Using Information-Based Websites to Drive EnrollmentsDavid Pistner | Director of Energy Initiatives, Pennsylvania College of Technology
In the early days of the Marcellus Shale expansion in Pennsylvania, employers in the oil & gas industry expressed dissatisfaction with the local workforce, citing a lack of practical information interviewees had about the industry, the positions they were interviewing for, and job expectations. Potential employees were attracted to an industry that was in a hiring mode (up 177 percent since the first quarter of 2009) for positions, three-quarters of which require no formal post-secondary education and have an average salary of $83,066. Attracted by high wages with little understanding of what these jobs entailed, the turnover rate quickly increased, as did levels of frustration on both sides. So how does the message of what it takes to be successful in this industry get communicated from the industry to potential employees? For ShaleNET, the answer is the Talent Match System (TMS). Such as system can be adapted to drive adult student enrollments for colleges, offering robust workforce development programs with an eye on graduates entering and maintaining successful careers. The balance of this article will explain how.
Designed with input from industry, TMS communicates accurate, timely information about what the industry is and is not. The on-line evaluation process begins with a self-directed assessment. During this assessment, candidates are asked about their willingness to work outdoors in all weather conditions, as well as their ability to perform physical labor, pass a drug test and potentially relocate for their job. Thus, a picture is painted of what is expected of workers. Candidates that feel that they can meet these expectations are prompted to create an account on TMS where general data, work and relevant life experience are collected.
The next step is to educate the candidate on the basics of the shale gas industry. Here, interactive screens engage the candidate in learning more about natural gas and how it is extracted, and the benefits of natural gas in modern society.
Finally, the candidate is directed to watch video footage of actual workers in multiple occupations performing their jobs. Employees candidly express what they enjoy about the job and what they find challenging. An astute observer will also note that these interviews were conducted in all weather conditions, reinforcing that fact that work continues regardless of the weather.
The concept of “no wrong answer” is incorporated throughout TMS. Utilizing multiple decision points, the candidate is able to self-direct based on interest. If interested in learning more, he/she is directed to additional screens to continue the learning process. For ShaleNET, this candidate is then referred to their nearest One-Stop to discuss appropriate courses of action including training. Those candidates indicating no interest in this field are referred to their nearest One-Stop to explore other career options.
Websites like TMS can drive enrollments in multiple ways. The first is convenience. From a computer at home, library, or coffee shop, prospective students have easy access to material on the website and can learn at their own pace. This is ideal for the non-traditional student who may have limited time or wants to revisit sections of the site to better understand the material.
Second, enrollments are driven by pre-qualified referrals. By completing activities on the website, candidates can determine their interests and advance through the site, obtaining a referral to the nearest training provider based on zip code, course offering or training schedule. Thus, referred candidates have been vetted by a process that the provider designs. Those not interested opt out and can be referred to an alternative resource.
Third, enrollments are driven by candidates that are committed to training. This stems from their understanding of the steps necessary to attain a desired position and the level of training needed (and why) for that position, as they have seen those skills applied to their field of study, an aspect that is important to the adult learner.
In conclusion, a well-designed website can be an effective tool to communicate information while driving enrollments and improving retention among adult and non-traditional students. The Talent Match System is easy to navigate, imparts knowledge using interactive learning, and provides an education pathway to industry, with the ongoing support of potential employers.
– – – –
 Shale Training and Education Center (formerly MSETC), Marcellus Shale Workforce Needs Assessment, Summer 2009; Workforce Needs Assessment, Southwest Pennsylvania, Summer 2010; and Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Workforce Needs Assessment, Summer 2011; Pgs. 6, 24 and 36, respectively; and PA Department Labor & Industry, Marcellus Shale Fast Facts, November 2012 Edition, http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt?open=514&objID=1222103&mode=2
Author Perspective: Administrator