by George Lorenzo
If you are in the business of workforce development, you have probably heard about relatively new technologies available today that mine and “spider” projected job openings that are listed online and then analyze and aggregate such mined data to determine where job demands are located in any given geographic area. In a Jobs for the Future report, titled “Aligning Community Colleges to Their Local Labor Markets: The Role of Online Job Ads for Providing Real-time Intelligence about Occupations and Skills in Demand,” author David Altstadt outlines some of the possibilities and pitfalls of this technology.
Alstadt notes that “jobs advertised online now reflect at least 70 percent of all openings.” The trick is to gather actionable, real-time data from these ads by collecting them, making sure you are not collecting duplicate ads (which is a common problem) and then extracting data from job descriptions that can be analyzed to gain insight on job requirements and trends. “The quality and range of services available to analyze the real-time market are undergoing constant change, as new entrants, tools and systems are introduced,” Alstadt writes and then lists all the major players with notes on their capabilities.
Best Practices and Limitations
Burning Glass Technologies is one of the players that has gotten a lot of ink in the literature on this topic, but other solutions suggest that utilizing a combination of players, such as data and analysis from the Conference Board, and Wanted Technologies, for instance, allows users to compare and contrast results and come with a clear picture of the their local labor market.
Still, there are limitations to all this. As noted in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, titled “Real-Time Jobs Data Show Community Colleges What Employers Need Now,” by Jennifer Gonzalez, “not all job openings are listed online,” and “those that are (listed online) sometimes provide incomplete information about the qualifications required.” Plus, data producers have not consistently been able to not count duplicate job postings, meaning that overall the real-time labor market picture being painted is not accurate. In addition, licensing fees for the data producing software is not exactly inexpensive – and often cost-prohibitive for community colleges – costing in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 for a single-user, one-year license.
A Consumer’s Guide
In April last year, Jobs for the Future published a very helpful “Vendor Product Review: A Consumer’s Guide to Real-Time Labor Market Information,” by John Dorrer and Myriam Milfort. This report was based on a 42-question survey to six vendors of what they call Labor Market Intelliegence (LMI) systems. As noted in the report “Burning Glass Technologies and Geographic Solutions responded to the JFF survey. Wanted Technologies chose not to participate, citing confidentiality. For Conference Board/Help Wanted Online, JFF gathered most of the requisite information from published technical notes provided on the web. Career Builder did not complete the survey” (but did respond to several questions via a conference call).
Based on the current research, choosing an LMI system is not any easy decision. The authors of the Vendor Market Review encourage adopters of this new technology “to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism,” but at the same time they say that vendors “have made significant improvements in their spidering and parsing processes.”