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Ask the Expert

What difference do you hope the Fed's Occupational Mobility Explorer tool makes for workers and employers? Does that difference change in light of the global pandemic?

As appeared in the Cleveland Fed Digest's Ask the Expert

The Occupational Mobility Explorer tool is part of a larger research agenda that focuses on identifying occupations that pay a decent wage yet do not require a four-year degree. We refer to these as opportunity occupations. In an effort to help workers transition out of lower-wage occupations and into opportunity occupations, my Philadelphia Fed colleagues and I wrote “A Skills-Based Approach to Occupational Mobility,” in which we define occupations by the skills required to do them. When we compare skills requested in online job ads across occupations, we find there is a lot of skill overlap between lower-paying and higher-paying jobs, suggesting that there’s room for workers to transition into higher-paying occupations.

The Occupational Mobility Explorer tool is a way to put our research into action, so to speak. Our intention is to make the findings interactive and accessible to those interested in upward mobility. Released on December 15, the tool organizes labor market information in a way that allows users to research and explore the skills shared between occupations. Users can build their own career paths or discover the skills they need to develop or the training they need to get to successfully transition to a higher-paying occupation.

Our research suggests that employers also can find value in the tool. They can increase their pool of potential applicants for hard-to-fill positions by recruiting from occupations with similar skills, and they can use the tool to identify occupations with overlapping skills. Hopefully the tool can make their hiring more efficient.

The importance of a tool like this is heightened by the pandemic. We’ve seen certain industries hard hit by the pandemic, among them hospitality and food service. A lot of those workers may not have or want careers in those industries anymore, and our tool can help start a conversation about what they do next.

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