Data in Action: Real-Time Job Data Case StudyLone Star College: Keeping Pace With a Changing Job Market
Lone Star College Office of Workforce Education and Corporate Partnerships
Match workforce training to the needs of local industry
Real-time labor market data feeds program decisions
Burning Glass’s user-friendly Labor Insight™ tool provides real-time job market information that helps educators, policy makers, and others make timely decisions that result in better outcomes for job seekers and employers. This case study describes how one college has used our cutting-edge technology to inform workforce decisions statewide.
“Our primary goal in workforce education is to train the community for great jobs in Houston, Texas. With real-time, labor-time market data, we can conduct a scan of any occupation. We know who is hiring and what competencies and technical skills they need. We are making sure our program choices and curriculum remain current so that our students are trained and ready for jobs employers need to fill.”Linda L. Head
The Client: Office of Workforce Education and Corporate Partnerships
With six colleges and nine satellite centers, Lone Star College is the largest higher education system in the Houston area and one of the fastest growing community colleges in the country. Lone Star serves more than 90,000 students per year, offering traditional associate’s degrees as well as an array of technical degrees, certificates, and employment training programs through its Office of Workforce Education and Corporate Partnerships. Lone Star’s for-profit Corporate College partners with businesses to train an additional 5,000 working professionals each year, enabling more than 150 local employers to keep pace with evolving staffing needs.
The Challenge: Match Workforce Training to the Needs of Local Industry
The primary mission of the Lone Star College Office of Workforce Education and Corporate Partnerships is to cultivate a skilled workforce that keeps local businesses thriving and improves the economic vitality of the greater Houston area. Until recently, however, the college was limited in achieving this mission by a slow and difficult program development process. The development process included three days of meeting with industry representatives for each occupational area. It was a challenge to get a true cross-section of employers to the table and the input they provided was often anecdotal and incomplete. As a result, programs evolved slowly, curricula fell out of sync with industry priorities, and the college’s various campuses had redundancies and gaps in their offerings.
By 2010, it was clear that a change was needed: New technologies were causing rapid change in local industry, and an increasingly globalized economy meant that businesses could move elsewhere to find skilled labor. The college, faced with its own resource constraints and increasing outside scrutiny, needed to find a way to offer the right set of degree and training programs that would help large numbers of community members get back into the workforce, while quickly expanding Greater Houston’s supply of skilled talent.
The Solution: Real-Time Labor Market Data Feeds Program Decisions
When Associate Vice Chancellor Linda Head first heard about Burning Glass’s real-time labor analytics, she immediately recognized the benefits for Lone Star College. Using the Labor Insight tool, she and other Lone Star administrators gained access to virtually every online job posting across the Texas Gulf Coast. Easy-to-use analytics revealed which jobs were in greatest demand and what technical skills, foundational skills, degree requirements, and industry certifications were required to obtain them. The data was game changing.
A System Transformed by Data
Lone Star College has completely overhauled its approach to decision-making as a result of its partnership with Burning Glass. College faculty and administrators now use real-time labor market data to evaluate dozens of workforce degree and certificate programs each year, determining where new capacity is needed and which programs should be created, revamped, expanded, or closed. The college continues to use other forms of data, including statistics from the Texas Workforce Commission and Department of Labor. However, Labor Insight provides more current and detailed job market information than any other source and its reports form the basis of every proposal. Industry representatives vet the data through focus groups that are far more efficient and informed than advisory meetings of the past. Members of the Chancellor’s Cabinet then consider student enrollment, program completion, and job re-entry data as well as financial projections (e.g., equipment, salaries, operating costs) to determine the best use of resources.
With as many as 50 program proposals researched per year, the impact of this data-driven process has been far-reaching.
- Three degree programs closed: Labor Insight data revealed that a few programs, including one in hotel management, were not well matched to local labor market needs. Hotels were looking for more than a two-year degree for management positions, and another local college already offered a strong four-year program. Lone Star decided to invest its resources elsewhere.
- Key programs overhauled: Some programs, including those in the Computer Information Technology department, while still relevant, were sorely out of date. Labor Insight data helped Lone Star faculty revamp its four IT degrees and related certificates, matching them to the most in-demand positions and ensuring that students in each track acquire the skills and industry certifications of greatest value to local employers.
- New program growth: Since 2011, Lone Star has modified many existing programs and added nine new associate’s degrees, three credit certificates, and 15 non-credit certificates. Many of these are in the oil and gas industry, where Labor Insight helped reveal a surplus of jobs at a refinery just beyond Lone Star’s typical geographic area. In response, the college has launched a new Energy and Manufacturing Institute and will be implementing five new Advanced Technology Centers where even more students will train for well-paying jobs in drilling, machining, engineering technology, process technology, information technology, truck driving, and more.
Impact Felt by All
In less than five years, Lone Star College has transformed itself into a cutting-edge workforce training institution and a force for positive economic growth in Greater Houston. Burning Glass data now feed decisions across the college system, helping faculty to refine curriculum rapidly in order to address skill gaps and inform strategic decisions by the chancellor and college leaders, and supply administrators with the data they need to plan partnerships at the state and national level. The college has seen a positive impact at many levels:
- Student demand: In 2014, more than half (3,200 out of 6,100) of Lone Star graduates completed career and technical degrees and certificates, a sign that students see value in its revamped programs.
- Increased revenue: Lone Star’s Corporate College, which offers customized incumbent worker training services, has seen a 20% per year growth in revenue as more businesses turn to the college for their retraining needs.
- Stronger relationships with industry: Lone Star administrators now enter conversations armed with data. As a result, high-level advisory conversations have grown more productive, and employers are showing their commitment by hiring graduates, donating equipment, and coming to the table as true partners in workforce development.
- Breaking new ground: In November 2014, Houston voters passed a $485 million bond referendum that will allow Lone Star to build five new brick-and-mortar facilities for its emerging programs in commercial construction, energy process technology, oil and gas drilling, truck driving, and logistics. This decision marks a real vote of confidence by the community in the college’s new direction.
Lone Star recently adopted the Burning Glass FOCUS suite, a set of tools that let students use real-time labor market data to understand trends in occupations of interest and make their own data-informed decisions when choosing a major and looking for an internship or permanent position. This represents one more step in an ongoing partnership with Burning Glass, one that is influencing how the entire college community does business.
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