The Best Guidance Possible

How to Use Skills Data to Power Worker Success

July 18, 2022 by Tim Hatton

Career services—including job training, career counseling, coaching, and more—is a field designed around helping others. When workers come looking for advice and assistance about improving their lives and communities through finding a better job, career services providers need to know how to guide them. But where can they look for answers about how to best provide that assistance?

For career service providers to give workers the best guidance possible, they need to be able to anticipate future market needs, follow new career pathways, and build programs that successfully lead to high-quality jobs. 

The Tipping Point Community is a nonprofit based in San Francisco committed to fighting poverty. Lightcast has partnered with Tipping Point to identify the needs of the local workforce and how those align with the local labor market, as well as how to bridge the gaps between the two. 

The full report on this collaboration—”Supporting Career Service Providers and Poverty Alleviation Efforts in the Bay Area with Detailed Data on Jobs, Skills, and Career Pathways”—is available from the Tipping Point Community website. 

Foundational to the solutions presented for workers here is the idea of “skills-based hiring.” This refers to the process of matching workers to jobs based on the skills those workers have or could develop, rather than looking for workers based on their degrees or whether they’re part of a referral pool. This benefits employers by expanding the range of potential candidates for a position, while also expanding the number of opportunities available for workers.

But in order to develop a skills-based approach, employers, workers, and career services providers need to understand which skills align with which jobs, and also which of those connections make the most sense for which workers—and that’s where skill-level data comes in.

Tipping Point’s work is focused in the San Francisco Bay Area, but the principles they’ve developed are useful tools for anyone involved in career services. Here’s how training centers, worker advocacy groups, and education partners can use skill-level data to find the best possible solutions for workers. 

Skill profiles are a way to process and sort through the core functions of a job and compare them against requirements for future potential roles. The report draws an important distinction between “necessary” skills as compared to “defining” skills. Defining skills are more narrowly relevant to a given position, setting it apart, while necessary skills are more broadly applicable and are used across many related occupations. 

When searching for a new job, workers can look to the necessary skills they already have as a guide to determine what transitions would be easiest, requiring the addition of just a few new defining skills.

Using the same logic, employers looking to fill a given position can target and recruit workers in adjacent occupations who will already have all or many of the necessary skills required for the role, and  only need to be trained in the defining skills that set that position apart from other occupations.

This willingness to train is key: a skills-based hiring approach gives employers more flexibility to choose what traits they pursue in potential candidates, but prioritizing some skills necessarily means de-prioritizing others. In other words, businesses can buy some skills but need to build others. 

In the tightest job market in decades, employers are in a brutal battle for talent and can’t afford to hold out for candidates who already have 100% of the skills they will need on the job.. Employers can instead be intentional about identifying the candidates that are “close enough” matches—workers who can become an ideal fit  through training and development—and they can invest in building the skills that bridge the gap between the candidate’s resume and the requirements of the job. These employers put themselves in a better position to find the talent they need.

This is a valuable strategy not just for employers, but for workers and career services providers. If employers are willing to develop a portion of the skills they need in a role, then that lowers the barrier for entry to many workers.

Those who are able to anticipate that shift can use employers’ willingness to train not just to get one new job, but build a foundation for future growth and advancement. In order for workers to achieve success, prosperity, and upward mobility, they need to understand how and where their skills can find the best fit possible in the modern workforce.