California legislative analyst calls for workforce data improvements

By Jenna Leventoff, Bryan Wilson, August 30, 2016

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan policy advice to California’s legislature, recently released a report evaluating the state’s data collection processes and providing suggestions for making the state’s workforce data more useful.

In California, eight different state agencies administer workforce programs, at a cost of over $6 billion. Despite this investment, California’s policymakers struggle to assess whether the state’s workforce training and education system is effective. According to the report, the state lacks standardized performance measures and coordinated data-linking. Because of the workforce system’s fragmented administration, workforce program data is housed in a number of different agency systems, and is only linked when two agencies have a specific agreement to do so. Furthermore, because many programs have laws or grants holding them responsible for meeting certain performance measures, data collection across programs can be inconsistent. These hurdles make it difficult for policymakers to answer basic questions about the state’s workforce system, including, how many people use it, how participants transition between programs, and which programs are working well.

In order to help policymakers answer these questions, the LAO suggests that the California Workforce Development Board (CWDB) convene a task force to create common performance measures for the state’s workforce programs, and then the legislature should amend state law to align data reporting with those measures. Moreover, the LAO recommends that the CWDB research ways to develop “a statewide, streamlined data-linking approach for all workforce programs.” In order to create a truly comprehensive system that allows for useful research, the LAO also suggests the legislature pass a mandate that all workforce training providers supply performance data to that system as a condition of state funding. This will enable the state to do what few states currently can: analyze the outcomes of programs administered by public andprivate training providers. Together, these strategies would “provide more useful information to help guide state policy and funding decisions and ultimately result in better workforce education outcomes for participants and the state,” according to the report.

California is one of four states that National Skills Coalition (NSC) is providing technical assistance to as part of the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP). SWEAP is assisting states develop cross-program data tools that policy makers can use to better align programs with employer skill needs. SWEAP has helped California make progress towards the use of common performance measures and has brought attention to challenges resulting from California’s lack of a comprehensive data-linking system.

To learn more about California’s data-related efforts, please visit California’s state page. To learn more about how states can create strong statewide data systems, please refer to WDQC’s 13-Point State Blueprint.

This blog was originally posted on Workforce Data Quality Campaign's website