Structural changes to the United States’ labor market over the past three decades has led to a persistent middle-skills job gap. Employers are struggling to fill jobs that require more education and training than a high school diploma, but less than a four-year tertiary degree. One major barrier to building a talent pipeline to fill those gaps is the need to be able to accurately predict and identify where the market demand exists. The LinkedIn City Team has been working in partnership with Arizona State University, edX and the Markle Foundation’s Skillful program to do just that in Denver and Phoenix.
Over the past year, Skillful and LinkedIn have used a mix of online tools and in-person training to help job seekers land middle-skill positions in fields such as IT, advanced manufacturing, and health care. The program uses a new tool called Training Finder, which is a database of training programs offered by local community colleges and technical schools, including details on their cost, duration, post-training earning projections, affiliated businesses, and related job openings. In addition, the program staff work closely with government and community organizations to directly support skills development on the ground. Since launching in March 2016 in Denver and April 2016 in Phoenix, approximately 10,000 workers and career coaches have been trained across Colorado and Arizona.
Prior to the program’s launch, LinkedIn’s research showed that 44 percent of the recruiters and hiring managers surveyed in Colorado and Arizona found it hard to source people with the right technical skills. Furthermore, 54 percent of workers with a high school diploma and some or no college education said they didn’t know what jobs were available or whether they needed additional training to acquire the skills required for those jobs.
LinkedIn was able to step in to fill these voids with their wealth of data drawn from the LinkedIn community, providing a reliable real-time snapshot of the labor market in both Denver and Phoenix. The data highlight unique job-seeker skills already on offer in each region, which employers are hiring, and a breakdown of LinkedIn members by industry. This data is complemented by the resources already used by city and state officials, such as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau.
The success of the initiative lies in being able to connect the dots for job seekers. For example, an individual interested in joining the growing health-care field can use LinkedIn data to see where those jobs exist, allowing them to look beyond the traditional hospital environment to opportunities that are emerging in their local area such as elder care, medical billing, or biotech. Job seekers can then use Training Finder to search for the relevant health-care training programs required for a specific job, ranging from massage school to physical therapy, making their eventual application more competitive.
Staff on the ground have also identified a need for middle-skilled job seekers to better leverage their networks. Unlike professionals who proactively reach out to their network when on the job hunt, the middle-skilled workforce have not traditionally used this strategy and often find themselves worn down after sending numerous resumes and receiving no response. LinkedIn and Skillful have therefore been encouraging the middle-skill job seekers of Denver and Phoenix to make contact with friends or colleagues who may be able to offer a referral or provide insight into a new field.
In assessing the partnership just beyond its one-year anniversary, LinkedIn believes that the continued interest from employers, educators, and policy leaders is a promising sign. Laura Williams, City Program Manager at LinkedIn, said the program’s success is largely due to the strong collaborative community of employers, educators, and government offices, including the state of Colorado and the city of Phoenix. Government is an essential partner given their daily interactions with several hundred job seekers, for example, through administering unemployment insurance or career counselling in a workforce center.
Laura attests that the strong partnership has been “repeatedly praised by the Colorado Governor’s Office, Colorado workforce leadership, and the Colorado Community College System for the investment in the state and the importance of this work for Colorado’s economy.” The state of Colorado has also enhanced the program by testing apprenticeship models and combining LinkedIn’s data with its own, such as its comprehensive records of all certificate and vocation programs in the state. In Phoenix, the Mayor’s Office has been similarly supportive, offering resources like city libraries to host training sessions, which led to an increase in engagement by 40 percent.
Given that the challenges in the middle-skill job market experienced in Denver and Phoenix are similar to what LinkedIn is seeing nationwide, there is scope for application across the country. If such an expansion occurs, being welcomed by the host governments and communities will be crucial. As Laura said, “government officials in both Colorado and Phoenix have really rolled up their sleeves to help. Not just in words, but in really developing and testing products, partnerships, and services. Together we have begun to better highlight some of the specific barriers for middle-skilled workers.”