Lightcast Case Study
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Activating Regional Skills for Industry Growth

Indy Chamber’s Skills-Based Approach to Economic Development

Indy skyline skills collage

“I wake up every day thinking about skills, workforce, education, and everything else for Indianapolis and our region…If we could identify and understand skill strengths and gaps that were unique to our region, we would be able to give ourselves a competitive advantage amongst our peer cities."

Kate Pangallo,

Senior Director of Talent & Strategic Partnerships

Indy Chamber

The Indy Chamber made a commitment to supercharge talent attraction and workforce development for the region.

And they wanted to do it in a new way.

In Indianapolis, the business community thrives on a blend of innovation, collaboration, and economic diversity. It's a place where start-ups sprout, established corporations flourish, and skilled talents converge. And at the center of it all, propelling this extraordinary economic dance forward, is the Indy Chamber.

The Indy Chamber is unique among similar commerce groups because its reach expands beyond just the city and includes the nine surrounding counties. A 30-minute drive takes you from the hustle hustle of downtown through nationally-ranked suburbs into the heart of thriving Midwest farmland. 

The region is thriving, and that didn’t happen by accident. Accelerate Indy is the regional economic development strategy advancing the area’s growth and keeping it competitive with peer cities nearby. In fact, in many ways, it’s leading the pack: accolades for the region include being ranked among the top 10 places for college grads to start their careers, having the number one airport for 11 consecutive years, and being the third-best city for tech in the Midwest and best for women. 

One of Accelerate Indy's objectives is to “accelerate talent.” This includes attracting workers from outside the region to plug existing workforce gaps, also focusing on on keeping Indiana's university graduates in the area by offering them rewarding local opportunities. To ensure every resident can participate in the modern economy, the chamber seeks to make sure residents are connected to essential resources and have access to education and training. 

Creating growth for everyone is a complicated effort, needing a clear understanding of supply and demand throughout Indy’s labor market.

The Question

How could the Indy Chamber identify how to best attract workers to the area, and how could it see how the region compared to its peers?

people in Indy

“From the outset, we didn't want this report to be just another report,” said Kate Pangallo, Senior Director of Talent & Strategic Partnerships at the chamber. “To avoid that, we had to be deliberate about the how and what we focused on throughout the project. We didn't guess which industries to focus on; we aligned them with our economic development strategy, We concentrated on our region's specific growth industries and used this work to foster common goals and objectives.”

One challenge was inherent to the Indy Chamber’s wide purview—the region includes huge companies like Eli Lilly and Salesforce and also top education institutions (as well as the NCAA), while at the same time still serving highly rural areas. This diversity meant that the chamber’s solution needed to reach across the entire region, and speak the language of each of its shareholders. They needed a skills-based solution.

The Answer

Indy Chamber commissioned a Regional Skills Analysis

Leveraging Lightcast Open Skills

Indianapolis skyline

In a regional skills analysis, Lightcast experts draw from our own proprietary database of labor market analytics, generated from machine learning and natural language processing techniques that extract valuable insights from job postings, online profiles, and other relevant sources. Report authors contextualize this data in combination with countless layers of traditional labor market insight from government statistics, to produce a comprehensive report showing precise labor market trends and outlooks for a region.  The final result is a comprehensive skills inventory, highlighting the key skills sought after by employers in the region's industries.

This could include specific at-a-glance answers (like “how many workers in our region are forklift certified?”), but also larger, more complex insights, like seeing which what share of local job postings are requesting the fastest-growing skills by industry overall. The more that community leaders understand about what their local workforce is capable of, the better they can play to their region’s economic strengths and also plan to bridge any gaps as they prepare for future growth. 

"The whole is greater than the sum of the parts,” said Joel Simon, VP of Community Consulting at Lightcast. “It's super easy to get into your own silo and to focus solely on your own county, your neighborhood, or your own unique strategy. However, we're living in an interconnected world. Each county in our region is interconnected. What happens in the downtown core matters, and it has a profound impact on what happens in the collar counties, and vice versa. Using skills can articulate that difference across those industries and audiences and show how communities can use a unified approach.” 

One strength of the regional skills analysis is in how it uses skills as a common language that clearly communicates supply and demand across regions and across industries.

“Instead of looking only at current job titles and occupations, we focused on skills, which often translate across industries,” Pangallo said. “This approach helps drive our business and talent attraction strategies, while supporting our workforce and education partners… With this information, we can strategize ways to improve talent attraction, hiring, retention, and growth opportunities, benefiting businesses and strengthening pipelines.” 

In the past, conventional wisdom might hold that if a region has a high concentration of auto manufacturers, then future auto manufacturing investment should also consider that region. While that’s often true, a skills-based approach allows for a closer look: many of the same skills required on an assembly line or in equipment repair at a car factory are also needed in assembly lines and equipment repair at an industrial bakery. This means those employers, despite coming from very different sectors, can recruit the same workers.

Downtown Indianapolis, highlighting Lucas Oil stadium

“Skills allow us to connect different industries in ways that we might not have considered before,” Pangallo said. “The skills demanded by one industry could very well be found in another, and this kind of cross-industry synergy could potentially open up new avenues for talent acquisition and job mobility. This way, we can help ensure that our regional workforce is both diverse and resilient.”

Ensuring the ongoing success of the local business community meant the Indy Chamber needed to share and promote the regional skills analysis and help organizations throughout the region understand its potential. The first phase of the rollout involved releasing specific industry reports, creating thought leadership blogs, presentations and engagement of key stakeholders. The goal of these projects was to communicate that the chamber wasn’t putting out more data for its own sake, but that the information they’d acquired was useful and had real-world impact that could support other initiatives and business goals throughout greater Indianapolis.

One use case highlighted one of Indianapolis’s most high-profile events: the Indy 500. Penske Entertainment runs the event, as well as dozens of others held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and they need thousands of workers spanning a huge range of roles in order to make those events happen.

Using data from the regional skills analysis, Penske was able to refine and optimize how they look for talent—including new strategies that enhance diversity and inclusion efforts, as well opening up their overall talent pool by looking directly at skills instead of more abstract qualifications. By broadening their perspective, the company is set to maximize efficiency as they hire while also creating new opportunities throughout the community. 

Finally, the Indy Chamber rolled report findings out to the different communities and stakeholders throughout the nine-county region. Meetings with local leaders showed how a skills-based approach could help regions identify how to attract new business and investment. One highlight from those meetings was how local leaders identified ways for schools to see which skills employers would need in the future and start developing ways to help students prepare. 

By investing in a regional skills analysis, The Indy Chamber made it possible for the entire region to understand the skills their workers have and what skills local businesses need. This makes it possible for companies find the right employees, for people to find jobs where they can use their skills, and for education and development groups know how to better accomplish their goals. By using skills to support the entire nine-county region, in all its diversity, the Indy Chamber is making the whole community stronger.

"We as a community needed to start impacting outcomes. We set out to do two things: inform our business attraction efforts and inform our challenge attraction strategy -- and this analysis did that and then some!"

Kate Pangallo,

Senior Director of Talent & Strategic Partnerships

Indy Chamber

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