Archive for Research – Page 2

WorkforceZone Fall 2016: Expanding the Labor Market with Opportunities for All

wfz-cover-fall-2016The Fall edition of the WorkforceZone, the region’s quarterly journal for workforce development, features the theme of Expanding the Labor Market with Workforce Opportunities for All. The 16-page magazine-style format may be downloaded as a printer-friendly and tablet-friendly PDF. Check out individual articles online here at as well.

Joplin boasts Missouri’s lowest cost of living

All six of Missouri’s major metro areas have a cost of living lower than the U.S. average making Missouri the 8th lowest as a state nationwide for the third quarter of 2016. Joplin also topped the Show-Me state for the lowest cost of living.

Bar graph indicating Cost of Living for selected Missouri Cities, third quarter 2016

Chart indicating Cost of Living Indices for Participating Missouri Cities, third quarter 2016

In general, the most expensive areas to live were Hawaii, Alaska, the Northeast, and the West Coast. The least expensive areas were the Midwest and Southern states.  Missouri’s Economic Research Information Center (MERIC) pulls the cost of living index for each state by averaging the indices of participating cities and metropolitan areas in that state. Missouri’s cost of living index for the third quarter of 2016 was 90.4, down from the 2015 third quarter index of 91.2. Cities across the nation participate in the Council for Community & Economic Research (C2ER) survey on a voluntary basis. Price information in the survey is governed by C2ER collection guidelines.  Visit MERIC online to learn more about other state rankings.


Strategy paper links education and career navigation

pathway concept highwaysFacing certain choices regarding education and career paths can be challenging for individuals who struggle with navigation skills. Some individuals may find a mentor who can help guide them along their paths, while others end up satisfied and successful in the schools and jobs they choose on their own, but unfortunately, others may not. Individuals who find that they struggle with education and career choices may find solace in knowing that there are specific things they can do to better prepare themselves to set relevant, informed goals and strategies. These include understanding one’s interests, values, and skills; knowing the world of education and work; engaging in exploration, informed decision-making, and planning; and managing educational and occupational progress over time. Read More→

Pew/Markle: The State of American Jobs

pew state of american jobsA changing economic landscape is driving significant shifts in the American workplace. Employment opportunities increasingly lie in jobs requiring higher-level social or analytical skills, while physical or manual skills are fading in importance, according to a new Pew Research Center report issued in association with the Markle Foundation.

Not coincidentally, an analysis of government jobs data finds that employment is rising faster in jobs calling for greater preparation. The number of workers in occupations requiring average to above-average education, training and experience increased 68% from 1980 to 2015. This was more than double the 31% increase in employment in jobs requiring below-average education, training and experience. Read More→

Global trade growing at home

global trade connections cargo container ship

The Neosho Industrial Park is now an official magnet site of the Southwest Missouri Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ). The designation allows any approved company residing in the industrial park to become part of the FTZ. Together with new national rankings placing Joplin among the top 15 cities to watch for global trade, international business is on the rise for the region. Read More→

New trends on staying competitive in the labor market

Labor Study Crystal BallLabor Day week ushered in a series of workshops for local employers with the debut of a long-awaited labor supply certification study. During the one-hour sessions, employers gained new insights to boost competitiveness as an employer of choice, wage competitiveness, commute patterns, retention trends, and what motivates workers of all ages and types. Read More→

First tri-state Work Ready region emerges

Tri-State Marker of Missouri, Kansas, and OklahomaContinuing the legacy of firsts for regional workforce innovation, the Joplin Tri-State Region is the first in the nation to achieve Certified Work Ready Community (CWRC) status that crosses the borders of three different states with the attainment by Ottawa County.  As investors often put their top priorities on workforce, having CWRC is a big step for the Joplin labor market that pivots outward from the Tri-State Marker (pictured right) of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Ottawa County celebrated its new status at a reception August 11th in Miami that KODE-TV profiled in its evening newscast. Planning is underway for CWRC ceremonial events in McDonald and Labette Counties that also hit the 100% goal mark.  Lawrence County leaders held their celebration June 9th in Aurora (pictured below).

lawrence county C.W.R.C. june 2016We are excited to officially become an ACT Work Ready Community,” said Shannon Walker, director of the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and head of the local CWRC initiative. “Lawrence County has much to offer businesses that are already established in our area, and now this addition strengthens the county’s workforce and economic opportunities.”

Interstate 44, which runs through Lawrence, Jasper, Newton, and Ottawa Counties, is a big advantage economically because it means easy access for businesses to be able to move products by truck from one area to another. The CWRC designation complements local efforts to further develop and grow the region’s transportation and logistics sectors.

The ceremony was held at the Aurora Community Center, with many supporters of CWRC efforts in attendance. Just a few supporting employers include AFB International, Service Vending Company, T&C Stainless, BCP Ingredients, Inc., Kemin Nutrisurance, Teletech, Jack Henry & Associates and more.  Watch the full Lawrence County CWRC ceremony online at

As illustrated in the map (below) of counties served by the WIB and the Joplin Regional Partnership, Dade is the only remaining county to achieve CWRC.  The latest results show Dade at 78% of the CWRC goal.  WIB officials anticipate Dade County’s completion by the end of 2016.

C.W.R.C. map of counties

WorkforceZone 7/16: High Octane Solutions

Workforce Zone July 2016The region’s voice for Workforce Development, WorkforceZone, released its second quarter recap issue with the theme Workforce Strategies Seek High Octane Solutions. The 17-page journal is downloadable as a printer and tablet-friendly PDF. WorkforceZone archives its articles online as well.

New training models lower cost and fill gaps in manufacturing

SR Benefits tablet screen and pie chartInterest and investment continues to grow for the Joplin Region (MO/KS/OK).  Like many vibrant economic regions nationwide, Joplin faces shortages of qualified job candidates to meet demand.  Employers, educators, workforce specialists, and economic developers are joining forces to fill gaps in the pools of entry-level job candidates.  Short-term strategies emphasize real-time, on-demand training and user-friendly credentialing solutions as part of the new SectorReady framework.

Surveys and market studies conducted by the Workforce Innovation Board show urgent needs of the region’s labor market:

  • More than half of employers predict growth, but express major concerns with lack of job candidates (volume) or skills (quality)
  • Nearly ¾ of employers anticipate reduced capacity to serve customers due to skill shortages
  • Half of employers report increases in turnover
  • Nearly half of employers concerned with low employee engagement and morale
  • Specific concerns of a third of employers include lack of experience, technical competencies, and industry-specific qualifications or certifications
  • Unemployment or under-employment still remains in categories such as youth, ex-offenders, welfare recipients, and the disabled

SectorReady™ planners with the WIB and Joplin Regional Partnership drafted a prospectus to launch a Principles Training series to help meet the needs of regional employers.

Solution Requirements for Training and Credentialing

  • Training completed in 5-10 days or less with flexibility of scheduling
  • Unemployed individuals on short periods of public assistance
    • Underemployed individuals needing to complete training while not at work
  • Zero or low cost to participate in training
    • Accessible to individuals in poverty
    • Accessible to individuals not otherwise eligible for public assistance
    • Primary overhead cost limited to testing/credentialing
  • High volume to make significant impact on job candidate pool
  • Credential to validate skill mastery
    • Wide acceptance by employers
    • National portability
    • Option to convert to college credit as evidence of prior learning

Unique Features

  • Employers volunteer to present workshops
  • Direct connection for most up-to-date sector content and examples
  • Ability of volunteer presenters to scout workshop attendees for recruitment based on attendees’ soft skills and engagement levels
  • Participants earn Silver or higher NCRC prior to entry
  • Connect workshop offerings to targeted participant locations
    • Advanced Training/Technology Center (slated to open early 2017)
    • Job Center Locations (SW MO, SE KS, NE OK)
    • Community Partnerships (homeless  shelters, probation/parole, substance abuse recovery, etc.)

Potential Content Targets and Outcomes

  • Safety
  • Industrial Math Applications
  • Basic Communication Skills in Production (and other basic soft skills in demand)
  • Quality Measurement Tools
  • Locating/Document Information (such as Blueprint Reading)
  • Manufacturing Operations

Product/Service Delivery Strengths

  • All training functions available add value and are necessary in specific settings
  • Principles workshops facilitate skill building for entry level employment, but also interface with other training as stackable credentials

Market Potential

  • Under-employed individuals currently seeking advancement
  • Individuals in Poverty
  • Individuals Receiving Public Assistance (TANF, Food Stamps, etc.)
  • Projections of Newly-Released Ex-Offenders
  • Projections of Youth Unemployment
  • Projections of Disabled Individuals Seeking (Re)Employment
  • Growth projections of entry-level production/manufacturing jobs

Next Steps

  • Recruit Employer Champions for Pilots
    • Present concept to focus groups of targeted employers
    • Design curriculum content and delivery
    • Deliver presentations at training events
  • Evaluate and select ideal credentialing framework
  • Alignment with new ACT manufacturing pilot (mid-late 2016)
  • Connect to initiatives that raise awareness of sector opportunities and benefits
  • Family of certifications under National Association of Manufacturers
    • Manufacturing Technician 1 from the Manufacturing Skills Institute
  • Other options
    • ProveIt™
    • OSHA-10
    • NCCER
  • Connect all training, credential, and barrier-removal resources to interactive career pathway system under SectorReady™

Ready to shift your training into high gear?  Get connected as a participating employer with SectorReadyto help build the skills needed to keep local manufacturing strong.  Contact Frank Neely for more information.

Crossland named ACT top employer examplar

Crossland A.C.T. award 2016ACT hosted its fourth annual National Gala on College and Career Readiness in June, the capstone event of a year long campaign to highlight students, schools, and employers for their exceptional achievements and commitment to preparing all individuals for life after high school.  Crossland Construction took top honors nationally as the ACT Employer Exemplar.

Crossland is one of the largest family-owned commercial construction companies in the country and is committed to helping its employees advance in their careers by clearly outlining and supporting their career paths and helping them develop corresponding skills and certifications.

“We actively promote the [ACT WorkKeys] test at all schools and recruiting events. In the 2014–2015 school year, we made funding available to all high schools in Cherokee County, Kansas, to give their seniors the Work Readiness exam,” noted Nathan Kubicek of the Crossland Academy.

Crossland is also a minority-owned business and has 1,100 employees in eight offices across six states in the Midwest and Texas. Since 2004, the company has provided more than 900 internships and over $1 million in tuition assistance to area college students.  Crossland uses the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate™ to identify employees and interns for recruitment and mentoring opportunities.

“As our campaign continues to grow in its fourth consecutive year, we are honored to share these stories and celebrate in the remarkable success of these students, schools and employers,” said Scott Montgomery, ACT vice president of policy, advocacy and government relations. “In their states and across the country, these semifinalists are beacons of possibility for future improvements in college and career readiness.”

A national selection committee comprised of seven education and workforce leaders chose four semifinalists in each of four categories.  Criteria in the employer category included strength of relationships with local colleges and high schools, provision of opportunities for employees to acquire new knowledge and skills, use of career readiness assessments for recruitment and advancement within the company, efforts to create and maintain diversity in the workforce and work done by employer and employees to give back to the local community.