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The road from recession to inclusive economic recovery requires strong workforce data

The National Bureau of Economic Research has officially declared what millions of displaced workers and businesses have been feeling since the start of the pandemic: America is in a recession and has been since February. Even though the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May – a trend that is likely to continue as states reopen and more workers return to their jobs – the road to a full, inclusive economic recovery remains long and steep. But we can get there, and the key to our success lies in strong workforce data.

Workforce data must be at the center of the policy response to the pandemic to help target resources to – and elevate the voices of – workers and businesses who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Workforce data will also help advocates and policymakers evaluate whether the stimulus packages actually lead to an inclusive economic recovery.

Unemployment Insurance data analysis

The Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims data from April shows that women, people of color, and younger workers are among those who have been disproportionately impacted by the current economic downturn. According to the Unemployment Claims Monitor – a tool by The Center for Workforce and Economic Opportunity at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, which tracks weekly initial and continuing claims with disaggregated monthly counts by gender, race, ethnicity, age, and industry:

  • Women account for more UI claims (51.7%) than their share of the labor force (47.0%) in 2019.
  • Younger workers, age 25 to 34, are overrepresented in their share of UI claims (26.2%) compared to their share of the labor force (22.8%) in 2019.
  • Black or African American workers account for 14.0% of UI claimants; and Latinx workers account for 15.6% of UI claims.
  • Workers in two sectors – accommodation and food service (16.0%) and retail trade (11.0%) sectors – account for more than one in four total UI claims in April. These sectors typically employ younger workers
  • Health care and social assistance, despite being a critical sector in the front-line response to the pandemic, accounted for the third-largest industry with workers filing UI claims, at 10.7% of the total.

The data also shows that monthly unemployment rates jumped for all genders and racial groups in April, but their pre-pandemic starting points were very different.

  • Unemployment for Black and African American women (4.8%) was nearly twice that of white women (2.6%) in February, on a seasonally adjusted basis. In May, the unemployment rate for whites dropped, but not for Black or African Americans.
  • Likewise, unemployment rates for Black or African American teens (age 16 to 19) in the labor force was more than double (20.4%) the rate for white teens (9.5%) in February, with both rates increasing in April. The rate for Black or African American teens continued to increase in May.
  • Latinx and Black or African American workers also make up a larger percentage of the jobs in the accommodation and food services – the sector most immediately impacted by the pandemic’s closures – than white workers.

Displaced workers need comprehensive re-employment support

Reskilling opportunities will be essential for displaced workers and the industries in which they were previously employed, as well as those who were unemployed prior to the pandemic. Several states have already launched new websites to provide a resource for their residents in connecting to online training options. Arizona’s Return Stronger Upskilling websites offers a one-stop resource for online career counseling or connecting workers to training, be it GED prep or industry-recognized certifications. Other sites, like Skill Up CT (Connecticut) and Get Hired IL (Illinois) are also offering their residents expanded access to re-employment support.

Access to programs to help train workers for the occupations that are and will be in demand as states reopen will also be important. Unfortunately, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act, fell far short of the investments in businesses and workers that the current crisis calls for, especially for adult education. The HEROES Act makes no additional investments in the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA), also known as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title II program. Access to upskilling opportunities are critical for the one in five adults in the labor force with less than a high school diploma who were unemployed in May.

Measuring an inclusive economic recovery

Beyond using it to help shape polices that lead to equitable re-employment support, data will be integral to evaluating the success or deficiencies of stimulus strategies on meeting the needs of all workers and businesses impacted by the pandemic. Special attention should be given to the industries hardest hit by layoffs and closures, which desperately need community-wide support to get back to stable employment. Policymakers should also focus on communities of color and Indigenous populations who have faced structural barriers to education and workforce training and have been disproportionally impacted by the crisis.

This measurement could include analysis around what industries and displaced workers are returning to work faster, access to job training and credential attainment, and ensuring disaggregated workforce data is used to determine if all workers could equitably connect to new jobs in the post-pandemic economy.

How workforce and education advocates can get involved

States need more federal funding for workforce training in order to meet the needs of local workers and businesses in a post-Covid labor market. There are several steps that workforce and education advocates can take to ensure that federal policymakers understand the need for equitable and inclusive reskilling strategies.

  • Urge Senate leadership and appropriators to properly invest in workforce training as part of future stimulus bills. While the HEROES Act included a $1.6 billion dollar lift to the US Department of Labor’s WIOA Title I programs, the funding is well below historic investment levels and what is needed to support American workers. HEROES passed the House on May 15, but the Senate is unlikely to take it up in its current form.
  • Take action and join our coalition to stay engaged on how you can be a skills supporter in future stimulus bills and support data polices that will help us tell a complete story of our economic recovery.

Posted In: Data and Credentials
States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

In recent years, the federal government has invested significantly in registered apprenticeship programs because they are proven to be an equitable pathway to a good job. Since they allow students to learn while they earn, they can help upskill workers while allowing for broader participation amongst non-traditional students and people with barriers to employment, who may not have the financial resources to stop working and pay tuition while they train for a new career. For these reasons, a new paper by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, “Counting Registered Apprenticeship Completions” calls upon states to include registered apprenticeship certificates within their postsecondary attainment goals and collect data about these programs in order to measure progress.

By explicitly including registered apprenticeship certificates within postsecondary attainment goals, states can signal to the public that registered apprenticeships are a valid pathway to a good career. It also provides incentive to state policymakers to pass policies that make registered apprenticeship programs more prevalent.

Just over half of states collect the individual-level data they need to understand which residents have enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs, which industries those apprenticeships are in, and the demographic characteristics of those who completed their apprenticeship and earned a certificate. The rest of the states may not have an accurate method of knowing how many of their residents have enrolled in and completed registered apprenticeship programs, and how those completions help equitably address the skills gap.

This paper details how Iowa, a state whose registered apprenticeship programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and Washington, a state who administers its own registered apprenticeship programs have collected individual-level data on registered apprenticeship completers.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Work-Based Learning, Iowa, Washington, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Michigan releases new materials on determining immigrant eligibility for WIOA Title I services

The Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) and Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) have collaborated on two new publications intended to support frontline workforce staff in facilitating eligible immigrants’ access to public workforce services.

Both publications focus on how workforce agencies – including local workforce boards, MichiganWorks! American Job Centers, and other stakeholders – should determine immigrant and refugee eligibility for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I services.

Under the WIOA statute, immigrants who are authorized to work legally in the United States are eligible to access Title I services, provided they meet other standard eligibility criteria.

The new Michigan publications include:

Both publications link to the underlying federal legislation, policy guidance, and regulations that dictate WIOA eligibility requirements, as well as the accompanying state guidance from Michigan’s TIA.

Because states are not required to collect data on the nativity of WIOA participants, there is no available information on how many immigrants are currently served under Title I. However, there is data on how many participants have limited English proficiency. National data shows that only 1.5 percent of participants in Title I intensive training services are limited English proficient. In comparison, a full 10 percent of the US workforce has limited English skills.

Michigan is a national leader on immigrant workforce policy issues, with MONA having previously advanced initiatives focusing on innovative adult ESOL, occupational licensing guides, Refugee/Immigrant Navigators, and more. Most recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order transferring authority over much of the state’s refugee resettlement services from its Department of Health and Human Services to MONA.

Michigan was also one of just eight sites selected to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. The new workforce publications were developed as part of that initiative, and MONA and TIA have also collaborated to provide in-person training to state and local workforce staff on use of the new publications. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, aiding in the development of the publications and participating in the training sessions this summer.

Posted In: Immigration, Data and Credentials, Michigan
New WDQC fact sheet highlights expert recommendations for stronger workforce data

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking that was established by legislation sponsored by Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), proposed actions in September 2017 that are mostly consistent with WDQC’s recommendations.  These actions would change how the government uses the data it already collects, and would improve the quality of information policymakers have about federal investments. 

WDQC has produced a new fact sheet: Adopt These Expert Recommendations to Strengthen Workforce Data, which summarizes some of the Commission’s key recommendations that could bolster workforce information, including:

  • Creating a secure national data matching service,
  • Producing a single source of quarterly employment data,
  • Reconsidering bans on data collection and use; and,
  • Establishing stronger capacity for program evaluation through the creation of dedicated chief evaluation officers and increased coordination across agencies.

The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that addresses some of the first steps toward implementing the Commission’s vision, including the establishment of chief evaluation officers, chief data officers, an interagency advisory committee, and updates to privacy and security law. WDQC published a blog summarizing that legislation.

WDQC looks forward to providing additional information in the future, and working with other interested parties to make progress on this important agenda.


Posted In: Data and Credentials, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Last week, Montana’s Department of Labor & Industry (MTDLI) and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) released a new report entitled "Meeting State Worker Demand: A report on the Labor Market Outcomes for Montana Colleges." The report answers two particularly important questions:

          (1) Are Montana’s colleges producing enough graduates to meet employer demand? and

          (2) What are Montana graduates’ employment outcomes one, three, and five years after graduation?

This report will be helpful for policymakers and program managers, who can make policy changes (such as creating more or different education and training programs) to ensure that the state’s education and training system is meeting the skill needs of Montana employers. Students can also use this information to make better decisions about their educational options.

The report contains data from sixteen colleges who participate in the Montana University System data warehouse, as well as two other institutions that submitted data solely for this report. This data was linked with Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records maintained by the MTDLI, tax data maintained by the Department of Revenue (DOR), and two and ten-year labor market projections produced by MTDLI in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Linking education and DOR data allowed Montana to get more accurate graduate employment outcomes than many other states have been able to get for similar reports. Because self-employed persons do not participate in the UI program, they cannot be found in UI wage records. Linking with the DOR data allowed the state to find those who are self-employed and others who do not participate in the UI program. In order to comply with strict confidentiality requirements, the DOR provided only aggregate level data to MTDLI.  

WDQC applauds Montana not just for making better information available to policymakers and students, but for committing to using this data to impact policy. The state has already used this data to inform the development of new college-sponsored apprenticeship programs, to create new career pathways, and to inform Missoula College’s strategic planning.

To learn more about Montana’s data infrastructure and use, please visit Montana’s state page


Posted In: Data and Credentials, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

CT Bill Codifies SLDS and Standardizes Intake Forms

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
CT Bill Codifies SLDS and Standardizes Intake Forms

Connecticut recently enacted HB 5590, which, in relevant part, codifies the state’s existing longitudinal data system and creates a universal intake form for persons seeking assistance at American Job Centers or Workforce Development Board facilities.

The bill helps promote the sustainability of cross-agency data sharing in Connecticut by formally establishing the state’s existing longitudinal data system, P20 WIN, to link data from participating agencies for audit and evaluation purposes. The bill also codifies the system’s existing executive board, which oversees the system, and adds two members to the board: the Commissioner of Early Childhood, and the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. These new members are expected to provide data on early childhood programs, and ensure that the system coordinates with other state initiatives.

Furthermore, this bill requires the state’s Labor Commissioner to develop a universal intake form for persons entering American Job Centers or Workforce Development Board facilities. The Commissioner must then use the information from the standardized intake forms for an annual report to the General Assembly, including: the number of people using American Job Center or Workforce Development Board services; the employment rates and average wages of persons who utilized those services; the number of people in various pathways; and the industry sectors in which completers find employment. By standardizing its intake forms, Connecticut will be better able to compare programs and assess how its workforce system is narrowing the middle skills gap.

These bills provisions were effective on July 11, 2017, the day the bill was passed.

WDQC applauds Connecticut’s efforts to improve workforce data, and learn more about the effectiveness of its workforce training and education programs. To find out more about Connecticut’s data landscape, please visit Connecticut’s state page.  


Posted In: Data and Credentials, Connecticut, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Maryland enacts major workforce legislation

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Maryland enacts major workforce legislation

On April 11, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 317, More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017, a bill that the Governor requested. The many features of the bill include a business tax credit linked to job training, a tax credit for apprenticeships, a student financial aid program for non-credit training, and a goal for the percentage of high school students completing secondary career and technical education or other skills training.

Many states offer a tax break for new businesses or businesses increasing employment. SB 317 does that and more. It authorizes a business income tax credit for up to 10 years for new or expanding manufacturers equal to 5.75 percent of wages paid for qualified positions. The business must be located in Baltimore City, an economically distressed county, or on a site of 3,000 or more acres. But what is unique about SB 317, is that in order to qualify for the credit the manufacturer must offer “an ongoing job skills enhancement training program or a postsecondary education program that is approved by the Department of Commerce.”

For apprenticeships, the bill creates a tax credit against the business income tax for firms that employ an apprentice for at least seven months during a taxable year. The apprentice must be in a program registered with the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council. The tax credit is equal to $1,000 for the first year of employment for each apprentice, and may be carried forward to succeeding tax years until the full amount of the credit is claimed. Total credits are capped at $500,000 annually. In addition, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) must issue recommendations for creating apprenticeship programs at state agencies and on combining youth apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs. According to Grant Shmelzer, the Executive Director of IEC Chesapeake, the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc., “This bill shows Maryland’s commitment to leading the country in expansion and promotion of apprenticeship based upon the needs of the residents and business in the state.”

The Act also creates a new $2 million financial aid program for students in non-credit training at a community college, Workforce Development Sequence Scholarships. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must be a Maryland resident or have graduated from a Maryland high school and enrolled in a “Workforce Development Sequence” of courses—training related to job preparation, apprenticeship, licensure, certification, or job skills enhancement. An award may be used for tuition, mandatory fees, and other costs of attendance. A student may receive up to $2,000 per year. This new aid program is consistent with National Skills Coalition’s call for job-driven financial aid, and NSC provided technical assistance on this part of the bill.

Finally, The bill requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with DLLR and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, to develop annual statewide goals such that by January 1, 2025, 45 percent of high school students successfully complete career and technical education, earn an industry-recognized occupational or skill credential, or complete a registered youth or other apprenticeship before graduating high school. And, by December 1, 2017, the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board must develop annual income earnings goals for high school graduates who have not earned at least a two-year college degree by age 25.

See here to view the full Act.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Maryland
Aligning workforce programs with employer needs in Mississippi

On September 23, Mississippi held its first state Data Summit entitled, “Advancing the Use of Data for a Bright Mississippi Future.” The Summit was attended by approximately 175 people, including top state elected officials, and was hosted by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

The impetus for the Summit was the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP), a project of National Skills Coalition (NSC).  With the support of JP Morgan Chase Foundation and USA Funds, SWEAP is directly assisting Mississippi and three other states (California, Ohio, and Rhode Island) in demonstrating how state policy makers can use cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with employer skill needs and help individuals advance to higher levels of credentials and employment.

In Mississippi, SWEAP is working with the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) at Mississippi State University in developing dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports.  (See here for more information on SWEAP and the three types of data tools.) Building on the work already accomplished by NSPARC with the State Longitudinal Data System and its web portal, LifeTracks, the SWEAP data tools will provide policymakers with new insights on how workforce and education programs can advance credential attainment and meet employer skill needs. The pathway evaluators, for example, will answer questions about what combination of programs and services produce the best credential and employment outcomes for which groups of people.

SWEAP is not about producing data for data sake, but for the purpose of improving policies and programs.  That is why the Data Summit was so exciting. The Lieutenant Governor was the keynote speaker. The Speaker of the House and Senate and House committee leaders also spoke. Each elected official displayed a personal knowledge of data systems for workforce and education, talked about how they use the data, and expressed their deep personal support for maintaining and building the data capacity of NSPARC and the state. The Governor, who could not personally attend, provided a videotaped introduction.

NSC State Policy Director, and SWEAP Director, Bryan Wilson was the featured speaker at the Summit reception.  Bryan also moderated the panel of legislative committee leaders who discussed: “What Does the State Legislature Need from Data for Education Policy, Workforce Policy, and Performance-Based Budgeting?” Bryan also presented at a session providing a deep dive into the SWEAP data tools and the policies that states can develop based on information from the tools. While the SWEAP tools will not be fully completed until 2017, state leaders are already considering how they will be able to use the new information. 

Given the success of the Data Summit, the Department of Employment Security and NSPARC hope to make it an annual event.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Mississippi

Credentialing action announced

  ·   By Rachel Zinn,
Credentialing action announced

In an ongoing effort to create a credentialing system that makes sense to students, employers, and educators, the Connecting Credentials initiative announced an action plan and the creation of a new non-profit organization.

The new organization, called Credential Engine, will operate a nationwide registry with information about all types of credentials. These include degrees, certificates, industry certifications, and badges. The idea is to get credential providers (e.g. schools, industry associations) to feed information about their credentials into a database. Users can see comparable information about all types of credentials, such as costs, relevant competencies, and required assessments. 

At an event on Monday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., more than 200 people previewed a pilot version of the registry. It's designed so that app developers can use the basic registry information to create tools targeting specific types of users, such as adult students seeking retraining.

Credential Engine will continue improving the registry and recruiting more credential providers to upload their information. The organization is accepting nominations for its advisory boards through October 15.

In addition to progress on the registry, Connecting Credentials released an action plan with 25 specific recommendations to improve quality assurance, equitable access, and information about credentials. One of the seven action areas is creating an "open, interoperable data and technology infrastructure" through actions like creating arrangements to link certification data with information about students and employment outcomes.

More than 100 organizations are co-sponsors of Connecting Credentials, which is funded by Lumina FoundationNational Skills Coalition and WDQC are both co-sponsors and support the initiative through staff participation. WDQC Director Rachel Zinn co-chaired a work group that developed the data infrastructure action plan, and National Skills Coalition Executive Director Andy Van Kleunen facilitated a session at the Credential Engine launch event. 

This blog post was originially published by Workforce Data Quality Campaign.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

California legislative analyst calls for workforce data improvements

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff and Bryan Wilson
California legislative analyst calls for workforce data improvements

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan policy advice to California’s legislature, recently released a report evaluating the state’s data collection processes and providing suggestions for making the state’s workforce data more useful.

In California, eight different state agencies administer workforce programs, at a cost of over $6 billion. Despite this investment, California’s policymakers struggle to assess whether the state’s workforce training and education system is effective. According to the report, the state lacks standardized performance measures and coordinated data-linking. Because of the workforce system’s fragmented administration, workforce program data is housed in a number of different agency systems, and is only linked when two agencies have a specific agreement to do so. Furthermore, because many programs have laws or grants holding them responsible for meeting certain performance measures, data collection across programs can be inconsistent. These hurdles make it difficult for policymakers to answer basic questions about the state’s workforce system, including, how many people use it, how participants transition between programs, and which programs are working well.

In order to help policymakers answer these questions, the LAO suggests that the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) convene a task force to create common performance measures for the state’s workforce programs, and then the legislature should amend state law to align data reporting with those measures. Moreover, the LAO recommends that the CWDB research ways to develop “a statewide, streamlined data-linking approach for all workforce programs.” In order to create a truly comprehensive system that allows for useful research, the LAO also suggests the legislature pass a mandate that all workforce training providers supply performance data to that system as a condition of state funding. This will enable the state to do what few states currently can: analyze the outcomes of programs administered by public andprivate training providers. Together, these strategies would “provide more useful information to help guide state policy and funding decisions and ultimately result in better workforce education outcomes for participants and the state,” according to the report.

California is one of four states that National Skills Coalition (NSC) is providing technical assistance to as part of the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP). SWEAP is assisting states develop cross-program data tools that policy makers can use to better align programs with employer skill needs. SWEAP has helped California make progress towards the use of common performance measures and has brought attention to challenges resulting from California’s lack of a comprehensive data-linking system.

To learn more about California’s data-related efforts, please visit California’s state page. To learn more about how states can create strong statewide data systems, please refer to WDQC’s 13-Point State Blueprint.

This blog was originally posted on Workforce Data Quality Campaign's website

Posted In: Data and Credentials, California, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
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