Higher Education, Human Resources, and Technology

Website helps students determine career

The Career Calculator, developed by a Grand Rapids-based firm, is in its first year of testing at school district in Kentucky.

February 24, 2017
| By Pat Evans |
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Students in Kentucky are using software from a Grand Rapids developer to determine what career their future might hold.

Grand Rapids-based web development firm C2 Group won a bid from Louisville, Kentucky-based KentuckianaWorks to help Louisville-area students make informed decisions on their future. The Career Calculator website is in its first year of testing at Jefferson County Public Schools, but the city of Louisville was awarded the 2016 National Education Pathways with a Purpose Award and a $100,000 grant.

The process started when Louisville Mayor Greg Fisher challenged KentuckianaWorks to create a better system for tracking what’s happening in the labor market, said Michael Gritton, the executive director at the workforce development agency.

Like West Michigan, Louisville currently has a skilled labor shortage.

“Louisville has enough leadership and is saying this talent gap is solvable through data,” said Michael Kunzler, C2 Group managing partner. “They looked and said the labor data is just data, how do we apply that in a meaningful way? Our job was to make it as effective as possible to use and sustain.”

At the time Fisher took office in Louisville, KentuckianaWorks had a program promoting college degrees, but by looking at U.S. Census Bureau data, the organizations realized it wouldn’t be enough. The mayor said he didn’t just want any degree, but the right degrees.

Gritton said Louisville still has many first-generation college students, so part of The Career Calculator’s function is to reduce friction in the employment marketplace as a result of students pursuing a misinformed path.

KentuckianaWorks set out to put together job information, requirements and needs. Gritton compared The Career Calculator to the real estate website Zillow, which shows potential homebuyers a constant flow of home sale data.

The website will need constant updating with current information, as it uses a variety of ever-changing data sets from sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau and area colleges.

“We’re not saying whether a degree is right or wrong,” Gritton said. “We can give the best information we can find about needs and the economic return. Part of this is the benefit of big data and our ability to tap into the sets of data and do things we couldn’t do 10 years ago.”

Students at a career-oriented high school in Jefferson County recently explored myths surrounding various career paths using The Career Calculator, said Jessika English, a counselor in the Jefferson County Public School system.

“They were able to compare and contrast and see there are some technical careers that make as much money as a doctor,” English said. “With that, they could see different aspects that play into the amount of schooling and time devotion.”

English said the school system has bought into the tool as a way to show how students can pursue their passions, with or without a college degree.

“There’s been a change in mindset about what college really means,” she said. “It’s about the best path for the student, and that could mean any post secondary. It could be technical school or a two-year or four-year degree. It really helps the students begin to think about what life will be like.”

Kunzler said his firm’s job was to take a multitude of information sets and fuse them together into one piece of software with a pleasant user experience. C2 Group’s involvement in the process was approximately six months, and all parties involved are interested in expanding the program across the country.

C2 Group is working with several other workforce agencies to develop similar tools.

Gritton sees a benefit for others in his line of work.

“A lot of people are interested to see if they can build something similar, so we want to help build it for others that fit into their marketplaces,” Gritton said. “Ours has a core function that works for us, but it can work for boards across the country of providing better information to make decisions on what’s happening.”

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