Breaking Industry Confines

A Regional Skills Approach to Effective Career Pathways

July 20, 2022 by Drew Repp

Most workers no longer remain in the same job or with the same company their entire career. While certain careers lend themselves to limited transitions, such as teachers or doctors, increasingly people don’t climb the corporate “ladder,” going straight up in a line. They rock climb a mountain face, taking various paths. 

Yet, much of our workforce efforts still try and put people on a ladder in a single industry or occupation path. But looking at markets through skills reveals that such a linear path is rarely the case. People navigate the market between industries, not within the confine of an industry.   

By seeing how the skills of individuals create career areas in a region, a community can then identify surpluses and gaps of workers and their abilities and knowledge. This view can reveal where job transitions can not only fill gaps of local employers (often across industries) but also provide wage gains for workers. For example, in Oahu, there is a surplus of talent in the Sales & Customer service cluster.

The Business and Finance cluster, on the other hand, is experiencing a talent shortage and also offers higher wages.

The question then becomes: how do we move people from roles in the large surplus, low salary area of Sales and Customer Service to the high demand, high salary roles in Business in Finance? Most important to remember is that entry-level positions provide baseline skills, many of which are transferable. In Oahu, Public Relations and Communications was identified as a good transition from Retail: Store Management roles due to the overlap of communication skills, diplomatic demeanor, and customer relationship management. And while not formalized, an understanding of branding also exists among retail workers.  

This transition brings an annual earnings increase from $35,500 to $55,000. It also opens a pathway to Information Technology roles. It was determined that Marketing: Public Relations & Communications is one of the top prior skill clusters for IT Systems: Virtualization & System Administration, accounting for 10% of transitions. 

Rather than fixating on career transitions within Sales & Customer Service, skills data charts a course between industries. Now an individual who starts in merchandising or running a cash register can see how their skills can build to store management, public relations, and even IT. 

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