Spatial and Skills Mismatch of Unemployment and Job Vacancies: Opportunities for Integrated Transit and Workforce Development

Principal Investigator(s):

Yingling Fan, Associate Dean for Faculty, Humphrey School of Public Affairs


  • Kirti Das, Former Research Fellow, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
  • Andrew Guthrie, Former U of M Researcher, Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Project summary:

Disadvantaged urban workers often find themselves in a double bind. They may be qualified for many entry-level jobs but have no way of reaching suburban employment centers; they may also be easily able to reach many jobs nearby but lack the qualifications for them. These two statements describe the interconnected problems of spatial mismatch and skills mismatch. This report studies the current state of spatial and skills mismatch in the region as well as coordination between transit planning and workforce development and opportunities to improve that coordination. The research finds greatly varying transit access to job vacancies across the region, with some disadvantaged areas having relatively low access. Proposed transit improvements would have modest regional effects on spatial mismatch but large localized benefits in disadvantaged areas. Important "sweet spots" for workforce development exist, defined as in-demand occupations with low education requirements that are likely to pay a living wage. Transit planners and workforce development professionals both call for greater coordination between their fields. The report recommends redefining "accessible jobs" based on transit access, not geography--considering every stage of connecting workers with jobs, from what skills they have, to what training is available, to what jobs can be reached by transit, as well as collecting regional data on job seekers' skills. The report also recommends identifying employers with labor supply problems, considering disadvantaged workers' complex schedules, engaging with TMOs and pursuing creative first mile/last mile solutions to connect workplaces with transit lines, and pursuing transit-oriented economic development.

Project details: