How Data Can Help Students Transition to the Workforce

Capital One is supporting Harvard’s Project on Workforce to create a tool that examines local worker trends and graduate growth

Moving from the education system to a career isn't always straightforward. That's where Harvard’s Project on Workforce and the Capital One Foundation came together to create a new data tool designed to smoothen the transition. 

The College-to-Jobs Map visualizes how local worker trends align with college graduate growth in regions around the country. The tool allows users to dive into regional labor market changes and discover college graduate and workforce information. It also strives to convene higher education leaders, economic development professionals, policymakers and employers to better understand education and workforce trends.

As the primary funder of the map, the Capital One Foundation is supporting Harvard’s Project on Workforce efforts to develop an interactive tool that can help to build a prosperous and inclusive workforce by drawing the connection between colleges, economic mobility and regional economic development.

This tool was launched alongside the College-to-Jobs Playbook, a whitepaper authored by Harvard’s Project on Workforce that identifies 13 “interventions” that could be implemented within the college ecosystem to ease the transition into the workforce.

Learn more about this collaboration through a Q&A with David Deming, Co-chair of Harvard’s Project on Workforce and Professor of Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Q: What inspired the creation of the College-to-Jobs Initiative?

A: Looking around the world, the U.S. has one of the most dynamic labor markets and higher education systems. Yet the institutions that connect these two systems are highly underdeveloped. The U.S. spends about 20% less than the average of other member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on active labor market policies, which help people transition from education to the workforce. 

Our system is open and forgiving. It provides opportunities for second chances, but it also leaves people to their own devices, often with little guidance. For higher-income folks who may have known what they wanted to do for a long time because they had seen their parents succeed, the system works pretty well. They can access social capital and other resources to figure out what they want to do. But people without the same resources can easily slip through the cracks.

What’s missing is not so much funding or commitment, but rather the connective tissue that links institutions together. 

Q: What outcomes can establishing connections between education and workforce opportunities create for students?

A: Harvard’s Project on Workforce seeks to provide better and more consistent information to job seekers, employers, educational institutions, governments and policymakers around identifying the career pathways that don’t just lead to a good first job, but also pay family sustaining wages, are present in multiple labor markets and are areas of growth that are a plausible pathway. 

For example, every town has a hospital or a medical center and almost all of them are hiring. So in thinking about building career pathways in allied health fields such as medical technicians and assistants, how do you go from an entry level position to gaining the various certifications needed as an individual advances. In many towns there may only be one medical center and one community college, so it really matters for workers to be able to navigate the pathway. 

At the Project for Workforce we try to provide this kind of information and then, at a high level, talk about partnerships that have succeeded in certain places and better understand why. The College-to-Jobs map shows people specifically what jobs are and aren’t growing in certain areas, and identifies potential mismatches. Its goal is to be used as a jumping off point to better understand their situations and start conversations rather than end them. 

Q: In a perfect world, how would this tool be used?

A: Our intention with building this tool was to make as big of an impact as possible, meaning that it examines areas nationwide to spur conversations with individuals that can use this data to draw their own conclusions based on the local knowledge they have. 

The data is just a starting point because there’s always more that’s not being captured. It’s the combination of outside content with data that may lead to some of the best decision making. I’m hoping that this tool will be a place that people will go to check their intuitions so that they start from a place of having the best possible information. 

Our goal is for this tool to make a small impact in a bunch of places which will ultimately add up to a large impact. 

Q: How do you see the tool evolving over time?

A: Part of what we’re doing is highlighting that bridging this connective tissue between education and employment data is possible and getting people excited about future things that they can do. This tool has the potential to have a big impact because it shows people what’s possible.  We hope that this is just the beginning of a larger movement to link education and employment data together to inform decision-making and improve economic outcomes for students.

Q: How did the Capital One Foundation support the College-to-Jobs Initiative?

A: The Capital One Foundation was the first sponsor to fund this first of its kind program. It provided the funding for us to stand up this tool, which wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Capital One’s Commitment to Improving the Talent Pipeline

The Project on Workforce’s College-to-Jobs initiative provides valuable data and information to drive  cross-sector collaborations that will better connect students to good jobs. 

Capital One’s partnership with Harvard Project on Workforce is a natural extension of our commitment to advancing a more inclusive and equitable economy, which comes to life through the Capital One Impact Initiative, an initial $200 million multi-year commitment that strives to advance socioeconomic mobility in underserved communities.

“We at Capital One have learned that these interventions, the scaffolding and infrastructure, are essential — not just access to the job,” says Andy Navarrete, Head of External Affairs at Capital One. “I would think that we ought to be looking at college in the same way. So much focus for communities of color in particular have been on college access rather than college persistence and then college value. If we look at these interventions as opportunities to level the playing field, you find that the entire ecosystem will operate in a much stronger way. We’re really excited to be a part of this effort because this completion of the ecosystem and the recognition of all these interventions operating in concert is something that we think is perhaps the secret sauce to solving some of these issues going forward.” 

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