This week, America Forward, members of the America Forward Coalition, and our policy partners – including the Colorado Equitable Economic Mobility Initiative (CEEMI), Data Quality Campaign, Opportunity@Work, Per Scholas, Project QUEST, REDF (Roberts Enterprise Development Fund), Results for America, Social Finance, Third Sector Capital Partners, and Year Up Inc., – have called for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to create a new national employment metrics system for workforce development programs. This new system should leverage national labor market outcomes information and substantially improve the transparency, availability, and quality of provider participation and outcomes data and support innovation across the workforce system. Our recommendation responds to DOL’s request for information on open data matters released earlier in 2022.
Today, it is far too difficult for stakeholders across the workforce system to access even basic information about federally-funded training programs and participants’ outcomes, including long-term labor market outcomes. This persistent challenge has frustrated informed decision-making by workers, providers, career navigators, and policymakers at every level of government, and makes it more difficult to help participants achieve sustained economic mobility. The current federal resource for eligible training providers under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), TrainingProviderResults.gov, offers a starting point. But issues with missing data, data quality, and inaccessibility of data make this resource far less useful than it could be, including:
- Limitations to current data. The current system is missing or has suppressed costs and outcomes data on a tremendous number of programs, and there are potential issues with the quality of the data that is available. In addition, there are limitations to solely relying on state employment and earnings data—for instance, potentially undercounting impacts in areas where many participants work in another state.
- Inaccessible data. It is too difficult for participants and navigators to make sense of workforce provider data in a way that is relevant to them, with serious implications for effectiveness, equity, and innovation – such as understanding the demographics of providers’ participants or programs’ relative impacts and costs. In addition, the current reporting system places substantial burden on stakeholders across the system, particularly providers, while providing little support for continuous improvement and innovation. Providers that report into the current system, for the most part, are not able to leverage the resulting outcomes data for continuous improvement beyond the limited public data available.
- Closed infrastructure for effective providers. The current system does not provide sufficient opportunity to highlight and expand effective strategies that could advance economic mobility and equity. Innovative providers who seek to know and publicly release their results but do not already receive WIOA funds in a given state are unable to leverage the performance infrastructure to learn their outcomes and make their case for funding moving forward.
A more streamlined, transparent, user-friendly system could substantially improve quality while reducing burden. America Forward and our partners urge DOL to build on the foundation it has already established, including recent data quality efforts and infrastructure investments, as well as several excellent state-led efforts.
Ultimately, we believe a federal-state partnership is necessary to provide the most locally-relevant solutions while harnessing national employment and outcomes data and economies of scale.
At the state level, we believe providing national infrastructure can enable far more states to publish locally-relevant scorecards, such as linking program opportunities to local labor market needs. DOL can help jurisdictions access national labor market outcomes data and provide a common technical framework that frees states from reinventing the wheel in each jurisdiction. We encourage DOL to consider a range of possible data sources with federal partners, such as annual IRS employment and earnings data; quarterly data from the National Directory of New Hires; and the Census Bureau, which holds quarterly earnings reported by state unemployment insurance systems and annual income data from IRS.
Moving forward, we suggest that DOL take lessons from the College Scorecard along with intensive engagement with states, localities, tribal governments, and other key stakeholders such as innovative workforce development providers. As DOL considers building this new, enhanced system, we highlight a few priorities:
- Security and privacy. This new system should use the most up-to-date, secure, privacy-protecting technologies, potentially including nonprofit data intermediaries to facilitate linkages.
- Increase programs with available data. It is crucial that this system dramatically expand the availability of data so jobseekers, navigators, government agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders across the system have information they need to make good decisions. We recommend, for instance, that DOL consider new methodologies to reduce the number of programs with suppressed and unreported data in a privacy-protecting manner.
- Expand available data. This system must substantially expand the available data, including reporting on participant demographics and longer-term reporting on labor market outcomes.
- Strengthen infrastructure for improvement. The new system should support continuous improvement activities for providers, integration across programs, participation from interested workforce development providers who are not currently funded by WIOA, and secure research access to empower ongoing learning and development system wide.
- Enhance usability. Finally, the system should support easier, improved decisionmaking by participants, navigators, and other stakeholders across the system. This should include resources to provide locally-relevant labor market information, which several states have already demonstrated.
We deeply appreciate DOL’s commitment to continuing to build data resources on workforce development activities that will improve outcomes for workers, providers, and communities, as well as the Department’s interest in receiving input on this issue. As organizations deeply engaged in this work, America Forward and our partners know the potential for a more streamlined, user-friendly system that will not only reduce burdens but strengthen equity, innovation, and effectiveness across the system. We look forward to working with DOL as the Department continues to strengthen its workforce data systems moving forward.
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