Guiding new talent into the labor market involves providing training opportunities for entry-level workers to gain foundational skills. Helping these individuals adjust to new jobs and ensuring their long-term success is at the core of these training programs, but this can also be expensive and time-consuming for local businesses. Another problem is that many individuals aiming to get back into the workforce often do not know where to start or how to signal to employers that they are ready for a career. At the same time, employers are struggling to fill entry-level positions that require little to no experience, but have no effective way of pinpointing who is motivated, willing to learn, and job-ready.
In the San Diego North County community, the Job-Readiness Room (JRR) is providing a solution to the disconnect between jobseekers and employers and activating a new population of potential talent. In April 2022, Bendable, a provider of lifelong learning curation in public libraries, teamed up with Lightcast to create the outline of the JRR with a primary focus on equipping entry-level workers with foundational skills. The result was an accessible, affordable, and effective online learning platform housed in public libraries that utilizes the common language of skills to help users signal their readiness for a career and connect with employers seeking to fill entry-level positions.
The Value Lightcast Brings to the JRR
The foundational skills in the JRR are defined and categorized according to the Lightcast Skills Taxonomy, grounding the platform in labor market data and data-informed decision-making. Matt Sanford, Economic Development Manager with the City of Carlsbad, notes that “without the data that Lightcast provides, we’re just taking a shot in the dark and guessing what skills are necessary. By using Lightcast data, we can look in real-time at who’s hiring, who’s hiring at scale, who has a track record of hiring, and what industries need what skill sets. It’s an invaluable data set that allows us to be much more targeted and differentiates the JRR from other workforce programs out there.” The skills in demand at the job-readiness level are constantly evolving. Keeping up with those changes is critical for entry-level training programs, and Lightcast makes this possible for the JRR.
As a local resource center supporting the career growth of community members, the library is the perfect place to house the JRR. Erin Peak, Senior Librarian with the City of Carlsbad, explains how “community members come to the library to access information, technology, and wifi to enhance their professional development. As the JRR works with local employers to offer interviews and job opportunities, it is a mutually beneficial partnership and one that serves and enhances our customer’s experience.”
While the library serves as an impactful setting to support entry-level workforce preparedness, the JRR can also serve as a vital bridge for other key organizations, such as chambers of commerce, to support the job-readiness and retention of entry-level workers at local small- and medium-sized businesses.
How Does It Work?
One iteration of the JRR is on the Bendable digital platform located at local libraries. After registering for the program, users gain access to a learning pathway dashboard. Each Job-Readiness pathway begins with four core courses on developing transferable skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management. These courses have been assessed by Bendable Labs learning specialists, and the skills are defined and categorized by the Lightcast Skills Taxonomy.
After completing these four core courses, users select an industry focus for a final capstone course such as manufacturing, hospitality, or office administration. The program takes 10-15 hours, and users receive a Bendable Job-Readiness microcredential upon completing the program. Moving forward, users will apply for jobs that employers have designated as “Job-Readiness Room Preferred,” and they will also receive Lightcast data displaying the skills needed for “next step jobs” and related courses to take for free on Bendable.
The Value of the JRR
Activating a New Population of Jobseekers
There are people willing to work and jobs available, but the challenge is that these two populations are not meeting. The JRR provides a way to solve this disconnect and bring jobseekers to new opportunities. “It activates a whole new segment of the population that previously was underserved and didn’t have the resources to get into those jobs,” says Matt Sanford. Many users of the JRR have non-traditional backgrounds and may not have the cleanest resumes. By going through the program, they are given a second chance at companies where they previously would have been overlooked in the hiring process.
Providing a Meaningful Signal
The JRR acts as a filter to deliver the most dedicated entry level-workers and show employers those worth investing their time in. “Only 10-15% of those who sign up make it through 15 hours of training and finish the program. Because of the filter effect, the JRR provides employers with a meaningful signal of who is motivated, willing to learn, and job-ready. Employers are able to see value in a whole new population and invest their time in and give a shot to those who they otherwise would not have considered,” says Rick Wartzman, Co-President of Bendable Labs.
A Sweet Spot in Training Programs
The time commitment required for training programs can pose a challenge for many individuals. The JRR is the optimal difficulty level and duration between one-hour career workshops and intense, regimented, and long-term boot camps or apprenticeships. “15 hours of training is a sweet spot that reduces this challenge as much as possible without sacrificing the basic skills that employers need,” says Matt Sanford.
Affordability and Accessibility
As an affordable in-house tool easily accessible to community members at local libraries, the JRR helps alleviate employers’ financial burdens from external training and onboarding programs, streamlines recruitment efforts, and eliminates scatter-shot approaches.
Speaking the Common Language of Skills
The JRR brings value to skills-based hiring. “Many users may not have the most traditional work history, but going through the program and acquiring foundational skills applicable to many career pathways signals to employers they are job-ready. It convinces employers to give them a shot based on the fact that they have these skills now,” says Rick Wartzman. Additionally, many employers previously hadn’t thought about training programs as a way to obtain required skill sets in their industry, but the JRR is showing them what an alternative to a four-year degree looks like. Seeing how the JRR and its microcredential can help users acquire those skill sets has convinced employers that these training programs can successfully prepare jobseekers and help them gain exposure to the industry.