State Education and Workforce Data Collection Initiatives

State education and workforce programs are gaining momentum, but how do we know whether they’re working? The good news is that nearly 40 states are working to measure employment outcomes for graduates of a wide array of education and training programs.

A new report from Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), “Mastering the Blueprint: State Progress on Workforce Data,” is based on a nationwide survey conducted by WDQC in which states rated their progress on a 13-point Blueprint for comprehensive data systems that may include K-12, postsecondary education and workforce data. One of the report’s most encouraging findings is that 37 states are moving toward tracking whether education and workforce program participants obtain well-paying employment. WDQC’s recent webinar highlighted these advancements and states’ efforts to build data systems that include participants along the full P-20/W (preschool through postsecondary/workforce) pipeline.

The webinar presented key findings from the report – including the fact that many states are still struggling with measuring nondegree credentials, such as industry-recognized certifications and occupational licenses – and featured a panel of speakers who reviewed best practices in states.

Erica Lee Orians (Research Coordinator at the Utah Education Policy Center of the University of Utah) presented on Utah’s strong interagency governance of its data system, which allows the state to link data collected by different agencies. For example, Utah reports the one-year and five-year wages of its public college graduates and shows which industries employ graduates with specific majors.

Jessica Fraser (Program Manager for the Indiana Institute for Working Families) discussed how states could use WDQC’s report as a resource to help policymakers quickly understand how improved education and workforce data systems could aid them in making more informed decisions about public investments. Indiana has a generally strong data system supported through state funding and directed by a legislatively mandated cross-agency council. According to WDQC’s Blueprint and the state’s responses to the survey, Indiana achieved eight of the 13 elements that represent a robust data system.

Examples of other best practices include:

State Funding: The Minnesota legislature appropriated $882,000 in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and the Minnesota Office of Enterprise Technology to maintain the infrastructure of the state’s longitudinal education data system and to acquire additional data through purchase and development.

Labor Market Information (LMI) Capacity and Use: Arizona maintains a publicly accessible website containing state LMI, including facts about population, demographics, wages, income, labor force participation, unemployment rates, occupational projections, and other economic variables. Some of the labor market and demographic information for Arizona available on this site includes:

  • Local area employment and unemployment statistics
  • Occupation and industry employment estimates and projections
  • Wage survey data
  • Population data

These types of data can assist students with making informed occupation choices and help schools ensure that they are giving students the skills required for a successful career.

The “Mastering the Blueprint” report will be updated regularly to show how states are improving on different dimensions of the WDQC Blueprint. Listen to a recording of the webinar.

Michelle Massie is a Policy Analyst for Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC).

Photo credit: Flickr.

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