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Notes from the Field

Looking for Opportunities to Advance? The Occupational Mobility Explorer Can Help

Both jobseekers and workforce development professionals can use this interactive tool to turn job skills into higher-paying positions. How will you use it?

The views expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

My colleagues at the Philadelphia Fed and I built an interactive tool to make the findings of Exploring a Skills-Based Approach to Occupational Mobility interactive and accessible to those interested in economic mobility. The tool allows users to compare skills found in online job ads across occupations to identify opportunities for workers to leverage their skills to transition to similar but higher-paying occupations.

In just over four months since its release, the Occupational Mobility Explorer (OME) has been viewed almost 30,000 times, has been mentioned on National Public Radio and CNBC, and has been featured in several webinars. My colleagues and I have also talked with government agencies, workforce intermediaries, community colleges, foundations, nonprofits, public library systems, youth programs, chambers of commerce, private businesses, and jobseekers about the various ways the OME can be used to promote economic mobility.

The OME was conceived with the jobseeker in mind, although it can be helpful in a few additional scenarios. In general, the OME organizes labor market information in a way that allows a jobseeker to explore different career options based on the skills employers request when hiring. So, the natural application of the tool revolves around coaching, mentoring, or career guidance. Data points on the number of people employed in a given occupation, the wages it pays, and the skills it requires can be used to explore career options and determine the education and training necessary to transition into higher-paying occupations.

Relatedly, workforce development professionals can also use the OME to strategically inform career pathway programs. For traditional, within-industry pathways, the OME can be used to design curricula that reflect what skillsets employers are looking for when hiring. For instance, the OME shows that employers in the Cleveland metro area are looking for licensed practical nurses to have advanced life support and critical care skills before they can be hired as a registered nurse. The OME has also uncovered some nontraditional transitions from common lower-wage occupations into occupations that are locally concentrated. For example, in the Cincinnati metro area, a cashier can transition to a freight agent (via a series of career moves that include working as a stock clerk and light truck driver) and see a 167 percent increase in annual median wages.

Lastly, my colleagues and I have had discussions about how economic and workforce development professionals can use the OME to help fill in-demand or hard-to-fill occupations. I’m most excited about this application because it was unexpected, but it’s very practical. This application of the OME requires one to work backward from a higher-wage occupation rather than starting with a lower-wage occupation. Used in this way, the OME can widen the talent pool for filling in-demand or hard-to-fill occupations. Moreover, this application has been discussed in the context of a sector partnership model, which I think would be ideal for a pilot program because a sector partnership comes with a level of coordination across necessary parties, including employers, built in.

The various ways the OME can be used speaks to its usefulness to people looking for better-paying jobs and those looking to fill those positions. Tell us in the comments how you are using the OME.