At the most basic level, Labour Market Information (LMI) is something that can be lifted straight from an official source with very little effort and very little cost by anyone who knows where to look. However, although such data may well be perfectly sound, on its own it may only give us a small part of what is happening in the labour market, and if we assume that it is telling us the entire story, we could find ourselves being misled.
It’s a bit like reading a current affairs article in a right or left leaning newspaper and assuming that we are being given all the facts. We are then surprised to discover at a later date that although the details in the article we read were real “facts”, there were other facts that were omitted entirely — details that were crucial to understanding the context behind the events reported on, and which served to give a completely different picture of what had really happened and why it had happened.
And so it is with data. The labour market is enormously complex and relying on the headline figures in one or two data sources may give us an incomplete and even misleading picture. The facts in any one dataset may be perfectly accurate as far as they go, but unless they are combined and used alongside other datasets, the story they tell may lead us to very wrong conclusions. This is why we invest significant time and effort sourcing multiple datasets and then modelling them together, keeping the strengths and discarding the weaknesses in each source. This produces a set of data which, rather than giving just part of the picture, is Comprehensive, Localised and Interconnected. Or if you like, Holistic Labour Market Information.
Compared to taking just one or two datasets, the approach outlined above gives a far more comprehensive view of the labour market than relying on one or two datasets by themselves. Let’s take an example. The following table shows a list of industries in Britain, by job count in 2013 and projected to 2018:
|Description||2013 Jobs||2018 Jobs||Change|
|Source: EMSI Covered Employment - 2014.1|
|AGRICULTURE, FORESTRY AND FISHING||336,890||331,165||-5,725|
|MINING AND QUARRYING||65,872||61,691||-4,181|
|ELECTRICITY, GAS, STEAM AND AIR CONDITIONING SUPPLY||111,831||103,353||-8,478|
|WATER SUPPLY; SEWERAGE, WASTE MANAGEMENT AND REMEDIATION ACTIVITIES||180,468||199,223||18755|
|WHOLESALE AND RETAIL TRADE; REPAIR OF MOTOR VEHICLES AND MOTORCYCLES||4,509,890||4,584,720||74830|
|TRANSPORTATION AND STORAGE||1,246,024||1,291,862||45838|
|ACCOMMODATION AND FOOD SERVICE ACTIVITIES||1,883,563||1,961,585||78022|
|INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION||1,094,882||1,146,409||51527|
|FINANCIAL AND INSURANCE ACTIVITIES||1,047,149||1,085,294||38145|
|REAL ESTATE ACTIVITIES||553,106||607,787||54681|
|PROFESSIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL ACTIVITIES||2,285,427||2,482,216||196789|
|ADMINISTRATIVE AND SUPPORT SERVICE ACTIVITIES||2,385,321||2,530,891||145570|
|PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND DEFENCE; COMPULSORY SOCIAL SECURITY||1,340,277||1,316,069||-24,208|
|HUMAN HEALTH AND SOCIAL WORK ACTIVITIES||3,726,004||3,787,603||61599|
|ARTS, ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION||705,435||781,502||76067|
|OTHER SERVICE ACTIVITIES||552,832||568,060||15228|
Using Manufacturing as an example, we can see that there were 2,322,221 people employed in Manufacturing in Britain in 2013, but this is set to decline by around 78,259 to 2,243,962 by the year 2018. So any college that puts on Manufacturing courses might be well advised to ease up on the number of places offered for these courses over the next few years and concentrate more resources on, say, Information & Communication, which is set to grow by 51,527 jobs from 2013-2018. Right?
Not quite. There are two problems with this approach. The first is that it’s all very well saying that Manufacturing looks like it will decline in Britain over the next few years, but if you were asked exactly what Manufacturing is, how would you answer? Suddenly you begin to see what a massive difference the comprehensive approach to datasets makes. There is Manufacturing and there is Manufacturing! But which type is it? Is it possible that even though Manufacturing as a whole is set to decline, there are some sub-industries within Manufacturing that are actually set to rise? The following graph, which shows the five fastest growing and five fastest declining sectors within the British Manufacturing sector, demonstrates that this is indeed the case:
If a college was presented with the broad Manufacturing figures, they may well conclude that Manufacturing is on the slide and so adjust their curriculum accordingly. However, as this graph shows, there are some areas within Manufacturing which are actually set to grow. Would treating Manufacturing with a broad brush rather than delving into more specifics actually have helped the college understand and respond to the needs of the local labour market?
The other problem with looking at the British Manufacturing sector as a whole and drawing conclusions from the fact that it is set to decline, is that what is true on a national scale might not be true at the local level. The graph above showed the top five growth and decline industries within Manufacturing across Britain, but when we repeat the same exercise on a more local level, the results are quite different. The following graph shows the top five growth and decline sectors within Manufacturing in Wiltshire (chosen for no other reason other than that it is the county I happen to live in):
As you can see by comparing the two graphs, the high growth and decline areas across the country are not the same as the growth and decline areas in Wiltshire. Although we could go much further into this type of analysis, comparing and contrasting the national scene with the situation in Wiltshire, this example is sufficient to highlight how important it is for LMI to be not just comprehensive, but also local and regional. If it isn’t, colleges could well end up basing their curriculum policy and strategy on fundamentally wrong foundation.
However, even this is by no means the entire picture. Delving into Manufacturing to find out more about specific Manufacturing sectors is crucial, but do we necessarily know from this information which actual occupations are set to increase or decrease? Are all jobs within, say, the Manufacture of military fighting vehicles necessarily “Manufacturing” occupations?
It probably sounds a bit counter-intuitive, but the answer to this is no. In fact, every industry out there will contain a wide variety of different occupations, which means that we not only need to know the industry data, we also need to make the connections between this data and occupation data as well if we are going to see the whole story. This where our comprehensive data modelling comes into its own, enabling us to make the connection between industries and occupations. By running a “Staffing Pattern”, we can actually see more clearly which occupations within a sector are set to grow over the next few years, which in turn is crucial to forming an effective curriculum strategy.
For example, returning to Wiltshire, we can delve into largest growth sector — the Manufacture of military fighting vehicles — to see where the occupational growth is set to come from over the next few years. The following table shows the top ten occupations within the Manufacture of military fighting vehicles in terms of growth between 2013 and 2018:
|Occupation||Employed in Industry (2013)||Employed in Industry (2018)||Change (2013 - 2018)||Education Level|
|Source: EMSI Covered Employment - 2014.1|
|Assemblers (vehicles and metal goods)||60||80||20||Level 2|
|Sales accounts and business development managers||61||78||17||Level 6|
|Engineering technicians||42||58||16||Level 3|
|Engineering professionals n.e.c.||36||50||14||Level 6|
|Design and development engineers||35||49||14||Level 6|
|Metal working production and maintenance fitters||42||55||13||Level 3|
|Buyers and procurement officers||39||52||13||Level 3|
|Programmers and software development professionals||34||44||10||Level 6|
|Sales administrators||38||48||10||Level 2|
|Electrical engineers||22||31||9||Level 6|
As you can see, there are a variety of occupations within the Manufacture of military fighting vehicles, some of which we might not have automatically associated with this industry, and many of which require a variety of different skills. Making the interconnection between an industry and the occupations within that industry is therefore vital if we are going to properly understand the skills needs of the local labour market.
To summarise, it is vital that LMI is comprehensive, combining and modelling multiple datasets, rather than relying on one or two sources, as this gives us the ability to see the labour market in all its fullness. It is equally vital that LMI is local, giving us the economic picture in our own back yard, rather than assuming that what goes for the country goes for our locality. And it is also vital that LMI is interconnected, clearly showing the link between industries and occupations and so giving us a full picture of the skills needs of the labour market. In other words, LMI must be Holistic — Comprehensive, Local and Interconnected. Anything else is almost certain to lead to a wrong understanding of the labour market, and ultimately to the wrong solutions in addressing skills needs.
For further information about our EMSI’s Labour Market Information and our tools, please contact Andy Durman (firstname.lastname@example.org)