The latest report from our friends at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce offers great research on critical labor market issues. In “Career Pathways: Five Ways to Connect College and Careers,” the authors do an excellent job summarizing the forces that shape and disrupt the postsecondary landscape—the same forces that have created the need for the work we do at Emsi. The report stresses that higher ed professionals, employers, policy makers, and especially students must be able to articulate the labor market outcomes of education—i.e., the connection between college and career.
Best of all, the report prescribes primary steps for making this happen. The bulk of the report features examples of eight states that have blazed the trail by integrating postsecondary and workforce data to help plan programs, build career pathways, and meet employers’ hiring needs.
What we’d like to do here is offer a few of our own case studies that show how various Emsi clients have used our data to make a big difference in the areas highlighted in Georgetown’s report. Like the report’s authors, we believe the crux of the issue is the fact that individuals are often underprepared for work because of poor information-sharing between students, schools, and employers. If we can help inform consumers, we will see dramatic improvement on each of the following five fronts.
1. Education Projections, Business Expansion, and Workforce Quality
The authors say that workforce development is essentially “being prepared for the future, attracting new business, and ensuring continued workforce quality that meets the needs of both existing employers and prospective ones.” This is where WIBs, economic development organizations, community colleges, and regional governments live. Here we’d like to applaud the work of the following organizations:
San Diego Workforce Partnership uses data to create up-to-date, shareable materials for educational organizations, jobseekers, journalists, and more. These materials include a series of reports that focus on the region’s priority sectors, and an employment dashboard that provides a snapshot of San Diego’s labor market—both of which have been well received by the San Diego community. Read more.
In a pair of reports (State of the Region and Michigan is Auto), the Detroit Regional Chamber used labor market and education data, among other sources, to market its region, demonstrate economic progress, identify shortfalls, and strategize for the future. The reports, along with a Forbes article on Detroit’s recovery story, build the region’s reputation and make for excellent attraction and retention tools. These materials also provide helpful marketing examples to other regions facing similar challenges. Read more.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber uses data to answer site-selection requests. Andrew Fitzgerald, director of business intelligence, says BRAC regularly pulls wage data and occupational numbers to help employers better understand the local labor market. “The drive-time feature in particular has received positive reviews from site selection consultants,” he notes.
On the partnership front, BRAC works with regional businesses and various public agencies. The chamber is heavily involved in local education, and “we try to encourage local school districts to implement skilled craft/career training at the high school level,” Fitzgerald says. “Emsi’s insight into which occupations are high wage/high growth assists us in which Jump Start pathways to advocate for.” Read more.
New advances in this area
Emsi’s data team is working with our new résumé data to greatly enhance education projections through an empirical, outcome-based analysis of programs.
2. Program Alignment With Labor Market Demand
This is where Emsi’s services began almost 20 years ago. Most of the higher ed folks that Emsi works with are heavily involved with program creation. One of their principal concerns is to ensure new programs align with real market needs. According to the CEW study, “When college leaders are aware of the demand for their programs’ graduates, it signals to both learners and state leaders the college’s commitment to preparing students for careers.” The following case studies illustrate how colleges are proactively using data in program development.
Michigan’s Oakland Community College has created and tested a method to measure and meet needs in their community. In “Community College Program Planning: A Method to Measure and Meet Community Need,” members of OCC’s institutional effectiveness team present their methodology for aligning programs with regional demand. Through their data-driven program planning efforts, OCC has gone from 58 zero-graduate programs in 2006 to just eight in 2016. Read more.
Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) is a leading example of the success educational institutions can achieve by comprehensively integrating labor market data into their decision-making. Data has proved useful for day-to-day decisions at FTCC, serving as a foundation for well-informed action. President Keen said that moving from anecdotal reasoning to concrete facts has been a major improvement. “I used to go in and ask questions, and people used to tell me what they thought. Now I go in and there’s information that says what we should or shouldn’t be doing, and here are the reasons why.” Read more.
New advances in this area
Lately, Emsi has focused on providing better insight about the labor market outcomes of educational programs. With the recent addition of résumé data to our datasets, we are helping institutions see how their programs line up to the labor market and lead to compelling career opportunities.
3. Curriculum Alignment With Workforce Requirements
This builds off the previous point and represents one of the next big development we see for résumé data. As the CEW report states, “learners, workers, educators, and employers differ in their descriptions of the competencies gained, taught, and valued in the job market.”
New advances in this area
We are cleaning the datasets so that we can use postings, résumés, and curriculum to help colleges and universities discern the current and emerging needs of employers, the skills that students/jobseekers possess, and ways that colleges can improve curriculum.
We want to create a multi-dimensional analysis that doesn’t rely solely on job postings. To do this, our data teams are in the midst of refining taxonomies around skills from job postings and résumés. With detailed real-time skills and certifications at the regional level, we can start to drill down to the specific skills that are critical to the growth and development of a given industry sector. For instance, we can see the skills required in a manufacturing-driven region vs. the skills required in a service-driven economy.
Which brings us to our next topic.
4. Counseling and Career Pathways
It’s a well-known problem that students struggle to choose the right career and education. As mentioned earlier, Emsi has often said the skills gap is actually more of an information gap. Young people make huge decisions with enormous financial ramifications with very little data backing up their choices. As CEW puts it, “Many learners, especially those with little or no work experience, often make life-altering decisions under a cloud of uncertainty about how their postsecondary choices will affect their employment outcomes, the likelihood of success, and whether their career will line up with their abilities, preferences, and interests.”
In a data-dominated age when artificial intelligence helps us find houses, cars, airline tickets, and even spouses, this is simply astounding—and is exactly why we created Career Coach and Find Your Calling. Over the past year alone, 1.2 million students across hundreds of campuses in the US have used our data to discover careers that fit their strengths and interests, and to plan the necessary education. In addition, Career Coach recently became a featured resource in Complete College America’s (CCA) bold new initiative, Purpose First. We are extraordinarily pleased to be working on such a momentous project, and desire to see more students across America using data to plan their futures.
But there’s more. For a student to make the right degree choice, they must understand two things: the connection between college and career, and the employment outcomes of previous students. In other words, they must see the fruits of study in the real world. Emsi has recently added critical new data that shows this. The following information is now available in our résumé data—crucial for colleges as they engage new and prospective students (and their parents):
- Where students go after they graduate
- Careers held by alumni (by degree/program)
- Companies that hired alumni
- Skills and knowledge that grads use in the market (by job/employer)
- How much alumni earn (estimated) in their various fields
Here are two case studies from Florida that show how colleges can use our data to improve career counseling and demonstrate career pathways.
In a bid to boost student engagement and completion, Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) launched Career Coach in May 2015. Since then, Career Coach has drawn more than 33,000 visits and maintained an average session time of 9.5 minutes by engaging students with relevant career information. Using Career Coach, FSCJ helps thousands of students create clear career goals to aim for throughout their education. It’s a crucial step that leads students to the career they desire and helps them achieve academic success along the way. Read more.
In 2015, Santa Fe College of Gainesville, Florida, won the coveted Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. One of the players behind two key Aspen criteria—student completion and placement in high-wage jobs—was Emsi’s online career pathway tool, Career Coach. “Career Coach helps show the value of our programs and highlight the high wages that students can get from those programs,” said Naima Brown, vice president for student affairs at Santa Fe College (SF). “It certainly helps us show the value of a Santa Fe College degree and that we are meeting the needs of the community.” Read more.
New advances in this area
In addition to adding employment outcomes to résumé data, we’re also updating Career Coach on client colleges’ websites to facilitate Guided Pathways and other initiatives that connect students with programs and careers.
5. Job Placement and Skills Gap Analysis
This is the new frontier for Emsi data. In a recent article, Jeff Selingo pointed out that colleges and universities should focus more on their students’ career development. “If they don’t, they will be yielding the field to outside ventures and losing a vital opportunity to create a life-long—and essential—connection with alumni.”
To address employers and connect students to opportunities, career services need to use data to help students with job placement. In addition, as the economy once again hits full employment, more and more schools are adding continuing/professional development programs so that workers can upgrade their skills in order to enhance their careers and build more competitive companies.
It’s a virtuous cycle. As we use data to help match students with programs, that have the skills needed in the market, and help them build a career vision, colleges engage with students who are well-informed and motivated to learn. Employers, in turn, build relationships with colleges that are producing the talent they need.
We’ve seen a host of creative activities deployed to create this cycle. In our experience this is best done at the local level, because while we can debate the manifestation of the skills gap at the national level, there is ample evidence that certain regions really do struggle with a lack of talent. Here are some examples of how Emsi clients have taken on the skills gap in their communities.
Thanks to its cutting-edge data collection and implementation, Monroe Community College (NY) is a 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.
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. Read more.
Richland Community College, the City of Decatur, and the EDC of Decatur and Macon County collaborated to bring data to the community. In this webinar, the three partners discussed the impact Career Coach has had on their community, and how working together has helped them address workforce shortages and misalignments. Read more.
With our new data sources, Emsi will continue to offer new services and enhance existing products to help students, colleges/universities, and employers build meaningful relationships. A dating service for the labor market, if you will. Using data, we want to be the matchmaker between students and colleges, alumni and jobs, businesses and talent.
Our work is cut out for us. The next step is relating labor market information to educational offerings at colleges and universities so we can better understand labor market outcomes. This will allow us to detect gaps in knowledge-creation so that faculty can refine programs more quickly. It will also allow us to construct campus-based CIP-SOC crosswalks (crosswalks between college and career) so that schools and students can discover the most likely job outcomes by program.
This is just one step towards fixing the issues described in the Georgetown report. There’s much more to come and Emsi is certainly excited for the work.
If you have thoughts or questions, we’d love to visit! Contact Rob Sentz at firstname.lastname@example.org.