Data Tools For Policymakers

by Rachel Zinn
February 24, 2015

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from three types of data tools. These tools — dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports — can help states to develop policies that align workforce and education programs with each other and with employer skill needs.  

A series of papers issued by National Skills Coalition, a WDQC partner, explains the steps states can take to create these data tools and provides real-world examples of states that have used these tools to inform workforce policy decisions. 

  • Dashboards use a small number of common metrics to report education and employment outcomes across workforce development programs. Key metrics indicate completion rates, employment, and earnings and answer questions, such as: Do participants complete skills training? Do they get jobs? How much do they earn?

  • Pathway evaluator tools show different patterns of participation across programs and the credential and labor market outcomes associated with them. They answer questions policymakers have about how their state’s array of skills programs help a diversity of students and workers earn credentials and get jobs.

  • Supply and demand reports compare the number of newly trained workers with employer demand as measured by the number of job openings. Comparisons are broken down by level of education and occupational field. Supply and demand reports can answer policymaker questions, such as: Where are the skill gaps in the state? What fields need additional capacity in order to match employer demand?

Making data actionable for different audiences is a fundamental part of WDQC's State Blueprint, and our survey shows that many states are making progress in this area. About 10 states have already created some type of dashboard and/or supply and demand report.

Policymakers can use dashboard information to drive investments to programs that have strong labor market results, while modifying policies for weak programs that need improvement. They can adopt policies integrating the services of multiple programs, building career pathways along the patterns of service that pathway evaluators reveal to be successful. They can establish sector partnerships to close skill gaps in fields in which supply and demand reports discover mismatches.

This spring, SWEAP will begin providing technical assistance to several states and will share lessons learned through publications, webinars, and forums.