LABOR MARKET RESOURCES
Successful Career Plathways depend on accurate labor market information at the local, regional, and national levels. When we build a Pathway within a career-technical program or occupational field, we gather a wide range of data, including:
What are the major job titles within the industry? How do they progress? Which ones are entry level, middle-management, and senior positions? How do workers move from one position to the next — by seniority, industry certifications, academic advancement, or other measures? These are the building blocks for your initial Pathways map.
- Favorite resources: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the US Department of Labor’s O*NET provide occupational information based on SOC (Standard Occupational Codes) that are consistent in any occupational data search.
- State employment websites like the Oregon Employment Department can give you more specific data on occupations, usually at the county or even the metropolitan region (e.g., Portland, Las Angeles, Chicago). These sites may also indicate which occupations are growing or in demand and which ones are trending down or disappearing over the next 5-10 years.
In many industries, workers progress through a career path by earning industry-recognized certifications. These are generally third-party credentials, awarded based on a combination of demonstrated skills, written exams and/or time on the job. As educational institutions develop Career Pathways, it is important to learn about what certifications are recognized and/or required by local and regional employers and incorporate their outcomes within the CTE programs whenever possible. The college testing centers may also consider offering testing opportunities for exams, and where feasible, faculty may choose to become certified administrators as well.
- Favorite resources: Local employers are the best source for this information. In addition, a search within the occupational field for “industry-recognized certifications” will yield the names of certifying entities, often industry associations or product manufacturers..
- One of the best sources for Manufacturing-related certifications, for example, is the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and their non-profit training center, the Manufacturing Institute.
Post-Secondary Institution Websites
What are the colleges and universities promoting about their courses and programs? Are there only 2 or 4-year degrees within an occupational field, or are there smaller certificates or training programs available for entry-level or mid-level positions? Are there articulation agreements in place and promoted between community college and university programs? Does all the training being offered apply to a completion credential (e.g., degree, certificate)? Are the courses for credit or non-credit? This makes a difference when students first take the non-credit option and then have to repeat the course for credit if they want to earn a degree later on.
- Favorite resources: I’m particularly interested in the department or program pages related to the Pathway occupations. How do they present the information to students? How easy is it to navigate, both for students and employers? When I do a Search on the homepage of the college website, for example, can I quickly and easily find information on the degree, certificate or training options, or am I sent to a PDF of the college catalog.
- In Oregon, community colleges have partnered with the Oregon Employment Department to include Career Pathways maps and college program information for many occupations. Go to http://www.qualityinfo.org, for example, and select Occupation & Wage Information under Jobs & Careers. Type in “Welding” and you will get an Occupational Report for Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers (SOC 514121). Scroll through the wealth of information on wages, hiring trends, current openings, skill sets, and training opportunities until you come to Career Pathways for this occupation. Click on some of the roadmaps to see how colleges are presenting a wide range of occupational information visually through this advising tool.
Workforce Development Options
Community colleges are generally not the only ones providing training in occupational fields within a region. It pays to check out both the for-profit training centers/colleges and local workforce development entities (often called WorkSource Centers) that may have short-term, usually non-credit, training programs. Some K-12 school districts have career technical training centers that serve both high school and older youth and may or may not articulate to the community college programs in the area. These workforce partners provide opportunities to build a wider, more connected Pathways training web that better serves students, employers, and the local community.
- Favorite resources: Begin by learning more about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, commonly referred to as WIOA. It is the most recent version of workforce development funding, administered through the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOL-ETA), in coordination with the US Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.
- Generally, every county or region in every state has a local WIOA Board that directs the way funds are used to build and maintain a strong workforce. Through local centers, individuals access a variety of federal and state support funds for training and job search services. While some partner with local colleges to provide occupational training, many develop their own training programs in response to employer needs. Find out what’s happening in your region and build connections where you can.
- Learn more about for-profit colleges in the region. What programs do they offer, and what are their completion and placement rates in the community? Do they provide high-quality training that might fill a gap in the community college programs? Can articulation agreements be crafted to allow students to students to earn degrees? Recognize that students — and employers — have options in where they obtain training in an occupational field. Building a more comprehensive Pathway means including all education and workforce development options.