Over the last few years, Illinois has attempted to develop a framework to measure the state and local workforce development systems. Workforce development systems are made up of dozens of state or federally funded programs. Each program has its own specific target population and performance criteria. The Illinois workforce development system also is composed of about 50 state and federally funded programs administered by about 15 state agencies. Each state is responsible to define the scope and measure the effectiveness of its state and local workforce development systems.
Currently, the Illinois Workforce Investment Board is developing new benchmarks that will better measure the effectiveness of our education and workforce development systems. In defining the essential elements of our workforce, we include both incumbent and transitional workers. A complete picture of the workforce also includes the P-20 educational pipeline. This pipeline is essential in the new knowledge economy, where increasing levels of education and personal skills will be essential for the vast majority of new jobs that will be created in the foreseeable future.
Conceptual measures for the new system also will include at least four elements: workforce quantity, workforce quality, economic alignment, and global competitiveness. Challenges in developing these new state measures will include their frequency of measurement and their applicability to local regions. Since the concept of “workforce development” is a relatively recent one, specific workforce quality measures are still emerging. As a result, existing qualitative measures are derived from various current education measures. Quantitative measures are derived mainly from U.S. Census data, generated every 10 years.
Workforce quantity measures will tell us if we have enough workers, both now and in the near future, to meet the needs of business and industry. State and regional challenges indicate low population and workforce growth rates will combine with Baby Boomer retirements to create worker shortages in some Illinois communities. These worker shortages will have an adverse impact on the economic development of those impacted communities.
Quality measures tell us if our workforce will have the requisite knowledge and skills to succeed in the new economy. Seventy to 80 percent of new jobs will require post-high school education and/or certification. The U.S. Department of Labor projects the jobs of the future also will require higher levels of skill and education and “soft skills.” The good news is there are a number of good qualitative measures: the education level of working adults, adult literacy rates, high school graduation rates, national college aptitude tests, and state high school and elementary competency tests. The bad news is, there are no state or national assessments of the critical “soft skills” employers identify as workplace essentials.
Additional challenges will be to develop state and sub-state measures for skill shortages in critical occupations that may impact local economies. While the state has funded regional initiatives to analyze these shortages, specific measures of state and regional economic alignment are in their infancy.
In the months and years ahead, significant challenges face us as we seek to measure and predict the quantity, quality, economic alignment, and global competitiveness of our workforce. IBI