A free online tool that tells students, job seekers and employers everything they need to know about the local labor market has just turned a year old and is ready to mature from a mighty toddler to a workforce development superhero.

To help the Workforce Asset Map evolve even more, its backers are inviting employers to attend one of four focus groups to get acquainted with the tool and give feedback on how well it meets their needs. The focus groups will be held from 8:30-9:30 and 10-11 a.m. March 4 and 7 at the Catalyst Campus, Suite 102, 555 E. Pikes Peak Ave.

Hosted by the UCCS Economic Forum, the Colorado Springs WAM connects job seekers with employers and supplies a wealth of information in an easy-to-navigate format.

“The WAM homepage is a one-stop shop for everything workforce-related,” said Tatiana Bailey, director of the forum at the UCCS College of Business. “We’ve got this really great local tool that most cities do not have, [and] it’s naturally evolving into something bigger and better than I could have imagined.”

During the focus groups, participants will sit down at computers and experience the website, ask questions and tell organizers how they think the tool can be improved.

“We’re hoping that once they’ve used it in this focus group, they’ll go back to their offices and tell their HR person,” Bailey said.

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From the site’s homepage, wam.uccs.edu, a user selects one of three categories — student, job seeker or employer — and clicks on a large icon.

For employers, the next page asks the user what he or she needs help with: hiring or posting a position; learning about labor supply; connecting in the community; or developing programs for interns and apprentices or employee training.

Clicking on the last category displays further options to explore. Selecting employee training, for example, brings up a list of seven resources, from the Pikes Peak Workforce Center to the UCCS College of Business Office of Professional & Executive Development.

A description of how each resource can facilitate training, contact information and a link to its website allow the employer to access further information.

Similarly, students can navigate from the homepage to information about school and college career track programs, continuing education and credentialing, and additional resources. Job seekers can learn about resumé writing, interviewing skills, job searches, continuing education, apprenticeships and internships and access information including wage data, job demand and projections, and other labor market facts and figures for their particular fields.

Once a path is completed, users can click a button that takes them back to the homepage, where they can follow a new path. A flag icon indicates a veteran-specific program or service.

WAM is part of a larger effort to identify and attract the skills that are lacking in the local economy.

As the website was being developed, Yemi Mobolade, vice president for business retention and expansion at the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC; Bailey of the UCCS Economic Forum; and Traci Marques, executive director/CEO of the Pikes Peak Workforce Center convened a group called the Workforce Action Team. Its mission was to address workforce shortages.

“The WAT is a first of its kind where we have collected and gathered all the workforce systems partners, programs and initiatives of the Pikes Peak region under one roof,” Mobolade said. “We have created a strategic plan that will inform our activities moving forward. … One of the core items in the strategic plan is that the region needs a one-stop website. As a group, we’ve come alongside WAM and seen its value. The next level is to make it more comprehensive and more robust.”

The WAT started with about 40 partners drawn from business and industry, educational systems and institutions, and other organizations with an interest in employment and the local economy.

“Now it’s closer to 100,” Marques said. “It’s a true grassroots effort and a huge asset for our community. I think we have a very great opportunity to align all these different agencies together to help businesses.”

“Tatiana, Traci and I have formed an informal WAM governance team,” Mobolade said. “We are designing a three-year plan for WAM; what comes out of the focus groups will inform the plan.”

The three are eager to demonstrate to employers what the tool can do for them and most importantly, to hear what they have to say.

“We need to make sure that we as a community, when we talk about helping to fill talent pipelines and the skills gap that we have, that we listen to what businesses need,” Marques said.

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