Report Cites Workforce Data Challenges

by Michelle Massie
March 7, 2014

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report, Workforce Investment Act: Strategies Needed to Improve Certain Training Outcome Data, detailing two challenges of data collection for job training programs authorized by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA).

The report, which focused on WIA Title I programs for adults and dislocated workers, showed that states continue to experience a number of difficulties tracking whether participants attained a credential and acquired employment related to the training services they received.

Through a nationwide network of American Job Centers, WIA programs serve millions of adults and dislocated workers each year, by providing services ranging from basic job search assistance and rapid reemployment to occupational and technical training. Federal rules require WIA programs to report a great deal of data on their participants, such as demographic characteristics, type of services and training received, and the portion of program exiters who got jobs and their average earnings.    

According to the report, workforce officials in four of six states selected for review cited some obstacles in reporting data on credential attainment. Programs are supposed to report attainment of a high school diploma/GED, associate’s or bachelor’s degree, occupational license/certification/certificate, or any other type of credential.

Officials in several states said reporting such data can be resource-intensive, largely because case managers must manually track this information from various sources, including participants, training providers, and third-party organizations.

Both the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and states are taking steps to address such challenges. To improve credential attainment and reporting, DOL clarified which credentials should be reported and began measuring credential attainment through an agency-wide goal in 2010. Officials in five of the states surveyed have tried to improve data by setting credentialing goals and enhancing data exchange with training providers.

Maryland launched efforts in 2010 to strengthen tracking of credential attainment across multiple workforce programs through goal-setting and interagency collaboration, according to a report from National Skills Coalition, a national partner of Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC).

Workforce officials in most of the selected states identified even greater challenges reporting data on training-related employment, and the report found that a significant portion of the data was missing.

WDQC supports federal efforts to improve data reporting and outcomes within the federal workforce development system. We believe that tracking credentials is important and necessary, but would be more valuable if programs could disaggregate by the type of credential. Data systems that capture all types of credentials can be used to show a fuller picture of the skilled workforce, so that policymakers can see the results of their investments in education and training programs and identify skills gaps where further investment may be needed.

As for tracking training-related data, the Workforce Information Council (WIC) – which provides oversight and guidance to the nation’s workforce information system – is looking into the feasibility of states adding occupation to their Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records. WIC is interested in determining whether the wage record data that all states collect from employers might be enhanced to improve the alignment of education and training. WDQC will follow and publicize their research as it becomes available.