EMSI BEST PRACTICE (Full Case Study Archive)
EMSI recently conducted an Analyst user survey contest, the winner of which is North Central State College in Mansfield, Ohio. This best practice details the innovative ways NC State uses EMSI’s tools and data on an everyday basis.
Part 1: Giving Students the Local Labor Market Outlook
North Central State College Institutional Research Director Tom Prendergast has worked with enough data and sweated over enough reports over the years to realize a simple truth: “People like information in short, sweet little chunks.”
One page of data is plenty to digest, which is why Prendergast has produced local labor market outlooks for every NC State program using data stored in Analyst, EMSI’s labor market intelligence tool. Each single-page report (see example) includes a region-specific snapshot of jobs, wages, and estimated openings for occupations tied to individual programs. NC State provides a link to the job outlook reports on every academic program page on its website – “like a little gainful employment thing,” Prendergast says – to help give students a sense of the local job market. The college’s advisors and recruitment staff also print out the one-pagers when they have meetings with students.
Troy Shutler, NC State’s career development coordinator, says the reports are a powerful resource to the career services department, largely because of the work completed by Prendergast to connect each of the college’s majors to specific jobs through a custom mapping.
“Somebody who clicked on the business management degree can see the curriculum for the program,” Shutler says, “and they can access the regional job report that Tom created. That’s very powerful because the info they really need to know to confirm enrollments or to begin the process is right there.”
The Importance of Replacement Jobs – and a Broader Region
NC State, located in Mansfield, is the largest public college in a 75-mile radius in north central Ohio. The college is almost equidistant from the Columbus and Cleveland metro areas, and it does its best to highlight future job opportunities for its students in the 45-minute commute area. By broadening the perspective beyond the college’s three-county service region, NC State can demonstrate to new enrollees that the number of estimated job openings is much larger than it otherwise would be. And with most programs, the projected job growth rates are higher in the 45-minute area than statewide.
For Prendergast and Shutler, the key element of EMSI’s annual openings numbers is replacement jobs – the positions made available through retirements and other forms of turnover. The aging workforce has been well documented in manufacturing and the skilled trades, but there are also major replacement needs in business fields.
“Before you would always hear about manufacturing, manufacturing,” Prendergast says. “You’ve got all these 55-year-old machinists, but you never really heard about the 55-year-old or 60-year-old accountant or manager. It didn’t quite get the same level of [attention]. But Analyst really helps show that this is a huge, huge issue, and we’re trying to use that to promote not only our associate’s programs in business management but also our partnerships in business management.”
One of those partnerships is with Franklin University in Columbus, an EMSI client. NC State graduates who have entered the workforce can take live classes at night in Mansfield and earn a bachelor’s degree in business management at a reasonable cost (roughly $30,000). As part of the partnership, Franklin teaches the classes in Mansfield, mostly to nontraditional students who already have their associate’s degree. (Prendergast says EMSI data was critical in setting up the arrangement with Franklin.)
Pairing Analyst and Career Coach for Career Counseling Guidance
Shutler and the career services staff have also found that they can provide a well-rounded approach to one-on-one career counseling sessions by pairing Analyst-based summaries like the one-page reports with EMSI’s Career Coach tool. Shutler also uses Career Coach as a key resource for students in first-year experience classes who are required to do career-oriented research.
Shutler recently surveyed 20 students in his class, and three-fourths of them chose a major without going through any sort of career decision-making process. That’s one reason why NC State “has been working on trying to do a better job of providing data upon enrollment,” he says, “so students have information about their programs or the major they’re considering – what that means and what’s the market like.”
Part 2: Using Analyst for Program Planning, Review, and Justification
Every three years, each department at NC State goes through a formal program review. Informally, however, Prendergast works regularly with program directors (i.e., full- or half-time administrators that are front-line managers of academic programs) who want to gauge the local labor market demand for the fields their programs train for. “They’re really trying to make their programs as viable as possible,” he says. “And they’re always thinking of ways to tinker with their programs.”
“People don’t have the time or the attention span to go through even an excellent 10-page report. They just don’t. So you really need to try to give them something short and sweet. That’s where between Analyst and Career Coach, you can catch a lot of that.” — Tom Prendergast, North Central State College
One particularly good example is NC State’s computer science program. Administrators in charge of the program are constantly assessing how they can best make their students employable in the always-changing IT realm. It’s especially a challenge to give computer science students the most realistic career options with a two-year degree.
Labor market analysis is just one part of academic program review, along with analysis of student learning outcomes, enrollments, financial viability, and so on. But Prendergast says understanding the local jobs picture has become a standard component of program review for colleges, and at NC State, it’s playing an especially important role. He shared the following examples of things the college learned after formally launching scheduled program reviews in 2012:
- Visual Communication/Media Technology. While there is significant regional growth projected for mapped occupations, most of the sector jobs comprise self-employment and have much lower median hourly wages than covered employment.
- Business/Accounting Programs. While manufacturing occupations have traditionally received publicity on replacement needs, business occupations fare just as worse. Nearly 75% of the 10,000 projected regional openings for business management are due to turnover. The review also showed potential demand for a medical office administration option within the business degree.
- Computer Information Systems. Mapped occupation growth projections for the college’s official service area are minimal. However, when the region is expanded to a 45-minute commute encompassing the Cleveland and Columbus exurbs, the situation changes. There is a 22% five-year growth rate compared to 3% statewide.
- Early Childhood Education. While there were significant regional openings for jobs mapped to early childhood, there is a drastic difference in pay between jobs requiring an associate degree or less and a bachelor’s degree. While this assumed, the data spelled out this stark difference.
Through the program review process, Prendergast has helped faculty become interested in EMSI data, and he’s opened their eyes to thinking beyond NC State’s immediate service region for student job placement. Delaware County, for instance, is 45 minutes southwest of Mansfield and just outside the college’s three-county service area. It’s the fastest-growing county in Ohio and home to one of the largest office complexes in the country, the JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s McCoy Center in Columbus. “Not a lot of [our faculty] might have been thinking about, ‘Well, is there a market beyond our three-county service area.’ ” Prendergast says. “And when you put in Delaware County … they’re like, ‘Wow. How do we get in with some of those employers for placement purposes?’ ”
To Shutler, the inroads made getting data in the hands of faculty and students can be credited to the institutional research office, and to Prendergast in particular. When he thinks of how NC State’s use of data can apply as a best practice to other colleges, it starts with having a proactive IR department.
“I think it all happens because the institutional research office and Tom believe in the EMSI product,” Shutler says. “Part of the best practice here is the IR office as the lead dog, the workhorse that has bred that success. Sharing the data, being the cheerleader has led to the institution valuing this tool more, because Tom’s shared it with everybody. He’s been pretty diligent about filtering data to the academic programs, to the deans, to the chairs, to the faculty, to the recruitment staff, to career services.”
To Prendergast, the success that NC State has enjoyed comes back to sharing relevant data in a clear and concise format, like the one-page local job reports to students. “I’m just a believer that if you can present people with that one piece of paper …” he says. “People don’t have the time or the attention span to go through even an excellent 10-page report. They just don’t. So you really need to try to give them something short and sweet. That’s where between Analyst and Career Coach, you can catch a lot of that.”
For more on how higher education professionals use Analyst and Career Coach, see this page or read our higher education-focused case studies here. For further information or questions, contact Josh Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 883-3500.