Presents five areas of the postsecondary and workforce system, supported by examples from eight states, where educational leaders, state workforce boards, economic development agencies, and employers can increase transparency and accountability using actionable data that connects learners and workers to career pathways, and also satisfy employers’ workforce needs.

“The relationship between education after high school and jobs has become…harder to navigate. Learners and workers need a clear guidance system that will help them make good college and career decisions” (p.1).  

“[S]tate leaders and other stakeholders….are using [advances in web-based tools and data systems] to inform how they prioritize postsecondary and workforce investments and make decisions that are efficient, effective, and equitable” (p.4).

“A framework that integrates postsecondary education and workforce data, primarily in public-facing websites, will serve the interests of all parties: governors, legislators, state higher education and workforce executives, postsecondary leaders, and, ultimately, learners, workers, and employers….This report is meant to describe the ideal system—what [the authors] call the Learning and Earning Exchange—and how data can be used to create such a system” (p.4).

 “State leaders are using technological advances to improve the use of data in five critical areas:

  • Helping economic and workforce developers, businesses, and colleges to reduce the high costs resulting from uninformed education and workforce decisions;
  • Assisting college leaders in making program-related decisions that take into account labor market needs;
  • Ensuring that postsecondary education and training programs strike a balance between learners’ foundational knowledge and what they’ll need to know and be able to do in the workplace;
  • Enhancing high school counseling and college advising to make the process of exploring, entering, and finishing college easier for learners; and
  • Helping workers understand how to take advantage of postsecondary education and training options as they change jobs and navigate their careers” (p.5).

“The tools featured in this report represent how leaders within and across eight geographically diverse states are using labor market information to build a more complete picture of what happens to learners and workers before, during, and after they complete their postsecondary studies. In each…section…, [the authors] include an overview and describe the data being integrated, as well as the intended audience for each of the [five critical areas]. Each section concludes with one or more state examples” (p.7).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“The…five practices [highlighted in the report] call for the integration of postsecondary education and workforce data to support individual, organizational, and policy decisions.” (p.6). The authors describe the data that can integrated within each practice: 1: “Education Projections, Business Expansion, and Workforce Quality” (p.8): “Projections of educational demand in the workforce, proprietary analytical information, and college administrative data can be linked with state wage records into the process of retaining and attracting employers and industries to the state” (p.8). 2: “Program Alignment with Labor Market Demand” (p.9): “Occupation- and industry-specific employment and earnings data can be linked with student enrollment data to aid program design, planning, and review” (p.9). 3: “Curriculum Alignment with Workforce Requirements” (p.10): “Occupational data and employer/industry expert feedback can be combined with the process of developing competencies and learning outcomes for postsecondary education and training programs” (p.10). 4: “Counseling and Career Pathways” (p.11): “Occupational and labor market data, employment projections, wages, and student skill, value, and interest assessment data can all be added to the student career counseling process to inform college major and career selection” (p.11). 5: “Job Placement and Skills Gap Analysis” (p.13): “Data on competencies, resumes, online job ads, and occupational demand can be used to connect job seekers to jobs and postsecondary education and training programs” (p.13). The authors argue that “[a]lthough each state faces slightly different issues, investments in these areas can address the needs of key stakeholders in ways that can transcend state borders” (p.11). They suggest that the tools “will be more effective as state leaders foster a culture of data use, including helping users understand the data, turning the data into information, and changing organizational practices as a result” (p.12). The authors also caution that “[if] the tools developed to date…[are implemented in piecemeal fashion] rather than part of a coordinated statewide process, the gulf between the postsecondary and workforce sectors is likely to remain” (p.14). “The Learning and Earning Exchange is a framework for the next generation of data use….[and is] the beginning of a smart education and career guidance system….What is needed now is to promote their use more broadly” (p.14). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)