Publication Date: July 17, 2018
In general, job seekers can access these aggregators free of charge and search for available jobs in their area. However, job openings do not translate straightforwardly into retraining paths, in part because job titles do not always match required skills or relevant degree and certificate programs. An April 2016 review of these aggregator sites in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) elucidates the issues through an interview with the dean of Macomb Community College, which has traditionally served Michigan’s auto industry (Sussman and Korn 2018). According to the authors, “When the school’s engineering dean examined thousands of local job listings, he learned manufacturers used dozens of job titles for the same mix of skills Macomb calls mechatronics—a combination of mechanics, electronics and programming.”
The standardization problem highlighted by the WSJ may be acutely American, a result of higher economic dynamism and no organized standardization of job listing formats as is present in other countries. Even BLS, which publishes vacancies for the United States as a whole, does not attempt to measure the specific skill requirements of these vacancies. Some U.S. States have attempted to improve information flows by publishing their own summaries of job postings from aggregators, including an attempt to translate job postings into skill requirements. For example, a Missouri program responds to mass layoffs by providing job vacancy information from Burning Glass tailored to a displaced worker’s skill set and likely geographic mobility. More advanced State-based programs provide workers with recommended pathways to develop the skills sought by employers.
Private industry is also attempting to improve standardization across job postings. Schema.org, a website co-founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex, creates and promotes “schemas” enabling data available on the internet to be presented in a more structured and organized manner. Though the host website does not cater specifically to job openings or job seekers, it offers shared vocabulary to benefit webmasters, search engines, and users. A schema for a job posting, for example, contains shared coding suggestions for occupational categories, qualifications, and skills required.
Colorado’s “Skillful” initiative is also showing promising early signs. In 2016, the technology- focused Markle Foundation launched this statewide job skills program aimed at advancing “middle-skills jobs,” such as IT or advanced manufacturing, by connecting employers, State and Federal government, educators, businesses, and other key labor market players. Skillful caters to American workers who have been displaced by technological change or who lack a four-year degree and therefore face more difficulty in job transitions. With the support of Microsoft, LinkedIn, the State of Colorado, and local partners, Skillful has become an information hub for job seekers, education institutions, and employers. Skillful offers coaching and other online services to help individuals assess the value of educational or training programs, assisting individuals in determining which skills are in high demand in a specific location. Moreover, the information collection makes it possible for education institutions to better design academic programs to meet labor demand, and these tools help local employers determine the available skillset in a given area. In June 2017, Microsoft Philanthropies announced an almost $26 million investment in Skillful which would accelerate the workforce training program’s expansion into nineteen states beyond Colorado.