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Employment and Training Program Resources - Welfare to Work Vouchers

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 -   Assessing the Local Labor Market
 -   Defining the Local Labor Market
 -   Sources of Labor Market Information
 -   Surveying Local Employers

Assessing the Local Labor Market

An accurate assessment of the local labor market is essential to establishing business partnerships and designing an effective job training program. The program strategies you choose will vary depending on the labor market in which you operate. Whatever your economic outlook, it is important to understand what drives the local labor market:

  • Which fields are growing;
  • Which fields are shrinking;
  • Which fields offer the most promising long-term prospects for job seekers;
  • What jobs are available;
  • What qualifications they require; and
  • How employers hire for those jobs.

Defining the Local Labor Market

How you define the local labor market is unique to your community. It may be based on:

  • Service delivery areas of key agencies;
  • City or county lines;
  • Areas served by public transportation; or
  • Some other appropriate definition.

If the "local" area is defined too largely, it may mask key differences within the area. Defining the local labor market too narrowly risks missing employment opportunities in the region.

Sources of Labor Market Information

You do not need to conduct a detailed labor market analysis from scratch. Much of the information you need is accessible from the following sources:

The media.
  • Review recent newspaper and magazine articles to learn about new businesses, which industries are experiencing growth or layoffs, and what issues the business community is facing. (Local newspapers often publish year-end business roundups.)

  • Skim the want ads to see what types of jobs are advertised.

  • Try calling the research department at a local newspaper - they may have collected (and be willing to share) valuable information about the local job market.
Academic institutions. The economics or business departments of local universities often collect information and track changes in local labor market conditions.

Government agencies. The U.S. and State Departments of Labor, Economic Development, and Commerce compile labor market statistics that are often available on their Web sites.

Service providers. Talk to local Private Industry Councils (PICs) or Workforce Development Boards, training providers, and staffing agencies that serve the business community. They should be in touch with local labor market trends and needs.

Business associations. Chambers of Commerce, trade associations, and other business groups can provide information on their members and on the outlook in their fields.

These resources should give you a basic understanding of your local labor market, including the major industries, areas of growth, and size of local firms. Take note not only of the industry leaders, but also their networks of suppliers and service providers. You should begin to identify industries to target for further analysis as well as businesses to approach regarding their hiring needs.

Surveying Local Employers

The next level of analysis is to speak with local employers to learn more about their specific hiring needs. This can be done as:

  • A survey (which employers can return by fax);
  • A focus group (with 6 to 10 employers at a convenient location); or
  • One-on-one interviews (at the employer's office).

Local businesses are often happy to participate; it gives them an opportunity to share information about what they do. In general, keep it short:

  • A 1- or 2- page survey;
  • A 20-minute interview; or
  • An hour-long focus group.

Use your initial analysis (described above) to decide which employers to survey. It may be a cross section of local businesses, employers in targeted growth industries, or those with the largest number of entry-level positions.

A couple other key things to remember:

Surveying employers doesn't just provide you with information -- it also functions as an outreach and marketing tool, to introduce businesses to the idea of a partnership and show them you are serious about understanding their needs. Use the opportunity to identify individuals who might be willing to be involved in a partnership and who could help market your program within the business community.

Survey questions should be tailored to your specific initiative and what you already know about the labor market. The following questions to employers can be used as a guide:

  • What are the occupations for which you hire entry-level workers?

  • How many openings do you currently have, and what is the outlook for the future?

  • What wages do you pay for those positions? What non-wage benefits are provided to new hires and when?

  • What education levels do you generally expect for these entry-level positions? What special training is required?

  • Are the jobs part time or full time, and what hours do employees work?

  • What wage increases are available at various intervals of job tenure?

  • Who is in charge of making hiring decisions for your firm?

  • How do you usually recruit workers? Are you open to considering new ways of recruiting?

  • Is your worksite accessible by public transportation? Are other transportation options available to employees?

  • How much turnover do you experience in entry-level positions?

  • How many employees from this community have you hired? Have you made any effort to hire welfare recipients or other disadvantaged job seekers?

  • What kinds of on-the-job support would be important to you in considering the employment of welfare recipients or other disadvantaged job seekers?

Be sure to follow up with employers you have surveyed to thank them for their time and let them know what you have learned. For example, send a brief report summarizing the survey findings and listing the next steps to be taken in response. Let the businesses know how they can be involved and invite them to participate in the partnership.

Content current as of 28 August 2001   Follow this link to go  Back to top   
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