Spotlight on O*NET Users: Jasen Jones

Jasen Jones

CEO and Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri

Jasen Jones uses O*NET data to bring economic development to the Four-State WIRED Region of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Jasen is CEO and Executive Director of the Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri, and though the WIB’s responsibility is to optimize the workforce of Southwest Missouri, sometimes the job provides the opportunity to generate economic development across the entire region. O*NET data helps Jones succeed.

“Every day, workers commute among all four states in our region. Persuading a business to expand here or convincing a company who will employ hundreds of workers to locate here stimulates the economy for all of us. Our workforce has desirable knowledge, skills, and abilities, as well as solid experience. We use O*NET to present our workers as key to employers’ success, and thus to attract more work to the area,” Jasen explains.

A noted success for the WIRED region was landing the new U.S. plant of Umicore, a Belgium-based manufacturer. Umicore chose Quapaw, OK, (near Miami, OK) as its location for making germanium wafers for solar power cells. Though Quapaw itself has a population of only 1,000, and the new plant would eventually employ 250 workers, Miami Area Economic Development Service Executive Director Judee Snodderly knew where to go to win the business over two large cities in the Southwest that were in contention for the project. Most important was showing Umicore that the best workforce was near Quapaw/Miami, and Judee knew that solid O*NET occupational information would help win the contract.

“We had recently established a relationship with Judee, because we had won a WIRED Regional Innovation Grant. We were thrilled about having this WIRED framework, an opportunity to make workforce progress across several governmental jurisdictions,” Jasen recalls. “We encouraged everyone in the region to strive with us to present our regional workforce as a solution for business recruitment. We licensed Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc.’s (EMSI) labor market tool, Strategic Advantage. The O*NET database of occupational knowledge, skills and abilities, and other economic data are in Strategic Advantage. With the Umicore opportunity, we could look at the occupations people have within the WIRED region, and articulate the skills they have. Then we studied the occupations that Umicore needed to fill, which were emerging occupations, green jobs, if you will. The challenge was to show Umicore that our region’s workers have the skills that people who make germanium wafers need.

“O*NET occupational data is the secret sauce. We knew that if we did the inverse of what we do with displaced workers, using the Strategic Advantage Job Finder model the opposite way, we could do this just right! We showed that there was strong compatibility of the skills of our workers in their current occupations with the skills required to perform the future Umicore jobs. In essence we used the inverse of the standard rapid response model of the software,” Jasen concludes. “You can work with that O*NET data all you want. It doesn’t cost more by the hour or with each adjustment of the model,” he adds.

In working with displaced workers the WIB uses the Job Finder model, which is infused with the O*NET occupational database. Jasen explains, “In all our One-Stop Centers we look at the knowledge sets, skills and abilities (KSAs) that a displaced worker has and search for occupations that have high compatibility—occupations whose jobs require closely matching skill sets.” Then you train to any skills gaps. “With this opportunity, we did just the opposite!” exclaims Jasen. “Umicore laid out the jobs they would need to fill. Using the O*NET data, we put up the skills, abilities and knowledge sets needed to perform those jobs. Then we could demonstrate to them that the skills of real, live workers in our area are mostly compatible with those skills.”

Jasen points out another benefit of having the O*NET data via EMSI’s tool. “Every report that you generate automatically cites the O*NET database as the source of information, wherever applicable. That’s valuable because O*NET has the highest credibility.”

Quapaw got the nod in June, 2008. Construction began in October that year and the plant was completed in March, 2010. At full operation the facility will employ more than 250 workers earning more than $12 million annually. Plant officials held an open house on October 12th to kick off the hiring of the new workforce.

“Now we use the same methodology often,” Jason says. “This has helped other firms such as call centers and other manufacturers in our WIB’s footprint to expand. Using the O*NET knowledge sets, skills and abilities attributable to our workforce and showing the high degree of compatibility with the occupations “coming in” is a winning technique and strategy.

“And we use the O*NET data in the more traditional applications every day, too, in all the One-Stops. We also use it in planning—helping communities, geographic areas and companies plan their work, plan what skills new workers will need to succeed—all those sorts of applications.”

Jasen also uses O*NET data when he leverages the public communications skills he developed in an earlier career as a radio broadcaster. “Area TV stations keep me in their Rolodexes,” he laughs. “They know that when the lights and cameras come on, I’m happy to broadcast the story, comfortable explaining how we’re generating workforce and economic development success.”

Jasen is a sample case of transferring skills from one occupation to another. For example, he recently presented at the WIB’s 5th annual e-conference, Sustainability and You, showing forecasts of green jobs growth in the Four-States Region. The program overviewed green targets in regional economic development, business expansion and attraction trends, projections in six categories of green occupations, preparation for training and placement in green jobs, and other emerging regional initiatives. You can see O*NET information embedded in each topic. (Check out his PowerPoint deck at

Great fun for Jasen is windsurfing. “The combination of water and wind is exciting for me. I especially like Stockton Lake in Missouri for the sport, up in the northeastern edge of our region. Excellent,” says Jasen. Since 2003, Jasen Jones has done excellent work generating winds of positive economic development for the Workforce Investment Board of Southeast Missouri.