On April 13, President Obama and Vice President Biden appeared at the Community College of Allegheny County to announce the last phase of the four-year TAACCCT grant program, a $2 billion-dollar effort focused on optimizing the real-world results for community colleges, other institutions of higher learning, and their students. As part of ongoing White House efforts to increase postsecondary education among American adults, the TAACCCT program will make it more important than ever for community colleges to make data-informed decisions about how to work with industries to train students for the real needs of regional economies. Enabling colleges to make those decisions well is what EMSI’s data and set of data-based tools and reports are designed to do best.
LMI and the TAACCCT Program
The enormous potential that data-savvy community colleges have for creating a skilled, successful workforce has been receiving increased high-level attention in recent months. We already posted about how the ongoing success of Monroe Community College — an EMSI client for many years — attracted praise from Biden. But the TAACCCT grant competition that the President recently announced places even greater responsibility on community colleges to succeed by integrating labor market data into their approach, and developing relationships with employers, industry leaders, and other organizations like WIBs and EDCs that are also working to increase economic and workforce success.
Providing prospective students with data on program outcomes and incorporating the use of labor market information into college-wide decision-making regarding program development and course offerings is critical to building the capacity of community colleges and other institutions of higher education to respond to the needs of employers in the regional labor market. Successful consortia applicants will use local and regional labor market data to make decisions on course offerings and provide data to inform student choice about course participation.
This, along with the rest of the document, makes it clear that the White House’s vision for community colleges depends on labor market data in several ways.
Making Data-Based Decisions With Analyst
First, the TAACCCT program’s emphasis on partnerships between community colleges, employers, and public workforce systems means that colleges will need to make data-based decisions about which employers to partner with. This means knowing not only which employers in which industries are hiring workers this month but being able to expand the field of study to include historic and projected data on which industry clusters matter the most to the region’s economy. In other words, it means having access to the kind of comprehensive data that EMSI offers in Analyst, covering every employee in every job in the economy.
Understanding Market Dynamics And Analyzing Skills Gaps
Second, and related to that, the TAACCCT program expects colleges to have a solid, data-informed understanding of the relationships between educational programs (and the specific skills they train for), the occupations that workers with those skills and training actually work in, and the industries that hire those workers. This means colleges need to have a firm grasp of the kinds of “staffing patterns” that can show them where workers with specific skill sets get hired. And it means they need to be able to present data on what kind of in-demand skills their programs are training workers for — and where additional funding would help them implement programs that would fill existing gaps between program supply and employer demand. While Analyst data can help with this issue, EMSI has found that colleges often need a deeper understanding of what gaps exist between their training programs and the region’s needs. This is one of the fundamental tasks for which we built Analyst. To see how it allows you to look for gaps, get in touch with your client services rep.
Communicating Outcomes and Possibilities To Students With Career Coach
Third, and most importantly, the TAACCCT program repeatedly makes it clear that it isn’t enough for colleges themselves to know how their programs connect students to jobs. They also need to do a better job of communicating that connection to the students themselves by “[p]roviding prospective students with access to data on program outcomes.” Ultimately, the focus of TAACCCT grants is on students; students who are finding better jobs and lives through community colleges’ unique ability to provide them with employable skills.
For colleges to do that, they need to clearly communicate the direct connection between specific programs and real jobs available in the community, and that requires a firm understanding of the local labor market. But it’s making this final connection — the link between individual students and labor market information — that can take data from abstract knowledge to life-changing information. EMSI’s Career Coach provides a convenient and accessible but still data-informed way to provide that data to current and prospective students in a public-facing widget integrated into the school’s website.
Hearing the White House and the Department of Education call for community colleges to comprehensively integrate LMI into their work confirms what EMSI has been saying for years. We’ve built our suite of services — like Analyst, Career Coach, and the Gap Analysis Report, among others — around our belief that using and understanding high-quality labor market data can put community colleges in a unique position to make a difference in their communities and their economies. We built Analyst and the Gap Analysis Report to help colleges understand their local economies and see how their programs fit with the region’s needs. And we designed Career Coach to make it as easy as possible for current and prospective students to see how a community college education can connect them with real jobs. Now the TAACCCT program is giving community colleges the financial help they need to keep making a difference, and we want to be a part of that process.
To hear more about how community colleges can use EMSI data with their TAACCCT proposals, and how being data-informed is central to the work they do, contact us. We’re here to help.