Business Facilities LiveXchange is an invitation-only event for corporate executives responsible for choosing a new location for their companies’ next facility. Delegates meet with senior economic developers from across North America; attend seminars, workshops, and think tanks led by experts in the field of relocation and expansion; and network with other corporate executives faced with the same corporate growth challenges. This month, Ed Andrews, principal consultant, Workforce Development Division, ACT, Inc. writes about his experience presenting at 2007 LiveXchange.
At the 2007 LiveXchange event, I found that many executives (delegates) and economic developers (sponsors) shared a key issue: the availability of skilled labor. Many of them had experienced some level of skilled labor shortage, and all had read about retiring baby boomers’ potential impact on the workforce, as more than 25% of the working population will reach retirement age by 2010.
With technological advancements, jobs are becoming more complex and require workers to possess greater skills. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 75% of the current workforce will need to be retrained to keep their current jobs. The Department of Labor predicts that in the near future, 80% of all jobs will require some education beyond high school.
Economic developers are starting to realize that executives making site selection decisions require more information about a location’s workforce than they did five to 10 years ago, and many now have available information, ranging from government data to surveys of a region’s workforce. Some even have workforce data generated from a Geographical Information System, which presents labor information in color-coded maps.
While this type of workforce data helps executives understand the labor situation in each area, it still doesn’t provide a solid understanding of the skills found within the workforce.
In the past few years, several states and regions have started using ACT’s system, WorkKeys, which assesses the skills of incumbent workers and individuals entering the workplace. The system includes nine foundational skills tests and three personal skills assessments. Another component of the system is job profiling, which allows businesses to identify the applicable skills and skill levels relevant to a specific job. These skill levels can then be compared with examinees’ WorkKeys test scores to find individuals that possess the right skills for the job. Over the past 15 years, more than 11 million Work-Keys assessments have been delivered and more than 14,000 jobs have been profiled.
During my presentation at LiveXchange, I provided examples of economic developers who now include WorkKeys data in their information packages to prospective businesses. I also spoke about ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate program, which awards credentials to incumbent workers and job seekers who demonstrate their employability skills by scoring highly on the three core WorkKeys foundational skills. Certificates are awarded at three levels: gold, silver, and bronze. Twenty-two states have adopted the program or have a state career-readiness certificate based on the same three core WorkKeys assessments. Several regions have followed suit with their own career-readiness certificate initiatives.
Most of the delegates and sponsors at LiveXchange had not heard of either the National Career Readiness Certificate or a state career-readiness certificate, though some had heard of WorkKeys. Since this data can be very useful, executives should ask economic developers if their states have a career readiness certificate and, if so, whether they can provide skills data for their region and the state.
In addition, since many site decisions have a long-term impact on a company’s performance, it is helpful to know if potential locations have a long-range workforce development plan that predicts what the workforce situation will be like in 10 or 20 years.