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States Should Participate in SWIS to Obtain Out-of-State Wage Data

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
States Should Participate in SWIS to Obtain Out-of-State Wage Data

In order to satisfy Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements, and better understand whether former participants and students of workforce training and education programs are finding jobs and earning good wages, states should participate in the new State Wage Interchange System (SWIS). SWIS is a data sharing tool jointly managed by the Department of Education and the Department of Labor that allows states to exchange employment and earnings data—wage data, for short-- with other states. It may be used for WIOA and one-stop partner program mandated reporting, as well as for research and evaluation. We urge all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to sign the SWIS agreement and take full advantage of this new tool.

WIOA requires states to use unemployment insurance quarterly wage records to measure the preformance of WIOA’s six core programs: Title I programs for youth, adults, and dislocated workers; adult education; Wagner-Peyser; and vocational rehabilitation. However, states can have a difficult time getting employment and wage information about people who work in another state because they’ve moved after their program or commute to another state for work. SWIS solves this problem by enabling certain state agencies to exchange wage data with each other. States may use SWIS for measuring and reporting the performance of WIOA core programs, WIOA Eligible Training Providers, and one-stop partner programs to meet the requirements of a federal or state law or regulation.  One-stop partner programs include secondary and postsecondary career and technical education, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). SWIS also enables state agencies to use the wage data for research and evaluation of WIOA’s core programs and one-stop partners if every state who shares wage data for the research or evaluation project consents.

SWIS only works if states voluntarily participate. If a state chooses not to participate, other states cannot receive employment information about their former participants or students working in that state. This could create huge gaps in the information available to other states. It could be particularly problematic for states with large percentages of their populations working in another state – for example Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. In order to ensure that SWIS is optimally effective, every state should do their part and sign on. Advocates can play an important role by urging their state to do so. WDQC will soon be releasing a brief providing more information about SWIS and how states can participate.

If you represent a state agency and your state wants to sign onto SWIS, please reach out to WDQC staff, who can share more information about how your state can participate.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education

  ·   By Bryan Wilson
More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education

More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education 

National Skills Coalition’s Workforce Data Quality Campaign has partnered with Advance Career Technical Education (CTE) and other organizations to produce the new report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness. Among the report’s key findings are that more states should use administrative records to measure outcomes for students and link records across secondary, postsecondary, and workforce sectors. States can address these shortcomings as they begin developing their State Plans for Perkins and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that will be due to federal agencies in 2020.

The report is based on data from a 50-state survey that was issued to State Career and Technical Education (CTE) Directors in fall 2018. A total of 51 State Directors completed the survey, representing 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia.

While progress is being made, too many states continue to rely on outdated or unreliable methods, particularly surveys, for collecting data on career readiness and learner outcomes. Student surveys suffer from problems of validity and reliability, while also being expensive. At the postsecondary level, 33 percent of State Directors report using student surveys to measure post-program employment and 31 percent to measure further education or training for postsecondary program completers.

A more reliable and valid method for measuring post-program outcomes is to link student records with other administrative records held by state agencies and the National Student Clearinghouse. Forty-five percent of State Directors report collecting post-program employment data through an agreement with their state Department of Labor or another related agency. Forty-one percent identify learners who continue their postsecondary education or training through a partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (commonly referred to as Perkins V) includes provisions that can help states address these challenges. In Perkins V, Congress consciously worked to better align Perkins with WIOA and other acts. Congress aligned the planning cycle for Perkins with the planning cycle for WIOA, so that both state plans will be due to federal agencies about a year from now. In addition, states may submit a combined plan that includes both Perkins and WIOA. Perkins also calls for states to align the collection of data with the collection of data for other federal and state programs. Workforce agencies have over twenty years of experience in using administrative data and data linking across sectors for WIOA and its predecessor act.

As states begin to develop their four-year State Perkins and WIOA Plans there is an opportunity to work together to identify how their state will use administrative records and data linking to measure outcomes and align data collection.

The State of Career and Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co, and was developed in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) invites State Workforce Agencies to apply for a seventh round of Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants. State agencies can use these grants to create or enhance longitudinal data systems, which match data about individuals from different sources over time, enabling them to produce better information about education and training programs.

The WDQI grant program is a competitive grant program created in 2010, to help states develop or improve their state workforce longitudinal data systems (which contain information about workforce training programs and employment services). By providing information about whether completers are finding employment and earning good wages, these systems enable states to report on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs. They also allow states to conduct research that can guide workforce program improvement and help businesses fill skilled positions. States can use WDQI grants to supplement grants provided through the Department of Education’s Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grants program, which also supports the linkage and use of data to promote better education and training outcomes for the nation’s students and workers.

A seventh round of WDQI grants comes despite President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget eliminating funding for the program. Congress’s budget rejected cuts to WDQI grants, in favor of level funding from FY 2018. National Skills Coalition (NSC), through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW), has called on the administration to ensure level funding for SLDS and WDQI grants in FY 2020, so that states can demonstrate how WIOA strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways, are helping employers to meet their skilled workforce needs. Furthermore, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), has and will continue to advocate for funding of grants that enable states to provide information about education and workforce programs to stakeholders.  

In round seven of the WDQI grants, ETA plans to award a total of $11.5 million dollars to eight states. This funding includes five grants of up to $1 million each for states to use over a three-year period. State Workforce Agencies may use these funds to develop or improve workforce longitudinal data systems, connect workforce data with education data, and provide user-friendly information to help students make informed decisions about their education and training options. In addition, ETA plans to award three grants of up to $2.18 million for states to use over a three-year period. States who receive these grants may use the funds to integrate operational databases, such as a state’s case management, performance reporting and/or fiscal reporting systems, with their longitudinal data bases.

The deadline for applications is April 24, 2019 at 4:00 PM. Round six WDQI grantee states are not eligible to apply.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

In recent years, the federal government has invested significantly in registered apprenticeship programs because they are proven to be an equitable pathway to a good job. Since they allow students to learn while they earn, they can help upskill workers while allowing for broader participation amongst non-traditional students and people with barriers to employment, who may not have the financial resources to stop working and pay tuition while they train for a new career. For these reasons, a new paper by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, “Counting Registered Apprenticeship Completions” calls upon states to include registered apprenticeship certificates within their postsecondary attainment goals and collect data about these programs in order to measure progress.

By explicitly including registered apprenticeship certificates within postsecondary attainment goals, states can signal to the public that registered apprenticeships are a valid pathway to a good career. It also provides incentive to state policymakers to pass policies that make registered apprenticeship programs more prevalent.

Just over half of states collect the individual-level data they need to understand which residents have enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs, which industries those apprenticeships are in, and the demographic characteristics of those who completed their apprenticeship and earned a certificate. The rest of the states may not have an accurate method of knowing how many of their residents have enrolled in and completed registered apprenticeship programs, and how those completions help equitably address the skills gap.

This paper details how Iowa, a state whose registered apprenticeship programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and Washington, a state who administers its own registered apprenticeship programs have collected individual-level data on registered apprenticeship completers.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Work-Based Learning, Iowa, Washington, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Wage data to empower data-driven decision making

Wage data to empower data-driven decision making

The Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s new brief, Making Wage Data Work: Creating a Federal Resource for Evidence and Transparency, reviews options to establish a secure resource of employment and earnings data. This resource could be used to produce better information on the labor market outcomes of education and workforce programs. The paper explores scenarios that could build upon the work already being done at the Census Bureau, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Labor.

Although there are various sources of employment and earnings data within federal and state agencies, none are both comprehensive and widely accessible. A single federal resource of wage data could be used to produce a nationwide data tool that could, for example, help prospective students, policymakers, employers, and educational institutions compare the earnings outcomes of different majors, nationwide. 

The issue is on the radar of policymakers. Last fall, the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking called for the creation of a single federal source of wage data for statistical purposes and evaluation. Legislation to start implementing the Commission’s vision passed the House of Representatives, but has not yet passed the Senate. Within their own budget proposals, the Obama and Trump administrations have called for expanding access to the National Directory of New Hires database to better facilitate evaluation and performance reporting, including on workforce training programs, but Congress has yet to authorize such a proposal. The Census Bureau and the University of Texas System have piloted a potential source of wage data. The Department of Labor and the states are negotiating a new wage record interchange agreement.

Congress and the President, along with relevant federal and state agencies, should work together to develop one or more of the following options to improve wage information for multiple purposes:

  • The Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics program at the U.S. Census Bureau
  • The National Directory of New Hires under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • A new comprehensive database or expansion of the wage record interchange systems under the U.S. Department of Labor


The new WDQC brief examines current coverage and allowable uses of those existing sources of wage data. The paper also reviews federal and state actions required to make each source more comprehensive and viable as a single resource for federal and state agencies and authorized researchers. With that resource, agencies that already have expertise could then securely and more efficiently match employment and earnings data to other program data.

Policymakers, workers, jobseekers, students, and businesses should be able to take into account more comprehensive, comparable trends on employment and wages to help them make better decisions about their own investments and improve their chances of economic success. A single federal source on wage data would be a significant step toward realizing that goal.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

States need not be deterred by costs of SLDS

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
States need not be deterred by costs of SLDS

States need not be deterred from building a state longitudinal data system (SLDS). According to a new paper, "Costs of State Longitudinal Data Systems", by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, the costs of building and maintaining SLDS can vary dramatically and can be adjusted to fit a state’s needs.

SLDS are used to match data about individuals from different sources over time. They are an important resource for state policymakers, researchers, and the public. These systems can be used to provide information about how a state’s education and workforce system is preforming, or to help students select the best program for them.

Although most states now have an SLDS, a few remaining states may be dissuaded from building an SLDS because of implementation and maintenance costs. However, according to the paper, these costs can vary based upon a number of factors and need not be excessive. Some states have built new SLDS for as little as $2.5 million dollars. Factors influencing costs can include the capabilities of the system, the number of state agencies contributing data to the system, who builds the system, and when the system was built (many technology costs decrease over time). Factors that can influence maintenance costs include the amount and quality of data analysis conducted, the number of data requests received and filled, and the level of technological sophistication.

This paper provides case studies of five states. Each case study details that state’s SLDS implementation and maintenance costs and what factors influenced that cost.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Modernizing postsecondary data for 21st century students

Students, policymakers, institutions and others should have access to clear information on postsecondary education programs including their employment and wage outcomes. The Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s latest paper, Workforce success relies on transparent postsecondary data, reviews why existing data systems cannot provide key information on postsecondary programs and explains the changes needed to provide students and others with the information they need.  

When making decisions about which programs to invest in, students and policymakers should have information on program costs, completion rates, and employment and wage outcomes. The information should be comparable for programs across the nation and provided over a public, online dashboard that also displays other outcome information such as student retention, loan repayment, default rates, and rates of further education. The website should also include and be searchable by important student characteristics including student demographics and financial aid. The information should be based on student-level data but aggregated at the program level in ways that ensure the security and privacy of personally identifiable information.

Federal policies have stopped short, and even prevented, the provision of this important information. Congress has banned the creation of a data system based on postsecondary student-level data. The Department of Education provides the College Scorecard, but data for the Scorecard are limited to federally aided students. Also, the Scorecard does not show results for individual programs of study, only for institutions as a whole, even though evidence shows labor market outcomes for students vary more by program of study than by institution.

One recent proposal for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, the “Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform” (PROSPER) Act, would authorize a dashboard with information on individual programs of study, but would still draw data only from federally-aided students, missing thirty percent of student data. The bipartisan College Transparency Act, on the other hand, would overturn the ban on student level data, and direct the Department of Education to create a student-level data network and post better information online about programs across the country.

This paper goes into greater depth explaining these issues -- how current policies fall short and the need for a federal student level data network with a public-facing website, a website that would provide students, education leaders, and policymakers with the information needed to make more informed decisions about postsecondary education.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Montana sets example for other states by using data to drive policy

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
Montana sets example for other states by using data to drive policy

A new case study, How Montana is using data to drive policy change, written in collaboration between the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Workforce Data Quality Campaign shows how data-driven decision making can help states create education and workforce policies that can help them compete in a 21st century economy. The paper outlines how Montana educational institutions, employers, and policymakers have used data to not just understand the effectiveness of their state’s education and workforce policies, but to make decisions that will help the state meet labor market demand.

Although middle-skill jobs account for 52 percent of the Montana’s labor market, only 47 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level. In order to better understand that skills gap, the Montana Department of Labor and Industry and the Office of the Commissioner on Higher Education published a report that seeks to determine if Montana has enough students graduating in the right fields to meet the state’s current and future workforce needs.

“Too many decisions regarding the relationship between workforce needs and higher education are made based on biases and assumptions that are not supported by or tied to any solid research or analysis. The statewide college report provides us with sorely needed information to help us make data driven decisions,” said Bill Johnstone, a Regent on the Montana Board of Regents.

Since the release of the statewide college report, numerous stakeholders, such as educational institutions, employers, career counselors, and policymakers have utilized the information in it to make policy changes aimed at ensuring there are enough students graduating in the right fields to meet Montana’s current and future workforce needs. For example:

  • Missoula College is considering developing new programs to train EMTs, paramedics, dental assistants, and preschool teachers because the report suggests these programs are undersupplied in the region.
  • Career counselors have changed their career guidance strategy. Instead of funneling students towards general studies, which had below average workforce outcomes, counselors are now helping students to identify careers with better employment outcomes.
  • Great Falls College has engaged in discussions with one of the state’s largest construction firms to create customized trainings in occupations that the report suggested for expansion.
  • The Governor is using the report to support his focus on expanding work-based learning to improve student outcomes and help address the state’s worker shortage.


According to WDQC’s 2016 Mastering the Blueprint survey, most other states have the capacity to conduct supply and demand analysis or to know if graduates get jobs, thus enabling them to make data-driven decisions about their education and workforce programs. WDQC hopes that other states will be inspired by Montana to leverage the data linkage they are already conducting to help stakeholders make well informed decisions. These decisions will ultimately help ensure that the state can narrow its skills gap and ensure that all workers can find good jobs.

Posted In: Montana, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

BLS Survey on Contingent Workforce Reveals more Continuity than Change

  ·   By Christina Pena,
BLS Survey on Contingent Workforce Reveals more Continuity than Change

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new contingent and alternative worker survey data on June 7, 2018. The BLS conducted the survey in May 2017 as a supplement to the Current Population Survey. Surprisingly, rates for this type of work have slightly decreased since the last survey in 2005.

BLS defines “contingent workers” as “people who do not expect their jobs to last or who reported that their jobs are temporary. They do not have an implicit or explicit contract for continuing employment.” People working under “alternative employment arrangements,” include “independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, and workers provided by contract firms.”

Workforce observers were anticipating larger leaps in the percentage of people participating in the contingent and alternative workforce. The percentage of those workers as part of the overall workforce has slightly declined (although the actual number of people in those jobs has increased as the U.S. population has grown overall). Here are a few statistics from the BLS release:

  • In May 2017, 3.8 percent of all workers held contingent jobs, compared with 4.1 percent in February 2005.
  • Independent contractors (including independent consultants and freelance workers in the “alternative” work category) represented 6.9 percent of total employment, down from 7.4 percent in February 2005.
  • Contingent, full-time workers earned 23 percent less ($685) in median weekly earnings compared to their non-contingent (“traditional worker”) counterparts ($886), according to the May 2017 survey.
  • Contract company workers earned a median weekly wage of $1,077, the highest amongst alternative workers. Earnings for independent contractors ($851) were comparable to those of traditional workers ($884). On-call ($797) and temporary help agency workers ($521) earned less than other alternative workers.


Several reasons may have contributed to the relative continuity in workforce rates between the 2005 and 2017 surveys:

  • These latest figures did not include results from four new BLS questions covering job solicitation and payment through websites and mobile apps (electronically-mediated employment). BLS continues to analyze those data and expects to release those figures by the end of September 2018. With the increasing use of services such as Uber and Lyft, and online job platforms such as “Task Rabbit,” the results should interest those following debates about the “future of work.”
  • BLS conducted its 2005 contingent worker survey in the month of February. Because BLS conducted this latest survey in May, the demand for seasonal work may have affected the results, although the significance of this impact is uncertain.
  • The survey asked respondents to address the jobs for which they worked the most hours. Therefore, contingent and alternative work would have missed the cut in instances where workers spent most of their hours in traditional employment, but still held an alternative or contingent job “on the side” – as a way to make some extra money to supplement their main employment income.


Given current funding, BLS has no definite plans to conduct a similar survey in the future. This is one of the reasons WDQC has often joined other organizations in calling for BLS’s funding to at least keep pace with inflation.

For more information about the different categories of contingent and alternative workers, and more detailed data broken down by key demographic groups, visit the BLS’s Economic News Release webpage on Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

WDQC applauds new MD law to measure non-degree credential attainment

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
WDQC applauds new MD law to measure non-degree credential attainment

On May 15, 2018, Maryland’s governor Larry Hogan signed the Career Preparation Expansion Act, which will help Maryland measure non-degree credential attainment and narrow the middle-skills gap by requiring certain entities to provide the state with data about licenses, industry certifications, and certificates. WDQC advocates for states to count non-degree credentials and provided assistance on the legislation.

The Career Preparation Expansion Act requires the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) to collect (1) licensing data from the Department of Health and Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation; (2) certificate data from postsecondary institutions; and (3) certification data from any industry certifier that receives state funding. It also requires MHEC to share this data with the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) so that MLDS may link that information with workforce data in order to determine outcomes, such as the rate of employment.

As outlined in WDQC’s recent 50-state scan “Measuring Non-Degree Credential Attainment,” many states are still working towards collecting data on certificates from non-credit programs, licenses, and industry certifications. This data is essential for helping the state understand how many of its residents are obtaining a postsecondary credential and how to narrow the state’s middle skills gap. The National Skills Coalition estimates that between 2014-2024 forty-two percent of jobs in Maryland will be middle skill jobs, which require education beyond high school but not a four-year degree. This information, particularly once matched with employment information, can help the state formulate better policy that can narrow the skills gap and create a thriving economy.

To our knowledge, the Career Preparation Expansion Act is one of the first bills in the country to require data collection from industry certifiers and may provide an example of how other states can begin to collect more information about industry certifiers.

WDQC worked with Maryland legislators to develop this bill, and Senior Policy Analyst Jenna Leventoff provided written testimony in support.  National Skills Coalition member, Jobs Opportunity Task Force, supported the bill as well. If you are interested in collecting better data about non-degree credentials in your state, we encourage you to contact WDQC

Posted In: Maryland, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
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