Aligning Career Pathways using Labor Market Information

A career pathway is a progressive sequence of at least three courses that is aligned to high-skill, high-wage, in-demand occupations; spans secondary and postsecondary; reinforces academic learning with related work-based learning experiences; and embeds opportunities for students to earn both related postsecondary credit in a degree-granting program and industry-recognized credentials. 

An important factor in ensuring the alignment of high-quality career pathways is the use of labor market information (LMI). Due to the pandemic, we have witnessed a shift in many industries, which will undoubtedly affect the long-term outlook of the future of work. Now more than ever, it is imperative for state and local Career Technical Education (CTE) leaders to make data-driven decisions, consulting with industry partners to ensure each learner navigating through the career preparation ecosystem can succeed. 

Many states have shared their best practices for gathering and using LMI to build better pathways statewide in these times of uncertainty. 

In Indianapolis, Indiana, EmployIndy (a local workforce intermediary) provides labor market studies and reports on key sectors to increase access to and success in career pathways for local county residents, while supporting local employers’ talent needs. Based on stakeholder feedback to make the labor market data actionable, EmployIndy invested in its internal capacity to collect LMI and conduct its own research to better communicate what the LMI says with regards to the changes in the jobs themselves and the competencies demanded within those jobs. The goal is that both education and industry partners are better prepared to leverage the data to support learners, career pathways development, hiring and training.

Kentucky has partnered with multiple state agencies including the Kentucky Center for Statistics, or KYSTATS, to develop the state’s longitudinal data system. Through this ongoing effort, Kentucky was able to be responsive to the pandemic and future of work by using its one-stop shop for data sources and processes in place to determine if changes are needed to career pathways and what those changes should be. State leaders are now consulting the labor market data on a monthly basis as shifts in industries continue and will stay the course of making data-driven decisions on supporting and funding only those career pathways identified as aligned to good careers.

South Carolina has been reviewing its LMI and enrollment data with an intentional focus on ensuring equitable outcomes for each learner. As a result of data analysis, the state has scaled its credential offerings to build better pathways.

State and local CTE leaders must also remain committed to cross-system collaboration and engaging the industry sector to enhance LMI. 

The South Carolina Office of Career and Technical Education was flexible and nimble to the pandemic and decided to re-engage the state’s 12 regions to see if the pandemic was necessitating any revisions to the previously completed Comprehensive Local Needs Assessments (CLNAs). South Carolina hired a new business and industry liaison to help facilitate those discussions. A number of regions decided on revamping their career pathways and supports based on updated data and input from their industry and workforce partners.

Kentucky has multiple venues for incorporating the knowledge and expertise of industry partners into decisionmaking on career pathways. The Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board provides regular input and updates and the state established Business and Education Alignment Teams meet annually. These teams span across 11 industry areas. 

Today, Advance CTE released Practical Guidance for Aligning Career Pathways to Labor Market Data in the Time of COVID-19, the first in a series to build better pathways, that offers more promising practices for designing strong state and local practices for enhancing the career preparation ecosystem by leveraging LMI to align programs to high-skill, high-wage and in-demand occupations. View the brief here in the Learning that Works Resource Center. 

This resource is part of Advance CTE’s dedicated efforts to build high-quality, equitable career pathways through the New Skills ready network in partnership with JP Morgan Chase and Education Strategy Group.

Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director 

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