The rapid pace of technological change in recent years has caused jobs to change and new skills to emerge. Educators have struggled to keep pace, as have employers, who have struggled to articulate the skills they need.

In “The New Geography of Skills,” Strada Institute for the Future of Work and labor market analytics firm Emsi, a Strada affiliate, examine a possible source of aid: Skill shapes, a real-time analysis of the labor market that looks at the unique skill demands associated with specific career fields, regions, and individuals. The Institute and Emsi examined skills shapes in several metropolitan areas and explored a number of notable trends.

A better understanding of skill shapes empowers stakeholders to design “precision education”—learning programs that are personalized, aligned with regional workforce demands, and efficiently designed to help learners keep pace with rapidly evolving skill demands.

Using case examples, this report explores how skill shapes in three career fields — manufacturing, digital marketing, and cybersecurity — vary in select regions (metropolitan statistical areas). The research found that every community has its own unique set of skill shapes that are influenced by forces impacting that market, especially the unique mix of employers and dominant industries. Professional profile data can identify a region’s available skills and, combined with a skill shapes model, identify the gaps where the demand for specific skills exceeds the talent supply. Understanding these gaps is essential to design and develop well-calibrated learning pathways to close them.

This analytical process provides a concrete means to put skill shapes into action, empowering state, city, and regional leaders with a means to identify local talent gaps and address them with precision through just-in-time training programs. 

These supply-and-demand gap analyses can be performed for any region in any industry.

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