Beyond a Job Board
BR Works Connects People and Employers Through Skills in Baton Rouge
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) represents the nine-parish area known as the Capital Region in Louisiana. The Baton Rouge metro area is home to 870,000 residents, and our Lightcast data ranks it as the 13th most diverse industry base in the US. Baton Rouge is home to two land-grant universities, including LSU.
BRAC works with local and state entities to advance economic development, supporting a vibrant business community so that Baton Rouge unleashes its full potential.
The Chamber's work is funded and guided by investment from Capital Region businesses. BRAC leads and supports activities to spur the development of Baton Rouge; some of these include helping new businesses enter the market, securing grant funds for talent attraction and workforce development initiatives, launching minority business accelerator programs, and more.
But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Baton Rouge was forced to deal with fast-changing market forces that strained the people of the local community, especially as it related to jobs.
BRAC wanted to help connect job seekers with local businesses during COVID-19
As a regional economic developer, Baton Rouge always has a need for talent in order to support continuing growth. Being a college town, they have access to thousands of young people arriving every year—but Baton Rouge was losing those students to bigger cities like Austin, Houston, and Atlanta.
Baton Rouge needed a talent attraction and retention tool.
Although unemployment was low in the aggregate—hovering near 3%—jobs were not plentiful for every demographic group in the area. There was no comprehensive regional specific job board at the time to service all members of the community, so the Chamber decided to invest in one.
The arrival of the pandemic made it even more difficult for local businesses to find the right balance of workers. BRAC had been looking at a years-long challenge and solution, but over just a few days, the need became immediate. The Chamber now needed to help connect HR professionals who were recruiting to those who were forced to lay people off and, of course, to jobseekers themselves.
BRAC had a Microsoft Word document with 10 companies seeking workers on the first week of March 2021 and by December, there were 245 employers on that list. It was unsustainable as a shared document with hyperlinks, for sure. And it was lacking the robust skills data necessary to match the right people with the right jobs.
BR Works built using SkillFit and Lightcast Skills Taxonomy
Making skills the foundation for planning, matching and success.
BRAC began BR Works in 2020 in response to drastic changes to the jobs landscape amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While some companies were forced to turn to layoffs and furloughs, other industry sectors rapidly increased hiring to meet growing demand. BR Works was created to help laid-off community members find new career opportunities.
What began as a single webpage with a brief list of job opportunities has become a full-scale job, training and resource hub for employers and job seekers across the Capital Region.
The tool helps jobseekers look for a new opportunities and helps businesses find their next great hire, as well as information for anyone for anyone to take their career or business to the next level. It also ensures that the region's colleges and universities are aligned to the skills local employers are seeking.
“Our talent and workforce efforts are about ensuring that students are engaged in programs that crosswalk to high demand, high wage positions. And then once they have those certifications, degrees, and skills, keeping them in the region.” said Andrew Fitzgerald, SVP of Business Intelligence at the BRAC.
BR Works helps students and jobseekers see that crosswalk using the common language of skills, built using Lightcast’s Skills Taxonomy. Visitors to the portal can start by answering questions about their interests to help determine the best job fits. Alternatively, they can upload their resume and BR Works then extracts the skills identified in the resume. Jobseekers can also self-identify any of their skills. The tool then matches them, based on their skills, to job postings in the Capital Region.
So, using SkillFit plus elements of Lightcast’s Skills Taxonomy, BR Works facilitates connections for jobseekers (people) between their formal and informal training (education) and the needs of the market (employers).
And those connections now go beyond job openings. In the fall of 2022, BRAC launched a new feature of BR Works that suggests the programs and courses a person needs to move into the job they want. This second phase of the portal helps jobseekers understand the skills gaps between existing competencies and those required for desired positions, and then recommends courses from local training providers to close that gap.
“Talent retention and talent development are inextricably linked. Elevating the skill sets of our residents to better match the jobs available in the Capital Region will naturally help increase retention rates,” said Adam Knapp, BRAC president & CEO.
Utilizing massive open online courses (MOOCs), BR Works has over 15,000 upskilling opportunities and includes more than 130 local offerings. This skills approach to job placement and training continues to gain traction as both education and business adopt skills as the language for communicating competencies.
“I think that employers are definitely thinking of it in terms of skills. You're seeing more with the state pushing micro-credentials and short-term training, non-degree programs, and certifications. I think that that's been normalized by higher education and employers are on board. Employers that traditionally want a bachelor's degree for a job are saying ‘can you do the work?’ So I think that employers and higher-ed are normalizing skills and that is trickling down to students,” Fitzgerald said.
Chambers like BRAC have a tough task before them: help businesses find talent amidst a labor shortage that likely isn’t going away. One way to help is by eliminating friction between jobseeker and job. The skills-first approach to matching people with jobs and training sets their BR Works initiative apart from other programs. This innovative and multifaceted approach to talent development is likely a valuable playbook for many communities.
"We've definitely used it as a way to connect people with open jobs in the community. And with the tight labor market, that’s super important."