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Expand data-driven approaches in the workforce and education systems

Expand data-driven approaches in the workforce and education systems

Given its slowed growth, metropolitan Chicago must capitalize on the full potential and productivity of its human capital by collaborating at the front lines of our complex adult education and training systems. Recent demographic trends suggest the region will face obstacles to sustain a diverse, adaptive, skilled workforce. As the region's economic progress has slowed in recent years, so has its population growth, gaining just 0.65 percent during 2010-16. Our labor force -- residents who are 16 years or older and either working or actively seeking work -- declined by approximately 52,000 workers between 2008-16 and is aging rapidly.[1] Population growth is both a condition and a consequence of economic prosperity, as residents choose where to live based on their perceptions of economic opportunity and quality of life. Slow population growth can burden the regional economy with a narrower tax base, fewer job opportunities, and a smaller labor pool.


[GRAPHIC TO COME: An interactive graphic will provide information on job polarization in the Chicago region between 1980-2016.]


Because the global economy is changing at an accelerated scale, scope, and speed, our workforce and education systems must become more flexible and effective at building the region’s workforce. As skill demands have shifted, higher levels of post-secondary training -- as well as additional training throughout a career -- have become necessary for individuals to succeed in the job market. Nearly half of Chicago residents age 25 and older (45.7 percent) had an Associate degree or higher in 2016, including more than 2.2 million residents with a Bachelor degree or higher.[2] Maintaining a skilled workforce can translate to improved economic security for residents[3] and a competitive advantage for the region as a whole.[4] Educational attainment is one of many ON TO 2050 indicators -- like workforce participation and employment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields -- that can be used to assess the how the region’s labor market responds to economic shifts.


A key missing component in data-driven approaches is information on education and training programs that do not lead to an accredited degree. Providers are increasingly expected to shorten the time to credential, to give students flexibility to intersperse learning and earning, to meet the needs of a growing share of English language learners, and to balance the remedial education and skills training for employment today with the foundational knowledge for a longer-term career. Several non-traditional education strategies have already emerged as providers test new models to deliver learning and boost outcomes. Yet serious challenges exist to delivering these programs. For example, recent research has questioned the transferability and economic value of some sub-baccalaureate certificates.[5]


In a more competitive economy, capturing opportunities for regional economic growth requires well-informed analysis, diligent forecasting, and responsiveness to shifts in the labor market. In a broad universe of education and workforce development programs, demand-driven strategies depend on having the systems in place to evaluate the economic outcomes of participants and to assess diverse program elements. On a programmatic scale, educators and training providers often lack the ability to gauge their programs’ efficacy or long-term value because of data gaps on education and employment outcomes. On a regional scale, workforce funders often lack necessary information to align program elements and underused capacity of existing programs. Numerous state and local systems capture data consistent with reporting requirements under WIOA, a 2014 federal effort to support strategies that reflect changing economic conditions. But because these data systems remain disconnected, inconsistent across service providers, and incomplete, they often lack sufficient information to coordinate regional systems.


In many ways, the Chicago region has been a national leader in integrating workforce and education data. The Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership’s Career Connect and Illinois Longitudinal Data System both combine information across numerous programs to improve services for residents, employers, and public and private workforce funders. These initiatives have provided a foundation for regional cooperation on WIOA implementation, emphasizing the central role that integrated data systems play in pursuing unified planning, partnership development, and sustainable funding.[6] Such tools are especially important given a renewed national focus on evidence that workforce investments properly serve populations who face barriers to accessing or sustaining employment.


The following describes strategies and associated actions to implement this recommendation.

Develop and improve integrated workforce and education data systems

Improved information and data systems would enable regional actors to further meet the shifting demands on our adult education and training systems. With ongoing implementation of WIOA, stakeholders have mechanisms to test and scale new practices based on demand-driven strategies and industry engagement. Appropriate data and analysis can help refocus educational and training programs around shared goals, illuminate additional strategies for inclusive growth, and demonstrate economic outcomes across approaches or geographies. For example, good data -- disaggregated by race, gender, income, or neighborhood -- can reveal the economic conditions that different communities face and their barriers to achieving upward mobility. By connecting existing datasets, educators and training providers would enhance their ability to adjust programming and curricula in response to local and regional needs. Enhanced information and data systems are also necessary to pursue other regional strategies, such as rationalizing and coordinating specific educational programs across multiple providers. In pursuing these goals, CMAP and partners should emphasize the need for relevant and accurate data that can be reliably located, integrated, and analyzed.


State and local policy makers -- in partnership with workforce funders -- should expand integrated data systems and provide better data by building on lessons learned from development of the Illinois Longitudinal Data System and Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership’s Career Connect.


Federal, state, and local policy makers -- in partnership with workforce funders -- should invest in the development, integration, and availability of longitudinal workforce and education data that best informs public policy.


Education and training providers should identify appropriate opportunities to address gaps, scale cooperation, and leverage data to inform programming and decision making.


State and local policy makers -- in partnership with workforce funders -- should provide the data that education and training providers require to connect their programs to business performance and participant outcomes. Integrated data systems should support metrics like time to job placement, speed to job promotion, length of continued employment, cost of recruitment and training, or employer productivity and quality outcomes.


Government, business and civic leaders, and other regional actors should develop and implement a shared vision for inclusive growth in northeastern Illinois, as well as define key metrics to track regional progress toward inclusive growth goals.

Maintain adequate information on programs for sub-baccalaureate credentials and adult basic education

Sub-baccalaureate credentials and adult basic education -- including short-term credential, licensure, high school equivalency, and certification programs -- make up a substantial and growing share of enrollment at metropolitan Chicago’s community colleges. These new models of education may provide more flexible and affordable options than traditional degree programs. However, sub-baccalaureate programs are not uniformly valuable for workers or employers. Because some providers are not subject to traditional accrediting agencies, decision-makers do not have generally accepted standards or integrated data to gauge the quality of non-traditional and non-credit programs. There is a growing recognition in our region regarding the full breadth of training, in-demand skills, and meaningful work experience required to build long-term employability. Many sub-baccalaureate programs can play an important role in connecting residents to pathways for upward mobility.  Their topics and structures may need to be further rationalized or enhanced based on the needs of growing industries and the economic outcomes of students. Many education and training providers are already adjusting their policies and curricula to reflect best practices for such programs. Improved information about program characteristics, competencies, and outcomes can also help potential students make a confident choice about what programs to pursue.


[1] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of American Community Survey data, 1-year estimates in 2005-2016 for the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin metropolitan area.

[2] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

[3] Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data,

[4] Edward Glaeser, Giacomo Ponzetto, and Kristina Tobio, “Cities, Skills, and Regional Change,” NBER Working Paper 16934 (National Bureau of Economic Research, 2011),

[5] Veronica Minaya and Judith Scott-Clayton, "Labor Market Trajectories for Community College Graduates: New Evidence Spanning the Great Recession. A CAPSEE Working Paper," (Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment, 2017).

[6] David Bradley, The workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and the One-Stop Delivery System, Congressional Research Service Reports No. R44252 (Congressional Research Service, 2015).

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