New SWEAP tools help state policymakers align workforce and education programs

By Bryan Wilson, February 23, 2015

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from three types of data tools to develop policies that align workforce and education programs with each other and with employer skill needs. These three tools — dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports – are discussed in a set of SWEAP papers issued by National Skills Coalition (NSC). The papers discuss the steps states can take to create these data tools and provide 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?

Policymakers can use these tools to ensure that their states’ skills programs work together to equitably and efficiently prepare students and workers for middle-skill jobs.  Policymakers can use this information to develop new policies, including policies around job-driven investments, career pathways, and sector partnerships. For example, 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. NSC staff and colleagues from the Ray Marshall Center at the University of Texas will assist state policymakers from governors’ offices, workforce and education agencies, and state legislatures to develop the tools and new policies based on information from the tools. The selected states will soon be announced. In addition, during the next two years NSC will share the lessons learned from SWEAP with other states through publications, webinars, and forums.

For more information about SWEAP, contact State Policy Director Bryan Wilson, or State Policy Analyst Brooke DeRenzis.