Delineates best practices for utilizing workforce information in the planning process for statewide and regional degree programs.

The goal of this report is to explore “Texas’s future workforce needs that would help inform decisions to develop or expand postsecondary education programs” by way of:

  • “Describe[ing] current practices in using workforce information for degree program planning in Texas and elsewhere;
  • Analyz[ing] options for using workforce information and recommend[ing] promising practices;
  • Develop[ing] data tools, where feasible; and
  • Apply[ing] these tools and describe findings” (p.3).

Using data resources already in existence, this report can help educators and policymakers achieve “at least three major purposes: (1) strategic review of program alignment at the state or institutional level; (2) a broader strategic scan of occupations and fields of study where new programs may be needed; and (3) institutional proposal development for the opening and closing of programs, and the subsequent review of these proposals by the state” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

The authors recommendations include: • “Use Workforce Data for Regular Strategic Planning. [The authors] recommend that the state and institutions shift some efforts toward proactive data use through regular strategic planning. By more systematically and regularly analyzing workforce data, the state and institutions may be able to identify unmet needs earlier and mobilize resources to meet those needs” (p.8). • “Provide Guidance to Institutions on Appropriate Data Use. Institutions may benefit from a website designed to provide access to a wide range of data resources, important information on these resources, and examples of promising practices in using workforce data for program planning. In some cases, the state may need to set requirements for using workforce data” (p.8). • “Develop Approaches to Systematically Engage Employers. Institutional representatives [the authors] interviewed, particularly those from community colleges, are regularly and systematically engaging employers and industry experts, but they suggest that a more routine and systematic approach is needed to foster input from employers efficiently. The state may want to explore tools that have been designed to elicit regular employer input (e.g., those developed by the Center for Employability Outcomes at Texas State Technical College) and determine whether these tools can inform program development across the state” (p.8). • “Identify Strategies to Explore Emerging Trends.… Job posting data, available through commercial services, may provide the most efficient method of getting data on these emerging industries and occupations. Direct engagement with employers and tools to systematically solicit employer input may also be useful in identifying emerging trends” (p.9). • “Assess Existing Capacity. Several institutions cite difficulties in assessing the level of capacity at other institutions in their region to address a particular workforce need. It might be worthwhile to collect information on program capacity periodically to simplify institutional planning and discourage duplicative efforts” (p.9). • “Provide Access to Major Data Resources. Vendor tools that could be useful to institutions and the state are used unevenly across institutions…. The state should explore whether there are more cost-effective ways to achieve statewide access to these tools in an effort to ensure that institutions are using a common set of data resources.” (p.9). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)