Friday, March 9, 2012

Using GIS to Map out Iowa's Skilled Workforce - Part I

(This is part one of a two part post highlighting how GIS helps the Iowa Department of Workforce Development present the skills of Iowa communities to economic development opportunities.)

To assist the workers of Iowa and potential employers interested in an area’s workforce, the Iowa Department of Workforce Development (IWD) has been conducting and publishing laborshed studies since 2001. “A Laborshed Study is a workforce availability study, but also provides insight into other workforce characteristics in and around Iowa communities,” says Ryan Murphy of IWD. Similar to a watershed identifying where water in a lake comes from, a laborshed identifies where the people working in a community come from. Ryan added,
“These studies determine the availability of workers, the type of skills they have, and the costs of those workers.”

By sending confidential questionnaires to community employers with more than five employees, IWD collects the place of residence ZIP Codes of employees, and uses GIS to map where they come from. These laborshed maps show where concentrations of employees live according to ZIP Code.

Next, IWD sends a sample area and specific number of surveys they need per ZIP code to a vendor to conduct phone surveys. The phone surveys ask about age, education level, wage/salary, willingness to change/accept employment, and a number of other questions useful to potential businesses and others interested in promoting economic development. Incorporating all of this information into GIS layers creates location specific information useful for finding the best possible business environment.

Click here to view one of the more recent laborshed studies.

Part two of this overview will go over how beneficial this tool is.

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