Report shows states using data to improve education and support workforce development

January 26, 2016

Workforce Data Quality Campaign Releases Second Annual 13-Point “Blueprint” Tracking State Progress in Data

Washington, DC— A new report entitled Mastering the Blueprint, recently released by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) — a project of the National Skills Coalition, shows that states are making progress toward creating stronger state data systems. These systems will help ensure that educators can improve programs and align offerings with employer needs; students can determine which schools and programs will prepare them for well-paying jobs; policymakers can financially support effective programs; and states can attract businesses by demonstrating a prepared workforce. WDQC’s Blueprint annually tracks states on 13 key measures of a superior state data system, and the report shows the progress of each state in implementing the Blueprint. 

WDQC has expanded its website to feature information on postsecondary education and workforce data for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The pages include a summary of each state’s data system, as well as scorecards from WDQC’s recent Mastering the Blueprint survey, and links to relevant news, resources, and legislation.

“If you’re a student in South Dakota trying to select a major based upon future employment and earnings potential, and make smart choices about student loans, South Dakota’s data system is essential,” said Rachel Zinn, Director of the Workforce Data Quality Campaign. “Likewise, if you’re a Mississippi policymaker trying to figure out whether your state’s workforce can compete in the global economy, you need good data.”

Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia participated in the survey, which tracked whether states had “Achieved,” were “In Progress,” or had “Minimal Progress” on key measures, including whether they’d established a cross-agency council that includes representatives from labor, early childhood education, K-12, higher education, and social services to oversee statewide data collection and reporting.

A handful of states stood out because of their achievements using data to support workforce development and their amount of improvement since last year. Among them are:

  • Utah achieved more Blueprint elements than any other state, due in part to its strong cross-agency council, the Utah Data Alliance. The Utah Data Alliance is a partnership of six agencies, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah System of Higher Education, the Utah Education Policy Center at the University of Utah, the Utah Department of Workforce Services, the Utah Education and Telehealth Network, and the Utah College of Applied Technology. Together, these agencies maintain Utah’s longitudinal data system and conduct research and analysis about education and career preparation programs.
  • Mississippi has a particularly comprehensive longitudinal data system. Its system, LifeTracks, includes data from a wide variety of education and workforce training programs including early childhood education, K-12, public two-and four-year postsecondary institutions, adult education, secondary and postsecondary career technical education, and multiple workforce development programs.  
  • South Dakota recently created an online tool to help potential public university or technical institute students determine what to study. The South Dakota Postsecondary Employment and Wage Outcomes system contains information about the number of students from a given major employed in South Dakota, their average wages, and the distribution of their industries of employment.
  • Alaska has successfully secured adequate state legislative funding for data linkages with unemployment insurance wage records. These linkages enable the state to produce an annual report on the number of non-residents employed in the state, a topic of great importance to the legislature.  
  • New York has made significant progress in the past year. The State University of New York (SUNY) System posts reports containing labor market information on the SUNY System Administration’s Institutional Research website.

Increasingly, states are providing financial support for state data systems. Sixteen states have committed resources to develop and/or maintain state data systems, and another 19 states are headed toward this goal.  

“It’s amazing to see so many states making great strides toward using data more effectively to advance our nation’s skilled workforce,” continued Zinn. “In order to improve our workforce, we need information about the people in it, and whether we are training them well.”

Since last year, states showed net improvement on almost all elements of the Blueprint. In particular, states have made the most progress toward capturing diverse credentials within their data systems, sharing employment data across state lines, and collecting, analyzing, and distributing labor market information.

The report can be found online.  


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Workforce Data Quality Campaign advocates for state and federal policy to promote better collection and use of data about workforce development.

National Skills Coalition is a broad-based coalition of employers, unions, education and training providers, and public officials working toward a vision of an America that grows its economy