Using Labor Market Information to Improve Program and Credential Quality

To ensure relevance and quality of its programs and credentials, higher education institutions from community colleges to universities are increasingly seeking to understand industry needs and students’ transition to careers. To this end, labor market information is more available to examine trends and help higher education institutions adjust their programs and credentials. Labor market information includes a range of data including more recently available “real-time jobs” data, as well as traditional data sources from state labor departments, industry advisory boards, and more informal networks. The development of these data tools for examining labor market trends in “real-time” seems to offer the potential to alter how higher education institutions approach their understanding of the labor market. Yet, the presence of these data does not guarantee their use. Individuals within colleges and universities have varying degrees of experience and comfort in working with these data, and institutions differ in the ways that these data become part of on-going organizational learnings processes to align their work with labor market trends.

Through case studies with a range of institutions – community colleges, four year universities, large and small institutions, and institutions with a mix of liberal arts and workforce-oriented programs – this project seeks to understand the many possible ways these institutions as organizations use labor market data. This includes the extent of its use, who uses its within organizations, and – most importantly – how and why it is used. The case studies will be followed by a national survey of colleges and universities.

This project is supported by Lumina Foundation.