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O*NET in Action:  Pennsylvania

"Skills Maps for Industry Clusters"

Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board


In Pennsylvania, the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board uses O*NET information in research and service delivery activities designed to support economic development efforts in the County.  The Board uses an industry clusters model as the focal point of its cooperation with the economic development community.  After defining the industry clusters, the primary occupations are profiled and a Skills Map is developed.  O*NET information is used in this process.  The Skills Map provides a planning tool that has many uses for the industry and for educators and other providers of skill training.

How is O*NET being used?

Cooperation with the economic development community is one of the mandates of the Workforce Investment Act that the Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board takes seriously.  A recipient of U.S. Department of Labor funding for a Community Audit Project, the Lancaster Board uses a statistical protocol to analyze industry clusters and identify the ones that have a local competitive advantage, are growing, and offer good jobs for County residents.  Profiles of promising occupations are developed, career ladders are identified, and from these profiles, Skills Maps are drawn up for each of the priority clusters. Career ladders are identified by analyzing statewide occupational information and interviewing industry representatives and staff in training institutions that support skill development in those occupations. The process is fluid, involving long-term dialogue with the particular industry.

O*NET is used in developing the profiles, providing extensive information about skills and knowledge requirements of occupations in each cluster.  Information for all occupations and the various career ladders in the cluster can then be analyzed to identify common skills and attributes, as well as those unique to a particular occupation or career ladder. The resulting Skills Map is a helpful way to involve the education community in addressing skills gaps, taking a more systemic approach to the identification of the skill needs of industry.

The use of industry clusters extends to planning for service delivery. The Lancaster Board and its local one-stop, the Lancaster County CareerLink, tie expressed industry needs for workers to career ladders through a variety of sectoral employment initiatives. Often, this requires a career information component that allows incumbent and dislocated workers to explore many careers and the levels of skill development needed to reach those goals.  O*NET is one of many resources integrated into this career development process.

Who is your target population?

Educators, training providers, and economic and workforce development professionals, as well as one-stop personnel and clients seeking employment or training, all benefit from the knowledge obtained from cluster work and skill mapping.

What kind of results is O*NET helping you to achieve?v

Industry clusters and their Skills Maps are useful planning tools for industry and economic development personnel, as well as in education and training.  They also help local Boards and one-stops target their investment and avoid "reinventing the wheel." 

What are the related program initiatives?

As indicated above, there is a direct relationship between the research that comes out of this Project and the service delivery initiatives that flow from it.  Health care was the first major sectoral employment initiative that grew out of the cluster work.  The data related to occupations, career ladders, and skills helped to focus a $500,000+ media campaign, the creation of new preparatory programs for entry-level health care workers, and a major initiative directed toward the needs of incumbent workers for skill training to advance to better jobs.  A similar effort is now underway for the construction industry with the data showing program planners the way.

Is your product, program or service available for others to use?

As a service to other Boards, the Lancaster County Board offers industry cluster analysis on a low cost, fee-for-service basis.  Occupational profiles and skill mapping are an extension of the cluster analysis package and can be purchased as an add-on at a reasonable price.

What other strategies make your product, program or service successful?

One of the keys to the success of this effort is the cooperation the Project receives from the Center for Workforce Information and Analysis at the PA Department of Labor and Industry.  The Center has worked with Project staff to identify mutually beneficial tools that make data accessible within the bounds of confidentiality limits.


Scott Sheely, Executive Director
Lancaster County Workforce Investment Board
313 W. Liberty St., Suite 114
Lancaster, PA 17603
717-735-0333 (available as of August 2002)

O*NET in Action stories illustrate how the O*NET database is used at the state or local level. References to particular products, programs or systems are not intended as an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.