In the course of CDPS field work on varying projects throughout the Seventh District, employers, educators, economic development groups and others – in varying contexts – have all raised concerns that the current high level of unemployment in the region derives in part from a lack of up-to-date skills among the unemployed. To gain a broader perspective on these concerns as well as other conditions impacting low- and moderate-income (LMI) populations and communities, CDPS conducts regular surveys of people representing organizations that serve these populations and communities in varying ways. Our survey respondents represent organizations in the fields of real estate development; facilities financing; financial counseling; economic development; banking; consumer advocacy; small business development; philanthropy; law; higher education; agriculture; manufacturing; and human services.
This blog briefly summarizes comments from the latest Seventh District CDPS Survey. The survey focused on perceptions about mismatches between employer skill/training requirements and job seeker skills and training.
Most respondents commented that inadequate education and job training represent serious obstacles to employment in our region. Among the five Seventh District states, Illinois, Michigan, and Indiana, have unemployment rates over 8 percent, and Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is over 6 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data as of June. Iowa has a much more favorable rate of 4.6 percent, which technically represents full employment.
Respondents noted that the skills mismatch affects particular groups within the population of low- and moderate-income workers to a higher degree, including non-college educated workers, older workers, and the long term unemployed. Some respondents also noted more acute skill shortages in rural areas. Survey respondents also mentioned several industries and occupations affected more deeply by the skills mismatch including: trucking/transportation; manufacturing; healthcare; and welding.
Most respondents mentioned support for the workers to gain the skills they need (e.g. child care and better public transit options) as further obstacles to employment. Respondents were mixed as to whether the skills shortage is chronic, and long-term in nature or a shorter term aberration. Survey respondents offered some recommendations to mitigate the region’s job/skills mismatch:
- More internship opportunities to give hands-on experience;
- Greater efforts to promote student awareness of skills required for jobs;
- Tax reforms to adequately fund public schools;
- More training opportunities at community colleges or other sources.
Education and updated job skills represent important needs within LMI populations in most Seventh District states. CDPS will continue to research this topic, document findings, and share best practices regarding partnerships between educational institutions and employers, as well as other innovations and interventions aimed at increasing employment levels in our region. In the third quarter of 2013, we will release an updated report from our Industrial Cities Initiative that touches on employer/community college partnerships in Seventh District cities; the report will also include discussion about employment trends more broadly in these cities.
 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics, available at: http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/laumstrk.htm