Conducting community and labor market assessments are two of the most important components to building an Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (JT) program. A program can potentially do a huge disservice to students if the proper analysis isn’t performed addressing community and employer needs. Understanding the target community and assessing employer needs should be the first steps in JT program development.
Community and labor market assessments are usually local endeavors and are essential to:
- Assess the demand for workers in a specific community.
- Define the skills and certifications associated with available jobs.
- Identify education and training requirements associated with available jobs.
- Identify restrictions and constraints associated with entry into available jobs.
- Locate prospective participants and determine potential environmental justice issues.
- Determine community interest and involvement.
- Identify neighborhood leveraging opportunities.
- Assess special factors attributed to the target areas.
Without assessments, an JT program may fail due to a lack of availability of local jobs for program graduates or lack of community interest. There are several questions to consider.
- What companies might need graduates with JT skills and certifications?
- Are employers expanding or reducing their workforce?
- Are there future workforce expansion plans?
- Are jobs local, regional, or national?
- Must applicants relocate?
Community and labor market assessments may include general assessments from state or local government statistics, detailed surveys of local employers and neighborhoods, and specific one-on-one interviews with company employees and community residents.
Extensive assessments are difficult and take time and patience. But if done correctly, they could provide:
- Guidance for:
- Recruitment and screening of applicants.
- Curriculum and certificate offerings.
- Additional skills that will facilitate employment.
- Timing and strategies for the best placement of graduates.
- Identification of:
- Program supporters.
- Advisory board members and participants.
- Leveraged resources.
- Guest speakers and student mentors.
- Potential employers.
- A path for sustainability with:
- Potential new partners.
- New funding opportunities.
- Pathways to legislative or other governmental support.
In addition to providing information during program start-up, community and labor market assessments that are performed on a regular basis are also valuable for existing programs. If placement rates begin to drop, employers’ needs begin to shift, or community interest begins to dwindle, periodic assessments help align program, industry, and community needs.
Community and labor market assessments can be much more than simple information-gathering efforts. When done properly, they form a solid base upon which to direct and implement the entire JT program.