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Front Line: Ensuring a “Pipeline” of Qualified Workers

Pipeline AZ was developed to match job-seekers with industry openings as well as academic institutions and local job training resources.

Q2 2019
In a tech-driven age with historically low unemployment, connecting the right people with the right jobs can be more complicated than it might seem. Pipeline AZ, a new, cloud-based job-search platform launched recently in Phoenix, Ariz., is designed to do exactly that — and ensure the state maintains a steady supply of well-prepared workforce talent.

Pipeline AZ connects job seekers with local pathways to education or directly to employment that matches their specific skills and interests. Katherine Pappas, director of Workforce Strategy for the Partnership for Economic Innovation in Phoenix, calls it a tool to “cut through some of the noise and fragmentation in the job market,” providing real-time labor market information. The effort will also enhance the area's ability to assimilate skills and competencies into the job market more quickly, Pappas says.

Pipeline AZ is focused on 19 different industries, and more than 960 career paths, especially those that are most in demand by employers. Medical technology and financial technology are two examples of local industries with a rapidly growing need for talent. Pipeline AZ will serve as the “connective tissue” between all sectors — industry, economic development groups, two- and four-year colleges, and community organizations.

The blueprint for Pipeline AZ is a 2015 plan developed by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, “a regional deep dive,” which spelled out three pillars: expanding exports, enhancing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and becoming a hub for innovation, Pappas says. The Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority provided a $5.8 million grant to fund the site, a partnership between local universities — including Arizona State University and the University of Phoenix — and local businesses and job training companies such as Goodwill and Year Up.

The site is free for job-seekers and offers them resources to enhance their career through education and training and to connect with local businesses for more than 700 careers. Users fill out profiles to match them with jobs, internships, or mentors. They can explore career options, see what training is needed, and learn about salary potential. Job-seekers can also be matched with a case manager/career navigator for extra support.

Pipeline AZ connects job seekers with local pathways to education or directly to employment that matches their specific skills and interests. The Partnership for Economic Innovation enlisted the expertise of Futures Inc., a North Carolina tech company which previously designed and built a job search tool to match veterans leaving the U.S. military with the right civilian occupations. “There are not many tools available that marry career exploration, opportunity, and education with (individuals’) interests and skills, all in one platform,” says Futures Chief Operating Officer Brian Fischer. “It's complicated because there are a lot of stakeholders” in any employment market.

Futures’ skills-based approach uses supply-and-demand mapping to understand the local ecosystem, Fischer explains. “On the supply side, who are the job-seekers, who are those that help them? And on the demand side is industry.” The firm's skills-matching tool uses “structured data to provide precise candidate and job matches.”

Job forecasting and using real-time data to keep the platform current in a rapidly evolving job market are also essential, Fischer says. “We're diving deeper to engage industries in a much more detailed way. We don't want to be a single snapshot in time; we want to know month-by-month how industry needs are changing. Then schools can know how better to adjust their curricula and market their programs to job-seekers.”

Officials are confident Pipeline AZ will help ensure the steady flow of qualified workers needed by growing companies in a technology hub, Pappas says. “Talent is the number-one driver of economic development.”

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