How Data Helps Connect Talent to Opportunities

Research Pointers from RealTime Talent in Minnesota

Published on Nov 30, 2022

Written by Drew Repp

Nationwide, there are roughly two job postings for every unemployed person. In a labor market desperate to bridge the gap between people and employers, the deployment of actionable data only grows.

Minnesota recognizes the need to close this gap between the workforce and employers. RealTime Talent works to ensure students and job-seekers have the skills and experience needed to grow in high-demand opportunities across Minnesota. They collaborate with K-12, higher education, industry associations, training organizations, and the public sector to accomplish this work. 

We connected with Erin Olson, director of strategic research at RealTime Talent, to learn more about what’s needed to develop more successful career pathways and some of the most impactful data and reports they use with their partners. 

“RealTime Talent exists because we believe that if government, nonprofits, educational institutions, and private businesses all make more data-informed labor market decisions, we will see greater prosperity for Minnesota residents and businesses,” says Olson. “Lightcast data is a valuable single source for all the labor market and education data necessary to define critical career pathways. We offer training and support to partner organizations across Minnesota in how to use Lightcast data to guide workforce and education programs because it is accurate, granular, and most importantly easy to use.”

Here’s how RealTime Talent and its partners are using data in specific ways to make better workforce connections.

Understand the industries and occupations driving their local market

It can be tempting to start working on talent (or any other programming) before the landscape is even known. That’s understandable. The challenges can be immense and the need to take quick action real. But if your region doesn’t have a full and deep understanding of the industries driving the market, programs and initiatives could end up moving you further away from your goals, not closer.

“When we support nonprofits and government agencies in workforce development, often the first questions that arise are very basic,” says Olson. “What are the local industries that define my community? What are the unique talent needs of businesses in my backyard? And then, what jobs are available right now?”   

There are many different ways to determine those defining industries. You can look at GRP, job growth, or regional competitiveness. Or maybe regional specialization or industry earnings. Or you could factor in all of these. That’s what the Industry Cluster Identification report does. It allows you to give each of these metrics a custom weight and then see top, average, and bottom clusters.

Coming at it from the occupation side, the Occupation Diversity Snapshot ranks employment distribution across occupation clusters and compares them to a typical county. In Hennepin County we see the share of Management & Finance and Semi-skilled service occupations are very high, but Production and Education occupations are below what would be expected. Seeing which occupation areas have a high concentration will inform researchers which fields are strong and healthy as well as uniquely important in that community.

Know who’s hiring in your backyard

Knowing your region's industry and occupation clusters tell you where to be looking when advising talent on potential opportunities. More long-term success will be found when clients enter into jobs in healthy industries. Then the question is, who’s hiring in those industries?

 The Management & Finance occupation cluster consists of 110 SOCs ranging from Marketing Managers to Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors. We can use Job Posting Analytics to learn everything from advertised wage trends to unique job postings in this cluster. And even better, we can quickly see who’s hiring and for which roles in a city, county, or custom geography.  

A list of top employers recruiting talent is vital information not only for jobseekers themselves, but also helps build broader program strategies. Olson uses Lightcast’s keyword search and filters to explore unique features of different job offers by employer, including remote work, bonuses, and indicators of job quality. “Beyond simply finding someone a job, we want to identify the high-wage, high-quality jobs available,” says Olson. “That way, we haven’t just found a low-wage job for today, but a sustainable launching pad for a successful career.”

Providing jobseekers with details on who they could work for and the specific roles goes a long way in finding the right fit. Maybe the jobseeker needs an employer near public transportation or one that can accommodate a neurodiversity. Knowing from the beginning who is hiring can help identify suitable employers.

Determine target roles based on transferrable skills

Many jobseekers don’t realize the breadth of their skills or that those skills are applicable across roles and industries. This is often because jobseekers aren’t thinking in terms of skills. Thus, showcasing overlapping skills can help a jobseeker expand their possibilities. The Skills Transferability report is a great way to do this.

Insurance Services is an industry cluster of high concentration in Hennepin County. The median hourly wage for an Insurance Sales Agent in the region is $33.59. A New Accounts Clerk, for example, who is looking to make a change or advance their career may not think of insurance sales as a possible move. But the Skills Transferability report reveals a very similar knowledge base, a near-perfect overlap in abilities, and skills gaps are essentially non-existent.

Project for Pride in Living (PPL) is a leading Minnesota noprofit organization offering career readiness programs that provide participants with the skills necessary to get and keep a job with proven income growth and job placements. Madolyn Martini, career pathways program manager at PPL, is a data tool partner of RealTime Talent that uses Lightcast daily in pathway development, career navigation, and supporting education administrators across the Minnesota State community college system.

“Lightcast is a valued tool for workforce development,” says Martini. “Its capabilities to distinguish the transferability of skills across different industries, provide outlook for future in-demand programming, and connection to employers supports the initiative to minimize the workforce gap.”

Determine roles with competitive wages

The salary offered for a position is a key component when RealTime Talent considers job quality. RealTime Talent leverages an Origin-Gateway-Target model, developed by the Rework America Alliance, to focus workforce strategies on high-demand mid-wage Gateway Occupations that have multiple career pathways into high-growth, high-skill Target Occupations. “The goal is to help job-seekers see the wage growth potential in their new career, and be both realistic and a self-advocate when entering into an interview,” noted Olson.

For example, the median hourly wage of an Insurance Sales Agent in Hennepin County is $33.59—with half of workers making above and half below this rate. While an individual transitioning from the New Accounts Clerk role has the overlapping skills to make the move, they will be coming in with limited experience. The Compensation Analysis tool provides realistic expectations on starting wages and what can be expected upon gaining more experience. 

The chart below provides compensation information for a worker with zero to three years of experience as an insurance sales agent. It also incorporates regional cost of living (COL). So while the median hourly wage for those with zero to three years of experience is $25.88, the COL result is that the compensation may seem closer to $22.46.

Using data to clearly define quality jobs in a community is making a big impact in Ramsey County, Minnesota. “Ramsey County has been leveraging labor market data from RealTime Talent in a variety of ways. Their Origin-Gateway-Target career model utilizing insights from Lightcast data has become a power tool to educate our workforce board members, stakeholders and jobseekers on multiple career pathway opportunities in our community,” says Ling Becker, director of workforce solutions for Ramsey County. “Being able to share with jobseekers the opportunities to move along an increasingly higher skilled and better wage pathway while still allowing for matching of skills, interests and options is an innovative approach to Ramsey County’s intentional focus on building and supporting Learn and Earn models with American Rescue Plan Act funds.”

Getting ready to get the job

Data-informed research helps determine the best pathways and job fits for a jobseeker. But preparing a resume, gathering application materials, and interviewing to actually get the job is the pivotal last mile. And increasingly, skills are being used by businesses to identify talent and by workers to demonstrate their fit for jobs. And as seen with the Skills Transferability report, often the skills exist to make advantageous transitions. The issue is more a matter of workers understanding their skills and how they relate to opportunities.  

Skill My Resume is a free tool created in partnership with the Rework America Alliance to help jobseekers optimize their resume or create one that is based on skills. 

SkillFit is another skills-based tool that personalizes a jobseeker’s path to either a job or the necessary training based on skills. With its BR Works program, Baton Rouge has made skills-based pathway development central to its talent development efforts. 

Whatever the mechanism or tool, looking at where a person has been and where they want to go through the lens of skills helps discover more and better opportunities.

Less friction, more implementation

Jumping between government websites and sifting through spreadsheets of labor market data makes workforce development research cumbersome, to say the least. “When we begin working through the answers to our partners’ first questions about labor market demand, wages, and talent supply, very quickly they realize a need for much more than a single datapoint. Multiple insights need to be interpreted together to drive action,” shares Olson.

Developer reports take data from multiple government sources and couples it with real-time data in the form of job postings to minimize the friction between research and implementation. These are just a few of the reports more easily understand and act on the uniqueness of your community. Demographics, commuting patterns, education attainment, and much more are also available through simple workflows.

Want to better connect your talent to in-demand jobs?