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Are Labor Surveys Really Important?


Why Do I need a Labor Survey?

Ever wonder why that "other" community consistently has success with existing business expansion, new entrepreneurial development and new business attraction? Ever wonder why not our community? Ever have an elected official or someone from your non-profit board question why your community didn’t win that recent project? So what gives?

According to Area Development Magazine’s 28th Annual Survey of Corporate Executives the number one and number three ranked site selection factors are Availability of Skilled Labor and Labor Costs. With this in mind, it is critical for communities to have an independent 3rd party workforce survey on hand that will certify the availability and detail the costs of your workforce. In other words, are you prepared to answer the most important questions regarding your workforce; What is it? Where is it? At what cost? And in what quantities?

Is a Labor Survey Important for Attracting New Investment to my Community?

Site Consultants don’t want talk of labor quality; they want proof of labor quality. As I work site selection consultants they often mention their frustration with communities that do not have an independent labor survey on hand. In fact, according to Jim Renzas of the RSH Group, if a community does not have an independent labor survey on hand and the ED professional does not know his/her workforce inside and out Jim is not going to waste time making a visit. The community will be eliminated and may never even know that they were. According to Renzas, labor is the paramount factor in the site selection process for 90% of his projects. Workforce Data is your competitive advantage. The ability to address the ongoing development and workforce needs of area employers, entrepreneurs and stakeholders can be the difference between your community becoming the bridesmaid or the bride.

Is a Labor Survey Important for Retaining our Current Companies?

In most cases major employers have multiple facilities in various communities around the world so like attraction, expansion projects can be very competitive as well. Even though the local facility management team may have an understanding of the labor market, it is critical to provide an independent 3rd party workforce survey that will certify the availability and detail the costs of your workforce that you can share with the decision makers and influencers who may be located in another region. Measuring and quantifying workforce availability in a laborshed from which the employment center draws its commuting workers is critical for business expansion and new business attraction.

Labor economists define a labor market as a geographic area in which both the demand and supply for labor are met primarily within that region. In other words, it is an area where there are jobs and the majority of workers needed for those jobs. Imbalance of the labor market, such as plant closings, can cause changes in worker flows, both into and out of the community or labor market. High skilled and talented workers tend to find opportunities faster than unskilled workers, either inside or outside of the labor market, impacting population and social change.

How Can a Labor Survey Help to Improve my Workforce?

Successful communities seek a collaborative effort between local/regional development officials, educators, training providers, workers and employers to measure the labor availability in a given labor market as generally related to work style, knowledge, and occupation skills. Measuring the soft and hard skills of the current workforce, the importance of these various skills to employers and the availability of these skills in the labor market provides an indication of the stress and degree of the skill gap in the market.

One goal in each community should be to improve the communication process of skills needs for employers with educators and training providers in preparing students for careers that close the gap between the demand for skills by employers and the supply of talent at the local and regional level. Workers and students benefit by exploring career options and learning which skills employers seek for specific types of work. Employers identify necessary skills to increase the efficiency of recruitment and training. Educational planners may then design instructional programs to teach the skills demanded in the workplace. Bridging the skills gap that comes with new technology and innovation is a key challenge of our time. By encouraging partnerships and greater collaboration between educators, training providers, workers and employers we can start closing the skills gap and workers can earn better pay and employers gain a competitive advantage in the national and global markets.

How do I know what Type of Labor Survey to Choose?

Multiple products are available based on a community’s specific needs. These products address workforce issues from the demand side which allow you to evaluate your current workforce from the employer’s perspective, the supply side which allow you to evaluate the skills, training and educational attainment of the underemployed in your labor market and worker commuting patterns to address where your workforce lives and works. Other custom products are also available.

How Can I Fund a Labor Survey with a limited budget?

Often State Economic Development or Workforce Development organizations make grant opportunities available to local or regional economic development organizations for labor surveys. Many local utility partners also offer funding in support of regional labor surveys to assist with business retention and expansion. In many cases existing private industry may also benefit from information contained in the labor survey and many are willing to participate financially in return for receiving a copy of the report.

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