In the latest sign of a tight labor market, Amazon made headlines again by hosting a nation-wide career day event to help fill 30,000 open jobs. According to the company, it’s the most openings they’ve ever had at one time and positions range from entry-level warehouse and logistics roles to highly technical software and data science jobs.
For educators, news like this raises a familiar question: “Are our students and adult learners prepared to seize these opportunities and thrive in these roles?”
You may not have an Amazon facility in your backyard (though, with an ever-expanding network of fulfillment centers, many now do), but most institutions have at least one major employer in their region that drives prosperity by offering quality jobs and opportunity for advancement—an employer they’d love to partner with.
So, using Amazon as an example, let’s look at how a college or university might identify the needs of a major employer, and use that data to proactively pursue a strategic partnership.
1) Get a handle on the demand
First, we can use an employer’s job postings to gauge the skills they value and the kind of talent they are looking to hire. In a recent social media post, we looked at Amazon’s posting trends nationwide. In this example, we’ll instead zoom in on the Nashville MSA, where Amazon plans to build an Operations Center of Excellence. In fact, you can tell they’re ramping up for the new facility because there’s been a 364% increase in postings in the last six months compared to the previous six month period:
Using the company talent profile report in Analyst, we can see how Amazon’s posting trends have shifted over the past 12 months in the Nashville area. This includes the specific skills listed in those postings. We see a noticeable rise in demand for warehousing, which mirrors the national trend we highlighted last week. After that, scalability, automation, customer experience, Amazon web services (AWS), and operations management are some of the most in-demand skills over the past three months.
For educators, these signals can provide an idea of what kinds of programs or curriculum the employer might be most interested in supporting through a partnership. Perhaps more importantly, this data can serve as an excellent conversation starter.
For example, it’s not immediately clear what is meant by the skill “scalability.” What aspects of their business operations are they trying to scale? What specific technologies are they using to accomplish this? These are the kinds of questions that can help you proactively start a conversation about the companies needs and how you can help.
2) Factor in the supply
Of course, when it comes to identifying program or partnership opportunities, we have to consider not just the labor market demand, but also the workforce supply. Using the job posting analytics report in Analyst, we can see how the top, in-demand skills at Amazon compare with the prevalence of those same skills in Amazon’s workforce profiles:
Here, we can see that there do appear to be some skill gaps around things like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Customer Experience, Automation, and Scalability. This helps confirm that these are probably good competency areas to address. Colleges, universities, or workforce development professionals could create traditional or non-credit programs to better equip new grads, and could also offer continuing education to help the existing workforce upskill.
It would also be good to better understand Amazon’s current talent pipeline. What kind of grads has Amazon historically hired? What other institutions are already supplying that talent? What kinds of programs tend to set up alumni for jobs at this company?
Using profile analytics in Analyst, we can see that Middle Tennessee State University and UT-Knoxville are two of the biggest providers of talent, but University of Phoenix (which had a brick-and-mortar site in Nashville, but stopped accepting new students in 2015) and a number of community colleges are contributing as well:
The top feeder programs are business admin., management, and operations, but communications and marketing grads are working there as well. It’s important to keep in mind that these are individuals currently working at Amazon, so this does not reflect hiring practices at the new operations center of excellence (which is still being built). It will be interesting to see if these patterns change over time.
3) Reach out
This data is a great way to get your bearings and begin to zero in on a specific company’s needs; in this case, Amazon’s. To recap briefly:
You know how their job postings have shifted in recent months, so you have an idea of their current needs and the ways in which they might be looking to expand.
You also have an idea of areas where they might need to hire new grads (or upskill their existing workforce) in order to address skill gaps.
Lastly, you know the institutions and programs that Amazon has historically hired from. This could be helpful precedent to follow, or could show you where there’s an opportunity to differentiate with a different kind of program that meets a unique or emerging need.
Equipped with this data, you’re now ready to reach out to the employer (Amazon, or whoever the strategic business is in your region) and begin building or strengthening that partnership. As always, data is not a replacement for conversations with stakeholders. But it can position you as a proactive partner, ready to suggest solutions, provide insight, and help solve problems.
Industry partnerships masterclass
To help institutions with this last, crucial step, we hosted a webinar with Jeff Spain, workforce solutions senior consultant, and Scott Wegeng, director of employer engagement and experiential learning at Columbus State Community College (CSCC).
Under their leadership, CSCC has developed highly successful earn-and-learn programs with industry leaders like Honda, Target, Accenture, and others. In this webinar, Spain and Wegeng shared the best practices that have enabled them to establish and maintain these partnerships that deliver value for students and employers alike.
Learn more about Emsi’s solutions for higher education at economicmodeling.com/higher-education. If you have questions, please contact us! We’d love to learn more about the work you do and explore how our data can help.