Education and Skills for Tomorrow: Is Your Workforce “Future Ready”?

Download PDF

Earlier this month my colleague, Dave Brown, published a blog hinting that we, at ncIMPACT, are working on a Future Ready Communities Dashboard. Our current series of blog posts focuses on “What it means to be a Future Ready Community.”

Future Ready Communities will be successful because of their vibrancy, their interconnectedness, and their fluid structures for causing positive human collisions. They will be built on and for great ideas. These communities will lead based on their brain trust, and they will in turn become a magnet, attracting other good minds. The relational effect is clear: Good minds make a community great, and great communities attract good minds.

The benefits of a well-educated population extend far beyond community economics. Moreover, good minds must not be defined only by levels of educational attainment. (We all know a number of highly degreed people who we would not put in the good minds category!) That said, as ncIMPACT designs its Future Ready Communities Dashboard, we will be laser focused on the ways to capture the existence of a local labor market that reflects the educational attainment levels required to meet the needs of jobs of the future. Why? Consider the following. According to the North Carolina Economic Report, published by the NC Department of Commerce in June 2017:

  • North Carolina is projected to add more than 550,000 jobs by 2024.
  • Occupations requiring a master’s degree or higher are projected to experience the greatest percentage increase in employment.
  • Jobs with low educational requirements (occupations requiring no post-secondary or college experience) will have the slowest rate of growth, although they are projected to produce the most job openings as there are more of them today. These openings will be due mostly to replacements rather than new growth.

The NC Department of Commerce goes on to explain that one way to capture the changing nature of jobs is to divide existing occupations into whether they involve primarily manual or cognitive activities, and whether those activities are primarily routine or non-routine. Since the mid-1990s, non-routine jobs have been growing as a portion of total jobs, while the share of routine jobs has fallen. In particular, non-routine cognitive jobs (sometimes thought of as “knowledge jobs”) have increased from 29 percent of jobs in 1994 to 38 percent in 2016, while routine manual jobs (“blue collar jobs”) have fallen from 34 percent to 23 percent. Based on employment projections through 2024, non-routine jobs are expected to continue their growth as a portion of the job market.

Source: Current Population Survey via NC Department of Commerce

The entire country is grappling with the changing nature of work and the resulting implications for educational and skills levels. Recently released data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that, in our economic expansion from January 2013 to December 2017, job opportunities increased for college-educated Americans. Their share of the U.S. labor force climbed from 33.6 percent in January 2008, to 36.5 percent in January 2013, to 39.9 percent by December 2017. North Carolina’s local leaders are watching these numbers carefully. For many of them, becoming Future Ready will necessarily involve improving the educational levels and workforce skills of their local labor market.

What’s on Your Dashboard? Dialing up a Future Ready Community

Download PDF

In a recent series on this blog, Anita Brown-Graham detailed four drivers of change affecting our workforce: demographics, automation, business model changes, and the rise of the individual. Governments are dealing with these same drivers in ways that extend beyond the workforce. On this shifting ground of disruption and uncertainty stand local government leaders, who know they need to prepare for the future but often feel they have little guidance on how current trends are likely to affect their communities in the medium- and long-term. This is especially true in smaller, less wealthy jurisdictions without planning staff or the financial means to contract for such services. Big or small, rural or urban or somewhere in-between, communities of all size and type need to be “future ready.”

What Does It Mean to Be Future Ready?

Elected and appointed officials have a dual duty to the citizens they serve: (1) manage the present and (2) prepare for the future. The latter requires the ability to see how what is happening now foreshadows big changes to come. For example, Dr. Jim Johnson of UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School researches and advises leaders on the coming impacts of the “silver tsunami,” as the aging Baby Boomer generation requires planners to consider changes to local facilities and services in communities with growing senior populations. This same kind of forward-looking analysis can be applied to many other indicators measuring things that communities care about — health, education, the economy, the workforce — and is key to determining whether a community is future ready.

What should local leaders be doing to ensure their jurisdictions are well-positioned for the future? Extensive literature exists for practitioners of local government management and planning. Much less exists on how to position communities for future events and trends unknown in the present. Still, basic tenets of wise administration still apply. One is to make decisions based on the best information available. This means collecting data and observing trend lines, so that a trend’s durability can be assessed and inflection points that signal key changes observed. It is also necessary to consider data from a variety of sources, and to combine this data for greater insight when possible. This often means breaking down silos among agencies and programs in order to integrate data. But once the right data is collected, how can it be monitored efficiently for decision-making?

Data Dashboards Can Help Local Leaders Keep Up — and Plan Ahead

One way for local leaders to manage up-to-date information — with an eye toward the future — is with a data dashboard, a useful tool for visualizing current conditions as well as worrying trends. The simplest dashboards allow for straightforward reporting of conditions, but more sophisticated ones add historical and other interpretive layers that tell local leaders what the data means for their jurisdiction.

In her fascinating article “Mission Control: A History of the Urban Dashboard,” Shannon Mattern declares this to be the age of “dashboard governance”:

Futuristic control rooms have proliferated in dozens of global cities. Baltimore has its CitiStat Room, where department heads stand at a podium before a wall of screens and account for their units’ performance. The Mayor’s office in London’s City Hall features a 4×3 array of iPads mounted in a wooden panel, which seems an almost parodic, Terry Gilliam-esque take on the Brazilian Ops Center. Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned an iPad app – the “No. 10 Dashboard” (a reference to his residence at 10 Downing Street) – which gives him access to financial, housing, employment, and public opinion data. As The Guardian reported, “the prime minister said that he could run government remotely from his smartphone.”

Mattern traces this development back through decades of increasing analytical sophistication and computational capability. The displays themselves range from straightforward to complex — like your car instrument panel compared to an airline cockpit or a multi-screen mission control. The key is to make the information both accessible and informative, as elected and appointed officials need the ability to access data on drivers of change at their local level but also need guidance on how to interpret the data and explain it to other leaders and the community at large.

Here at the School of Government, our Environmental Finance Center administers an excellent example of a data dashboard, which helps utility managers and local officials analyze residential water and wastewater rates. One component of this interactive dashboard uses an intuitive “green/yellow/red” display to show local leaders which utility metrics are favorable and which represent danger zones.

A second example of a data dashboard comes from Wilson, North Carolina. Wilson 20/20, an organization dedicated to improving the city’s “quality of life, educational opportunities, workforce, and economy,” created a dashboard of fifteen indicators allowing it to track progress and identify areas of community concern. As you can see below, the dashboard employs a simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” approach as a first step to interpreting the data.

A final example of a data dashboard can be found in Cincinnati, Ohio, where city officials are able to visualize indicators and trends related to important local issues like public safety, neighborhood conditions, and fiscal sustainability.

How Can Your Community Use Dashboards to Become Future Ready?

So you want to build a dashboard! The first step is to choose indicators that are relevant to your community. For example, you might want to measure and track your population trends and projections (in-migration/out-migration, birth/death rates); property tax base (commercial and residential); local industry profile and employment trends; crime rate; child poverty rate; demand for public health services; public transit ridership; or even map your broadband internet coverage. Note that a community’s strategic plan is often a good source to consult when selecting indicators.

The following questions are fundamental as you assemble a workable suite of indicators:

  • Is reliable data available?
  • How much interpretation will each data point require?
  • Is there an ability to scale down to smaller communities as well as up to the largest ones?
  • Are there accepted standards for assessing what is good/bad, healthy/unhealthy, green/yellow/red, etc.?
  • How much regular maintenance and updating will each dataset require?
  • Will the dashboard be used primarily for internal analysis, open-access public information, or both?

For more tips on building a community dashboard — and potential pitfalls to avoid — see this smart Q&A between Lou O’Boyle, the former Strategy and Performance Coordinator for Chesterfield County, Virginia, and Dylan Miyake of ClearPoint Strategy.

ncIMPACT is in the early stages of designing a dashboard prototype for eventual use by local communities across North Carolina. Our goal is to compile, display, and interpret quality data collected from reliable sources to help local leaders visualize some of the most important indicators reflecting their current condition — and their future readiness.

Do you have ideas for what should be on a community’s dashboard, or thoughts about what makes a community future ready? Tell us about it in the comments!

Opioid Epidemic Ignores Boundaries in North Carolina

Download PDF

At its recent NC Rural Assembly titled “Claiming Our Future,” the NC Rural Center offered an important discussion on the opioid epidemic in North Carolina. Introduced by Dr. Anu Rao-Patel from Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC, the session began with sobering statistics — including the fact that drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in NC (ahead of vehicular crashes). According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates, the cost of unintentional opioid related overdose deaths in NC totaled $1.3 billion in 2015. Continue reading

Our Future Workforce: The Rise of the Individual

Download PDF

This is the fourth and final in a blog series on drivers of change for Our Future Workforce. The other three posts focus on demographics, automation, and business model changes. Our next series will use case studies to offer insights into local and regional efforts in North Carolina seeking to respond to these drivers. Please offer suggestions for case studies here

Continue reading

Our Future Workforce: The Rise of New Business Models

Download PDF

This is the third in a blog series on the drivers of rapid and profound changes in who will work and where, when, and how work will be done in the coming years. The first in the series focuses on demographic drivers and the second on automation.

Dramatic industry model changes are forcing companies to reactively reposition their business models or face failure. Take the following example: Black Friday is dead. This was the early, and erroneous, call by bored local news beat reporters as they stood in empty parking spaces outside stores or pointed to people leaving malls with no purchases in hand the day after Thanksgiving. For some retailers, the news coverage may foretell a death sentence, but not for all. Retailers that continue to thrive will do so because they are agile enough to respond to the reality that the reporters missed the point. Black Friday is not dead. Black Friday has moved! Continue reading

Our Future Workforce: Driven by Technological Disruptions

Download PDF

This is the second in a blog series on drivers of rapid and profound changes in who will work and where, when, and how work will be done in the coming years. The first post on Our Future Workforce can be found here.

Continue reading

Our Future Workforce: Demographic Drivers

Download PDF

The nature of work is changing rapidly and dramatically. How we prepare for the who, when, where, and how work is done will challenge our state’s leaders and the institutions that support our workforce. To fully understand what lies before us, we must first examine the scale of the drivers of change. Our research at ncIMPACT suggests there are four primary drivers: demographics, disruptive technologies, new business models, and the rise of the individual. This blog post focuses on the first of these, and highlights some important demographic changes in North Carolina.

North Carolina is growing. But according to demographic analysis by our friends at Carolina Demography, much of this growth follows a trend of clustering in the state’s existing population centers, and will continue to do so over the next two decades. As people increasingly reside in those areas, strong job growth tends to concentrate there, too.

Continue reading

Does Prekindergarten Push against the Curve of Community Change?

Download PDF

What happens when a room full of county commissioners, school board members, and early childhood practitioners spend the day diving deep into the data on preschool education with the state’s leading child development researchers? They start digging into how prekindergarten programs for four year olds push against the curve of community change.

On September 25, 2017, the Thinking Big for Small People group gathered in Chapel Hill for a day of training and reflection. The broader context for this gathering was the North Carolina General Assembly’s decision to increase funding for the state’s standard pre-K program delivered in each county, known as “NC Pre-K,” in its budget for the next two years. Program attendees spanned a continuum of familiarity with pre-K. Some came from communities with a great deal of curiosity, but no consensus about whether they would expand pre-K. Other communities had already set a goal for granting universal access to pre-K. Continue reading

How Is the NC Pre-K Program Delivered in Each County?

Download PDF

NC Pre-K is a state-funded pre-kindergarten program administered by the Division of Child Development and Early Education within the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The program serves eligible four-year-olds via classroom-based education in a variety of public and private settings governed by NC Child Care Rules. The state generally limits eligibility for NC Pre-K to children from families whose gross income is at or below 75 percent of North Carolina’s median income. In addition, up to 20 percent of the program can consist of children from families above the income ceiling who exhibit certain risk factors, such as limited English proficiency or a developmental disability. A later blog post will discuss the NC Pre-K program in more detail. Continue reading

What You Told Us in the ncIMPACT Planning Survey

Download PDF

We launched ncIMPACT in 2017 to help public officials in North Carolina navigate critical policy challenges across a wide range of topics, including health, education, economic development, criminal justice, public finance, and the environment. As we planned this new initiative, we wanted to hear from practitioners and other citizens about the most vexing policy issues in their community and in the state as a whole, and what we could do to help. As such, in January 2017 we drafted an online survey and distributed it with the assistance of various peer associations and a targeted Twitter campaign. Over the course of two months, we received 154 responses to our survey. Please read on for an analysis of our results. Continue reading

« Older posts

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑