2021 in Review

Published on Jan 26, 2022

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Lightcast

Community Consulting Highlights

Last year, communities across the country focused their efforts on adapting their economies to sustainably address four distinct and interconnected priorities: 

  • COVID-19 economic recovery

  • Workforce equity

  • Supply chain disruptions

  • Skilled labor shortages

These complex priorities continue to be imperative for workforce and economic development groups across the country. To better serve them and find strategic solutions for these priorities, we are happy to announce that the legacy Burning Glass and Emsi consulting practices, led by Joel Simon and Dustin Lester, have come together as a single team.  This combined expertise allows us to meet the diverse needs of even more communities. 

As 2022 begins, we’d like to look back and highlight a sampling of our clients’ accomplishments that inspire us heading into the new year.

Chamber RVA — Talent Attraction Study

ChamberRVA, the regional chamber of commerce for the Richmond, Virginia region, commissioned Lightcast to create a talent attraction strategy. The strategy was developed in connection with the Chamber’s RVA NOW talent and recruitment program. Lightcast conducted an analysis of demographics, labor market trends, migration, economic performance, and the regional educational pipeline to better understand what areas the region is succeeding in and where they can improve.

“Richmond is doing well. Its population is growing, and new businesses are relocating to the region. But this isn’t a static thing, and like most cities, Richmond thrives on forward momentum and finding ways to be better. Since we began this project, we knew anecdotally there were talent gaps—higher ed career offices and students saying there aren’t enough jobs to keep them local. And on the flip side, regional employers say we don’t have enough talent. Clearly, we needed to know the big picture through a deep analysis of data from 360 degrees,” said Beth Weisbrod, vice president of talent and workforce at ChamberRVA.

The findings and recommendations emphasized talent strategies including: 

  • Focus on talent alignment – identifying the most acute retention issues and working to realign education with the regional economy.

  • Focus on talent gaps – identifying areas where the regional economy has growth potential but is struggling to find talent.

  • Focus on locations – identifying areas where a strong network of alumni exists or where there is a surplus of talent that the region needs.

Collin Perciballi, senior consultant at Lightcast, explained the reason why talent attraction and retention programs combined with data-informed strategies are so important for economic development organizations. “This monumental shift in the labor market — the “demographic drought” — means competition for talent will be fiercer than ever before. As such, economic development organizations will be competing for attention and airspace. Do not go after anything and everything! The point of a data-driven approach is to hone your attraction and retention efforts into a targeted, realistic strategy.”

Technical College System of Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development — System-wide Economic Impact Study for Worksource Georgia

The Technical College System of Georgia’s Office of Workforce Development (TCSG-OWD) funds services that can be measured in clear economic terms. It generates a wide array of benefits through programs and its own day-to-day operations. This includes managing the statewide workforce development system, Worksource Georgia. Individuals benefit from workshops, career planning services, and job training programs. Employers benefit from consultation services, customized and on-the-job training programs, and a readily accessible pool of potential job candidates. Furthermore, as more jobseekers find in-demand jobs, the public benefits from higher regional earnings and lower unemployment rates. 

TCSG-OWD selected Lightcast to complete an economic impact analysis of the statewide Worksource Georgia system, as well as analyses for each of the 19 regional workforce boards in the state. The results of the study showed that the system created a positive net impact on the state’s economy and generated a positive return on investment for taxpayers. 

Some key findings from the analysis include: 

  • Aggregate benefit-cost ratio (which includes all the WIOA programs) was positive, with a return of 2.04.

  • The highest benefit-cost ratio came from the Adult program, with a benefit-cost ratio of 4.43.

  • TCSG-OWD generated $20.02 million in added income to Georgia’s economy, supporting 289 jobs indirectly.

  • Overall, the increase in hourly average earnings for participants was $11.45.

  • The added tax revenue was $158.2 million, and the government savings equaled $1.1 million, leading to a taxpayer benefit of $159.3 million.

Joma Neyman, economic analyst at Lightcast, expanded upon the importance of economic impact analyses for workforce development systems. 

“The benefits organizations such as TCSG-OWD bring to the region’s economy go beyond the simple return on investment and tax revenues collected. The benefits from these programs are two-fold: they allow workers to have reduced dependency on government assistance, thus leading to governmental savings and increased tax revenues, while simultaneously helping workers re-enter the job market, increasing their overall well-being.”

NPower — Women of Color in Tech Analysis

NPower creates pathways to economic prosperity by launching digital careers for young adults from underserved communities. To harness the energy of today’s social and racial justice movements, NPower launched the Command Shift initiative to focus on elevating low-income women of color in an industry that needs talent. While comprising 20% of the U.S. population, women of color make up just 5% of the tech workforce. With tech jobs increasing even during the pandemic, and with more than 600,000 tech jobs expected to be in demand by 2030, Lightcast conducted analyses that has identified opportunities to advance hundreds of thousands of women of color into the growing number of good technology jobs that US firms desperately need to fill.  

With current representation in tech roles so low, and traditional education programs unable to produce the graduates necessary to close the gap, innovative solutions were needed. Lightcast conducted a deep analysis of existing workers and skills to identify a workforce that is diverse, motivated, and poised to move into technology roles if given the opportunity and sufficient upskilling. Through NPower and Lightcast’s research, it was uncovered that Black, Latinx, and American Indian women represent 10% of the “tech-eligible” workforce—jobs that employ knowledge, skills, and abilities, that can be built upon through training programs like NPower to align with commonly sought-after roles in the tech sector.

Further, by comparing the representation of women of color in the tech-eligible workforce to their representation in the tech sector, NPower and Lightcast estimate that there are nearly 250,000 women of color missing from the tech sector across metropolitan areas in the United States. 

“Increasing women of color in tech jobs is critical not just as a pipeline strategy, but as an overall approach to helping underserved women of color who might not have college degrees, but have stackable tech skills that can be upskilled to increase their opportunities for economic advancement through a long-term, equally compensated, career in tech,” said Candice Dixon, director of development at Command Shift.

Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board — Skill Pathways Analysis

As communities struggled to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic with limited resources, it has been critical to identify those workers most severely impacted and invest in interventions that provide them the most direct and meaningful pathway to more stable, family-sustaining jobs. Houston had more than 350,000 residents in these severely impacted occupations.  And, with an unemployment rate more than double the pre-pandemic level, Houston faced significant challenges and sought to leverage its formidable collection of colleges and universities to help drive recovery.  

In Houston, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board sought to help the higher education community align multiple colleges and universities to ensure the community’s response was coordinated, focused, and intentional when making investments in people and jobs.  

Using traditional labor market information and real-time demand data, Lightcast identified a series of occupations that represented the greatest level of distress:  those experiencing high unemployment, those experiencing the most severe drop in employer demand, those most likely to face automation-related displacement, and those that are less likely to lead to economic mobility. It’s these occupations that warrant resources and support for retraining. 

To enable Houston’s colleges and universities to retrain those workers for a more promising future, Lightcast then identified a series of “destination” occupations that represent the richest set of opportunities for impacted  workers.  These  occupations were defined as high-wage jobs that experienced heightened demand even during the pandemic, are growing most rapidly, are critical to the region’s target industries, have higher rates of upward mobility, and have been undersupplied by the region’s colleges and universities.  Prioritizing transitions between skills-similar occupations, Lightcast identified where skills gaps can be solved quickly and efficiently with shorter-term training and credentials, offered guidance on which programs to enhance and expand, and showed how impacted workers can be reskilled and reemployed most rapidly.

Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) – Supply Chain Analysis

DVIRC is dedicated to their clients’ profitable growth and operational excellence, the capabilities of their people, as well as the economic strength and competitiveness of the manufacturing community in the region—specifically Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania. Similar to regions across the country, Delaware Valley was seeking solutions to the unprecedented supply chain disruptions affecting manufacturers and the public. 

DVIRC engaged Lightcast to develop an analysis to assess supply chain gaps, causes, and potential solutions in the Delaware Valley region. The research and recommendations were a result of direct engagement with the regional manufacturing community, a literature review, and the application of Lightcast’s supply chain data.   

The study identified specific and tangible strategies for DVIRC and regional manufacturers to address supply chain disruptions and long-term resiliency: 

  • Enhanced integration of just-in-case inventory management

  • Near-sourcing the supply chain

  • Reshoring and foreign direct investment 

  • International trade relations

  • Skills-based workforce development

  • Enhanced supplier relations

  • Adoption of digital tools

Supply chain disruptions are interconnected with other economic problems our clients’ communities are facing. These include workforce and skill gaps, equity issues, economic competitiveness, and the return on investment of workforce and economic development programming. DVIRC understood the connectivity that these issues have to supply chain disruptions and that solutions are also dependent on multi-faceted strategies supported by data.

City of Sacramento – Skills Analysis

A core tenet and imperative of the City of Sacramento is to thrive in an ever-developing modern economy, positioning underserved and underrepresented people and communities as leading owners, drivers, and beneficiaries of enormous growth opportunities. Within the City of Sacramento, the Office of Innovation and Economic Development (OIED) is focused on better connecting residents in underserved communities with critical workforce resources. Leveraging labor market information (LMI) to identify key skill gaps and career pathway opportunities enables city leaders to proactively—and efficiently—engage in workforce development. 

To address this challenge, the City of Sacramento partnered with Lightcast to close workforce equity gaps through stronger data-based decisions. The City of Sacramento Regional Skills Analysis provides information on in-demand jobs that present opportunities to aid workforce development efforts, including career pathways for students and residents in the region with little job experience or postsecondary education. 

Some key outcomes from the skills analysis included: 

  • Healthcare and IT & Math occupations are in high demand, provide dynamic career pathways to people from a wide array of educational backgrounds, and provide the greatest economic opportunities for Asian, Black, and Hispanic or Latino communities. 

  • Protective Services and Installation & Repair are career areas with large talent surpluses and low earnings. Workers in this career area will benefit greatly from upskilling and reskilling to higher-paying and more in-demand careers.

Tipping Point —  Career Pathways Analysis of High-Demand, High-Wage jobs

Tipping Point is a non-profit support system for organizations that serve as the Bay Area’s safety net, including those that provide workforce development and job training programs to the region’s diverse populations. The organizations in this network have a shared mission and values, but limited and inconsistent data sources and analytic capabilities. Tipping Point engaged Lightcast to provide data and analyses that are current, comprehensive, and provide intelligence across the workforce service providers so they can target specific employers, support needed skill development, and improve service to their constituents.  

Working with Tipping Point and its grantees, Lightcast provided data on demand for workers across the Bay Area’s prominent industries and identified high-demand, high-wage jobs that offer opportunities that are both desirable (offer living wages, abundant openings, and stability) as well as feasible (hire locally and do not present formidable barriers to employment).  By leveraging real-time labor market data, Lightcast charted career pathways in each target sector: entry-level positions within each sector, the skills associated with those positions, and other occupations that leverage those skills but offer favorable wages and/or expanded sets of opportunities.  This revealed opportunities for advancement or lateral moves within the sector and the skills needed  for those pathways.  Using this data on the specific opportunities and skills that are important to Tipping Points’ grantees and their programs, Lightcast then created a series of trainings to enable the grantees to apply the data to improve their services to job seekers.  Trainings focused on career coaching, enhancing curricula and program content, and supporting efforts to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Looking Ahead

Lightcast’s Community Insights consulting team worked with dozens of organizations last year to help their communities focus on inclusive, strategic, and prosperous growth. We thank our clients, partners, and team for their dedication to this important work. As our team is now even stronger together, we have a renewed opportunity to focus on quality, innovation, and meaning so our clients experience the full value of our data and solutions. We look forward to working with many great communities, leaders, and partners in 2022.

Learn how Lightcast’s Community Insights consulting team can help your community, or contact Dustin Lester and Joel Simon directly to start discussing your community’s priorities and projects.

For more information on how our insights can help your community, please get in touch.