When developing regional workforce solutions in the manufacturing sector, a common problem is spending money on labor market data for small projects. While accurate labor market data is important, many institutions invest heavily in gathering similar data. This can lead to wasted effort and money. Each small project commissions its own research, often producing data that isn’t used beyond that project. This scattered approach takes away much-needed funds from workforce development initiatives. In turn, this leaves fewer resources for the people and projects that need them most.

A more efficient strategy involves using existing regional or state labor market data, particularly in states that have accurately consolidated this information. Labor market data is necessary. By relying on these comprehensive data sources, manufacturing projects can allocate more of their budget towards direct impact activities. This allows for resources to be used for gathering very specific data directly from employers participating in the project. In turn, this can be intermixed with the state-provided data. This approach ensures that financial resources are used more effectively, benefiting more projects and stakeholders in the manufacturing industry.

The New Virginia Model: A Unified Approach to Labor Market Data

The state of Virginia has recognized this inefficiency and addressed it through the establishment of the Virginia Office of Education Economics (VOEE). The VOEE was created to streamline labor market data collection and dissemination, thereby eliminating the redundancy and excessive spending seen in piecemeal approaches. By providing a centralized source of labor market data, VOEE enables institutions and projects across Virginia to access high-quality, consistent data without duplicating efforts.

VOEE works closely with key partners throughout the Commonwealth. Partners include the Virginia Department of Labor, Virginia Secretariat of Commerce & Trade, SCHEV, higher education institutions, Virginia Department of Education, Virginia Employment Commission, GO Virginia, Virginia Board of Workforce Development (VBWD), and other workforce partners. This collaboration ensures a unified and consistent analysis for policy development and implementation related to talent development and education-labor market alignment.

Resources and Tools Provided by VOEE

One of the standout resources provided by VOEE is the 2024 High Demand Occupations Dashboard. This user-friendly tool offers access to the 2024 High Demand Occupations List and core labor market data for all Virginia occupations. It includes vital information such as current employment, median annual earnings, average annual openings. The tool includes a five-year workforce projection for each occupation.

The dashboard also highlights how each occupation aligns with various programs. For example, the Workforce Credential Grant/Fast Forward, G3 funding, Registered Apprenticeship, and the STEM workforce. Users can tailor the data to their region by selecting a Local Workforce Development Area (LWDA) or Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Then they can refine their search based on specific career clusters, pathways, and entry-level education requirements.

Additionally, the Virginia Board of Workforce Development’s (VBWB) High Demand Occupations List, overseen by the VBWD, is another crucial resource. This list helps guide the Virginia Workforce System, ensuring alignment with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). WIOA provides funding to help job seekers access employment, education, and training, and to match employers with skilled workers. By centralizing this information, VOEE helps projects and institutions focus more on implementation and less on redundant data collection.

These are just two valuable examples of data tools that anyone can access. Manufacturers can utilize this comprehensive data set for internal workforce planning. They can also use it when collaborating with education and other partners on regional workforce projects. This ensures that decisions are informed and strategic, optimizing the effectiveness of workforce development initiatives.

By addressing the inefficiencies in labor market data collection and providing centralized, high-quality data, Virginia’s VOEE model serves as an exemplary solution for maximizing resources in workforce development. Other states and regions can look to this model to reduce unnecessary spending on redundant research and to ensure that more funds are directed towards impactful workforce development initiatives. Through strategic collaboration and unified data sources, we can enhance the effectiveness of workforce development programs. All this while better meeting the needs of both job seekers and employers.

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