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NCWE Board Member Blog - Paula Nissen
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The Power of Data in Reaching Goals

    Paula Nissen
    Education Programs Consultant
    Iowa Department of Education



Effective educational programs and the value placed on credentials as an outcome, have become an important policy goal for any state striving to increase the prosperity of its residents. Many state and national initiatives have begun to not only identify the existing education and training level of its population, but the type of training and credentials needed to meet the demand of employers. The only way to address the supply and demand questions is to conduct quality data collection and analysis.

National entities such as the Lumina Foundation and Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce have published state-by-state comparisons illustrating the future job demand and education levels of the population based on credential attainment, so that states can begin to plan. Drilling down into data for your state in order to target particular in-demand occupations and respond with appropriate training programs, may include partnerships with agencies that collect and retain relevant data.

Iowa’s community colleges conduct in-depth program outcomes analysis every year. The Iowa Department of Education’s Division of Community Colleges has partnered with Iowa Workforce Development to match state and national wage records to community college education data. This gives workforce education professionals the ability to monitor the outcomes of students enrolled in Iowa’s community colleges by program.

The longitudinal report titled Education Outcomes: Certificate, Diploma, and Associate Degree Programs, is published annually and answers the questions regarding the outcomes of students completing community college programs. This report and other related interactive web resources, provide institutional level data designed to inform community college administrators and policymakers as they engage in future demand planning and program improvement. This analysis is designed to measure the engagement, achievement and transition of students as they move in and out of education and work. Data and its analysis empowers states to make sound career choices by students and workers as they enter, continue, and advance along in-demand career pathways.

In Iowa, the majority of the occupations which are in-demand typically require an associate degree or less. In fact, there are many that are non-credit programs that address the skills needed for in-demand occupations. For example, heavy truck drivers are in high-demand in Iowa (over 1,000 openings per year). The community colleges offer a non-credit Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) program which, once completed, allows the student to sit for their CDL exam through the Department of Transportation.

Registered Nurses are also in high demand in Iowa with over 1,000 annual openings. In 2015, there were 1,199 students who completed their Associate of Applied Science degree at Iowa’s community colleges. Over one-third (413 students) continued their education through transfer and 772 (98.2 percent) of the remaining students became employed within the first year following completion of their program in registered nursing.

Educating students on in-demand careers assists in addressing the supply and demand balance that many states face. Using the power of data to make sound decisions helps states meet the goals that many have set for themselves with regard to bridging the gap.


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