Multi-State Cooperation Can Save Time and Money

by Jenna Leventoff
August 12, 2015

Nevada recently launched the Nevada P-20 to Workforce Research Data System (NPWR), which links K-12, post-secondary, and employment data from participating state agencies to enable research and public reporting about education and the workforce. Nevada partnered with Virginia and the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) to implement an upgraded version of the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS) as the NPWR. This partnership exemplifies how multi-state cooperation may enable more states to successfully use data to improve workforce outcomes.

NPWR links data from the Nevada Department of Education, the Nevada System of Higher Education, and the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. Unlike centralized longitudinal data systems which copy data from each participating agency into a single repository, NPWR is a federated system which allows agencies to maintain their own data, but share it upon request. Before using an algorithm to merge data from participating agencies, NPWR de-identifies the data by turning personally identifiable information, such as names and birthdays, into a random string of numbers and letters. This method protects individual privacy.

NPWR can produce two types of information. Approved researchers can access de-identified individual-level data, while government employees can receive automated reports. The reports detail topics including average wage by industry and the most common degree by industry.

Despite an initial delay, Nevada has gradually placed these reports on its website to help the public and policymakers analyze education and workforce outcomes. "The ability to examine the relationship between educational and demographic and employment and student outcomes, among various factors, is going to be great for everybody," said Kim Metcalf, Dean of the College of Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

By utilizing an existing longitudinal data system, built on commercial, open source, and custom software, other states looking to build similar capabilities could save significant time and money. Although it took Virginia three years and $7 million to build the VLDS, it took Nevada just 14 months and approximately $2.5 million to install NPWR. New states implementing existing infrastructure need only pay the costs of upgrades, installation, and training. Furthermore, once one state utilizing the infrastructure makes upgrades, other states can install those upgrades at cost. Utilizing existing data systems could help ensure that more states have inclusive, aligned, and market-relevant data systems despite budget or time constraints.