WSJ: “Companies Flock to Cities with Top Talent;” More Confirmation of Importance of Excellent Education

Peter Gordon’s blog today pointed us to a Wall Street Journal story that describes how companies mine data to find top talent, driving location decisions. It’s a useful reminder of the coming talent crunch. States and regions that make the right decisions will win; those that don’t, won’t. 

Gordon writes,

When it comes to economic growth, it is all about human capital. Add the importance of human capital externalities, and you want cities with properly trained and skilled work forces.

From the WSJ story by Lauren Weber, which includes a fascinating insight into how one company used LinkedIn profiles to identify locations with large pools of potential candidates.

Facing a tight labor market and a shortage of skilled workers, many large companies say that a city or region’s population of desirable workers is now the top factor in location decisions.

Half of corporate real-estate executives rated talent availability as the leading consideration in moves and expansions, according to a survey of 229 executives released by real-estate services firm CBRE Group, Inc. in March. 

An interesting Washington anecdote:

At CEB, analysts mash up information from job ads, graduation rates, patent applications, migration patterns and other records to help companies develop workforce strategies.

One aerospace client had a Seattle facility it had struggled to staff with the existing labor supply. So it asked CEB to identify cities where it would have the best chance of finding professionals who were willing to move.

The Lens also has a good story by Leilani Leach on the talent search for candidates to fill jobs in the skilled trades

Acceptance into training programs for trade professions such as electrician, requires a high school diploma or equivalent. But Washington state ranks 38th for high school graduation rates, at 78 percent, and lower for low-income students and minorities. And the unemployment rate for youth is double the rate for people 25 and older, according to Washington’s Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction (OSPI).

Yet at the same time, demand for electricians is expected to grow much faster than average, at 14 percent between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We wrote about the problem in our foundation report. It’s why we emphasize our Achieve priority, which notes that 

Education expands opportunity. By 2020, 70 percent of Washington jobs will require postsecondary education or training. Preparing our students for these opportunities requires high-quality education at every level.

Washington has thrived in recent years, in no small measure because of the tremendous talent in the state. But too much of that talent has been imported. The state must continue to develop the education system that will build tomorrow’s workforce.