying an individual’s transferable skills can help workforce development agencies target their efforts to assist displaced workers find new employment opportunities. The O*NET Center provides two on-line tools for self-assessment with regards to skills transferability – (1) the Computerized Interest Profiler and (2) the Work Importance Profiler. These tools allow an individual to identify his/her level of knowledge and compare it to various skill sets and work characteristics required by their current occupation or an occupation he or she wishes to enter in the near future.
Some state agencies and private organizations have developed automated skills transferability tools using the O*NET database to assist in matching workers to jobs. The California Employment Development Department has created an online tool called “California Occupational Guides” that links occupational wages and employment projections with occupational characteristics data from O*NET. This helps laid-off workers find jobs that match their skills in the state. For example, the state officials used this tool to help workers in the aerospace industry who were displaced due to manufacturing plant and military base closures.
Besides automated skills transferability systems, private companies use O*NET data to develop workforce solutions. For instance, Manpower Group used O*NET descriptors and numerical indices as a basis for its sorting and filtering algorithms.
Identifying education and training options
Another way in which O*NET OnLine is used by workforce development agencies is to analyze skills gaps and identify education/training programs to fill in those gaps. For instance, Sacramento, CA, completed a “Workforce Needs Assessment” as part of its clean economy cluster development efforts in 2016. The researchers first found employment levels in six broad clean economy sectors in the Sacramento Capital Region. Then, using O*NET OnLine, they identified occupations relevant to each of the six regional clean economy sectors (or clusters as they called it). As a third step, they examined local colleges and universities that offer certificates or degrees in occupations identified in the previous step. Although a relatively simple effort, this example illustrates how linking local data from different sources enabled policy makers to see the balance between occupational supply and demand in the industries they want to develop.
Want to learn more?
A Database for a Changing Economy: Review of the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). National Research Council (U.S.) Panel to Review the Occupational Information Network (O*NET); Tippins, Nancy Thomas; Hilton, Margaret L National Academies Press, 2010.