Helping Community Colleges with Retraining Efforts

March 10, 2010 by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant
Illustration by Mark Beauchamp

An outstanding news story from today’s “Morning Edition” on NPR highlighted the struggle that faces many community colleges and workforce boards: Companies want new workers but can’t find people with the right skills, and lots of people are looking for new careers but aren’t qualified for the jobs that exist. The solution seems simple — just get the unemployed people into the new jobs. …

However, as the story pointed out, it’s not really that easy.

In most cases, the primary hurdle that jobseekers, the workforce system, and companies face is that of skill gaps. Former manufacturing workers who have lost their jobs in places like GM plants are quickly realizing new jobs require a lot more training while employers generally expect workers to be proficient in a variety of tasks. Many of the skill sets associated with modern domestic manufacturing require the level of training found in the information technology sector.

>> For more on this, check out this article on mechatronics by Scott Sheely of the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board.

As a result, workers trying to re-enter the workforce are often in need of heavy retraining, which is a dreaded concept because it means having to “go back to school.” Workers in their 30s or 40s, accustomed to the higher wages and benefits of a GM or Chrysler, will quickly grasp the implications. They have to figure out how to pay the mortgage, support the family, and go back to school all at the same time. It is a very exhausting reality to face, and many workers have either dropped out of the system or become too intimidated to contact colleges or the workforce community for help.

At EMSI, we want to help colleges and workforce boards break through this wall to encourage and support these workers so they can be retrained and re-employed. We have two services that are great starting points for understanding local employment and helping people connect to meaningful careers:

  1. First, we have designed a powerful research and planning tool to let your college unlock local employment data in order to better understand local skills needs and the characteristics of local industries and occupations. This information is so key because it helps you communicate with local companies about what sort of skills and training they look for so you can make sure your programs are hitting the target.

  2. Second, we are currently developing a new tool that can be placed directly into your college’s website so jobseekers can easily browse and understand local jobs (wages, trends, and openings) and find related training at your college. In this tool we will directly link occupations to your college’s specific departments and training programs so jobseekers can get in touch with the right training. Be sure to check back soon for more.

For more information on how EMSI can help, please contact Rob Sentz (