Focus Shift: What Do Employers Want?

Travis, father of two, benefits from WorkAdvance, a program that identifies solid career paths for able-minded job seekers by concentrating on employers’ needs

Career practitioners spend much of their time helping job seekers hone their skills and polish resumes. But the other side of the coin – checking in with the needs of employers – can prove invaluable.

Take the case of Travis, a young single father of two from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who needs to earn $12-14 an hour to make ends meet. But since 2008, he was making $10 or less, sliding from one part-time or temporary job to another. With no time to go back to school and little experience working in or interviewing for steady jobs, a full-time job or career always seemed out of his grasp.

But in August 2011, Travis was referred to WorkAdvance, a program from Madison Strategies Group (MSG). WorkAdvance had already determined that transportation was a growing industry in the Tulsa area with significant labour market and skills gaps. By focusing on what employers were looking for, MSG was able to identify career opportunities in the transportation sector, then design its skills development programs for job seekers to reflect employers’ needs.

Evidence shows that taking an industry-focused approach to developing a workforce can improve both job-placement rates and wages. It certainly worked for Travis. WorkAdvance provided him career counseling, interviewing skills, and leads on full-time jobs with possibility of promotion.

Three months after he started, Travis was holding down a $12/hour position as a full-time shipping and receiving clerk for Southwest United Industries. And with ongoing support from WorkAdvance, within a year of starting Travis was bumped up to $14.50/hour in a stable position – all thanks to a little reverse engineering in WorkAdvance’s program design.