Thanks to its cutting-edge data collection and implementation, Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York, is a recognizable leader in the education and workforce development field. The school garnered national acclaim last year when Vice President Joe Biden visited its campus to commend the innovative ways the college identified and addressed skills shortages felt by dozens of local manufacturing firms. More recently, MCC published Measuring Middle-Skills Occupational Gaps Within the Finger Lakes Regional Economy, a replicable report that uses a collection of data (including annual job opening estimates and completion data, among other metrics) to measure skills gaps in the local community. Emsi’s program impact numbers also helped MCC demonstrate the economic return for each successful completion within its target occupation groups.
The report, in its accessible book format, provides support and direction for program development and evaluation; grant applications; and labor market intelligence related to the Greater Rochester workforce. How did MCC construct a report that could really be used to make decisions? And how did Emsi’s program-specific economic impact studies help?
Measuring Middle-Skill Occupation Gaps
Todd Oldham, vice president of Monroe Community College’s Economic Development and Innovative Workforce Services division, felt there was an unfortunate lack of comprehensive, actionable studies intended for workforce practitioners at the post-secondary level.
So the school decided to pull from a variety of its data sources—including Emsi’s program-based economic impact analysis for MCC, Career Coach, and Analyst; real-time labor market data; completion data; and surveys MCC had conducted among local businesses—to construct a report that answered questions like, Can skills gaps be documented? How big are they? And, ultimately, what can MCC do to close them?
Not only is the report useful for internal decision-making and grant writing; it will also be handy for regional organizations that want to use labor market data to improve their strategies and decisions. Oldham hopes the report will also inspire innovation in the workforce development field. “Knowing how quantitative the world’s become, I think he who can quantify, and he who can monetize the quantification, is in a much stronger position,” said Oldham.
MCC’s project focused on five workforce clusters within the Finger Lakes regional economy (which together contain the 23 occupations analyzed in the report): advanced manufacturing, skilled trades, information & computer technology, hospitality & tourism, and healthcare. Those clusters originated from the school’s Career Coach occupation-to-program mappings but were additionally vetted based on where students actually get hired after graduation.
From there, Oldham’s team structured a report that provides a data-driven understanding of local workforce dynamics and allows for comparisons among similar pathways, particularly in regard to wages and estimated labor supply-and-demand analysis.
Using the Program-Based EIS
In order to estimate the annual impact of up-skilling high school level educated workers to in-demand middle-skill level occupations, MCC worked with Emsi to estimate the economic impacts of 12 individual educational programs.
The study (PDF) described the full range of economic effects that can be directly attributed to each of the academic programs in terms of increased wages for completers, increased productivity for employers, and increased earnings for other workers who either get jobs or are enabled to be more productive due to the contributions of MCC’s completers.
“I think it’s very important for us to know what our impact is at a program level,” said Oldham. “It adds an additional layer of data relevancy—just like using local level data is more relevant than state level data for a local demand analysis.”
This impact analysis was integral to constructing a report that the college could actually use to make decisions, particularly in regard to program evaluation and development, said Oldham. “Being able to see what different programs return is important as budgets get tight, and, in some places in the country, where enrollments get tight. What are you going to choose to invest in? How are you going to make those decisions in a way that’s objective?”
Oldham also noted that program-based impact results provide justification for funding and grant applications. Putting such information into a published work that people can easily reference makes the information even more powerful. “You have all that data together, nicely packaged around an occupational group, under a cluster,” explains Oldham. “I can now provide an investor, or a partner, or whomever, with what a potential return on investment is for that. What’s it worth to close the annual gap by 10%?”
In the future, MCC plans to work with Emsi to extend these impact calculations to all of the occupational groups included in its report.
Emsi turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Using sound economic principles and good data, we build user-friendly services that help educational institutions, workforce planners, and regional developers (such as WIBs, EDOs, chambers, utilities) build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions. For more information, email Josh Wright (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit www.economicmodeling.com.