Federal job-training programs of the future may have more success than did their counterparts of the past, though, thanks in part to new initiatives such as LinkedIn’s Economic Graph, which is available to a select group of researchers and contains data on job-seekers, employers, educators, and skills. In its December monthly Workforce Report, LinkedIn was able to determine which areas of the country have “skills gaps”—scenarios in which employers don’t have enough candidates with relevant skills or, conversely, are contending with a candidate pool that’s oversaturated with qualified applicants. The report also shows which industries are hiring, where they are hiring, and who gets those jobs, among countless other datasets.
I spoke with LinkedIn’s Nicole Isaac, who as the head of the company’s U.S. public-policy and government-affairs efforts works with governments at all levels to inform job-training programs using the Economic Graph. We talked about the growing importance of digital skills, whether the skills gap is a myth, and whether she fears people will game the LinkedIn platform now that there’s potential for them to dishonestly adapt their profiles to employers’ needs. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Lolade Fadulu: What is the Economic Graph?
Nicole Isaac: The economic graph is the way in which we’re “digitally mapping” the global workforce. Currently, [LinkedIn’s data on the global workforce] is comprised of over 530 million individuals around the world. We know that there are 18 million companies on LinkedIn that are using [Linkedin as a whole] to identify and retain and recruit talent. We know that, right now, we have well over 11 million open jobs [across the world]. We also know that we have almost 30,000 institutions of higher education across all of LinkedIn globally, so we have visibility into where members are going to school, the courses that they’re taking, the training programs they’re enrolled in, and how those training programs lead to that desired job.
Finally, we have over 50,000 skills on LinkedIn, [data that allows us to] understand which skills are most in demand by a particular employer or by a particular industry and across localities.
Fadulu: What did employers do before digital mapping?
Isaac: Before we had this “digital map” of the global workforce, we had, and we still have, several sources of data in the U.S. that provide insights into what’s happening in the City of Indianapolis versus Cleveland, for example, and how to best optimize for investments in one city versus another.
The challenge was some of the federal datasets weren’t real time, and the beauty of LinkedIn data is that you generally have visibility into real-time decision making. I can see whom the international paper manufacturers may have just hired, and why that individual may have been more qualified for that job than someone else. I can also see who may have transitioned from Cleveland to Chicago because Chicago now has an increase in demand for a particular skill set that may not be reflected in Cleveland or in New York City, for instance.