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How Data and Analytics Can Strengthen State Workforce Ecosystems

Workforce ecosystems — the collection of institutions that support the workforce, including everything from education and training centers to employers to job sites — are in flux for a myriad of reasons. The COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and economic uncertainty are just a few variables impacting state and local workforce ecosystems. Some Americans are skipping college (and the heavy debt load that accompanies it) to enter the workforce sooner, and many seniors are staying in the workforce longer, with retirement-age adults twice as likely to be working than in 1985.

None of these trends is inherently good or bad — and the likelihood of another extended recession is still up for debate. Still, with so much in flux, now is the time to strengthen your state or locality’s workforce ecosystem so it better supports all stakeholders. Workforce ecosystems are fragile and must be constantly nurtured to maintain the desired equilibrium and outcomes.

To strengthen their workforce ecosystems, state and local agencies should harness data and analytics. Workforce stakeholders have more data available than ever before. When used properly, data and analytics can play a leading role in keeping workforce ecosystems strong.

Start With Data Sharing

The benefits of data and analytics can only be realized when proper data sharing is in place. This can only happen when all stakeholders — government agencies, universities, trade schools, private employers, and nonprofits — are brought to the table. If you don’t define the value proposition for each stakeholder, they could be less willing to participate.

Bringing together pertinent data from all relevant agencies, local entities, and available external sources can enable, among other things, a full view of supply-and-demand in the workforce. Consider the state of Virginia, which launched a groundbreaking workforce data platform. The platform aggregates employment data from numerous state agencies and dozens of career centers and training institutions. Such data sharing allows for a statewide view of several key factors, including supply-and-demand, as opposed to a regionally siloed one.

Understanding statewide supply-and-demand is particularly valuable given the recent rise in remote work. Employers no longer need to hire locally, and skilled talent is less concentrated in urban areas. For example…Cybersecurity talent is no longer required to reside in tech-heavy Northern Virginia. Data sharing can help employers broaden their nets strategically to source talent.

Expand Notions of Student Success

Despite a recent dip in enrollment, universities continue to play a vital role in the workforce ecosystem. In the past, staying ahead of job demand was only possible for large, well-funded institutions. When data sharing happens at-scale across the state, data-driven decision-making is available to universities of all sizes. They can proactively respond to changes in the labor market, which helps strengthen the overall ecosystem.

If a university can see that systems engineers are in growing demand, for instance, they can invest more resources in that program. Data sharing also makes students better equipped to consider the ROI of alternate paths, as they have the information needed to weigh the cost and future earnings of a particular training program or degree.

Finally, with more data — and more people who are data literate — universities can gain a more comprehensive understanding of student success. Instead of focusing solely on program completion, institutions can examine retention trends across demographic and socioeconomic groups. Are some programs enrolling a more diverse population than others? Is a subset of students completing a program more so than others? These insights can help universities ensure they are preparing everyone to enter the workforce, not just particular groups.

Make the Right Technology Investments

Understanding the benefits of data and analytics is one thing — reaping them is another. To make technology investments that help strengthen the workforce ecosystem, agencies should start by developing a roadmap — a step that is sometimes overlooked. Too often, agencies chase the next shiny object, then find themselves trapped inside proprietary systems.

If information cannot be shared beyond a particular program or silo, the technology cannot sufficiently support data sharing and the workforce ecosystem at large. As agencies consider new investments, they should ask themselves if it: a) fits with their current infrastructure and b) works well with other systems. Prioritize interoperability across the stack and lay a foundation that enables additional growth.

In state governments, for example, the focus should be on creating a technological foundation that could be useful regardless of outside factors or what leader is in office. If a new administration takes over, will they be able to take advantage of the foundation on day one? Will tomorrow’s workforce be supported by the technology, too? Ecosystems are complex by nature. Technology investments that support data sharing can help strengthen your workforce ecosystem — even in the face of uncertainty.

Mr. DerHovhannessian serves as Vice President of Data and Analytics at GCOM, overseeing the company’s business intelligence portfolio across the Southeast. He has over 20 years of experience and is an accomplished executive with a successful track record in consulting and industry positioning organizations and C-level teams to define strategies, implement multi-tier solutions, drive data-informed decisions, launch/enhance products, improve user experience, develop public/private partnerships, and increase revenue. Skilled at planning/delivering pilots and enterprise-wide initiatives, he helps organizations move from where they are to where they want to be to deliver the most value to their constituents. He is engaged locally in education and non-profit boards that are driving innovation and citizen services.

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