A potential trap for educators in aligning curriculum development with the job market is that a job title, by itself, doesn’t tell the whole story. The same job title can call for very different skills depending on the locale.
This is an international phenomenon. Burning Glass Technologies has documented this in the United States, but another great example comes from this analysis of skills in demand for market research analysts in two Canadian cities.
The rise of big data has reshaped the field of marketing and market research, but clearly the impact is felt in different ways in Ottawa and Toronto. In Toronto, these roles are twice as likely to ask for SQL skills than similar jobs in Ottawa—in fact it is the skill most in demand. In addition, skills in data analysis and the visualization tool Tableau are also in demand, suggesting that data skills are crucial to this job.
In Ottawa, the top skills include social media and strategic communications, two skills that aren’t even mentioned in the Toronto postings. Clearly public communication is a greater part of this job in the capital.
These distinctions matter when creating curricula and training programs. If most graduates are seeking jobs locally, then understanding what employers demand is critical. For many graduates the difference between a good launch into a career and underemployment can be just a few skills—skills that can easily be picked up through college minors, short-term “boot camp” style courses, or internships.
Close examination of job data can point the way for colleges to better connect with the job market. The University of South Florida, for example, used close analysis of skills in the job market to make adjustments to its liberal arts curriculum. But the analysis is at least as critical in technical or more “vocational” programs. To find out more about how institutions use labor data to guide program development, visit our case studies or our education solutions section.