Data in Action: Real-Time Job Data Case StudyUniversity of Maryland, Baltimore County: Identifying Where the Jobs Are
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Deciding where to locate a graduate program
Geographical analysis of real-time labor market data
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 university has used our cutting-edge technology to inform decision making.
“Instead of sending our graduates out into the workforce and hoping for the best, we can now enhance placement services by providing students with detailed job listings in a highly targeted manner.”Christopher Steele
The Client: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Part of Maryland’s public university system, UMBC is an honors research university serving approximately 14,000 students. With a strategic location in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. corridor, the university is particularly attuned to a regional economy that is driven by government and government contractors, as well as biotech and systems engineering.
The Challenge: Where to Locate a Graduate Program?
UMBC expected strong demand when it inaugurated its Master’s in Professional Studies in Geographical Information Systems. Located at the university’s Shady Grove campus in Rockville, the GIS program is designed to provide early and mid-career professionals in the geospatial technology field with further education in database management, application development, and analytics.
But enrollment never reached the projected levels, and by 2012, the university was considering whether the program would be stronger if it was moved to the Baltimore campus. Based on other research, the university knew the city was a center of federal agencies involved in geographical information work, including the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Security Agency, and NASA. An intensive Saturday workshop program might better suit potential students, many of whom were already working in the field. Yet relocating and restructuring the format of a program is a big decision—how could university leaders be sure?
The Solution: Real-Time Labor Market Analytics
The university works hard to stay attuned to the labor market in making program decisions, drawing on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, faculty input, monitoring of changing federal policies, and a system of industrial advisory boards designed to keep professional schools in touch with employers. Still, the federal data available are often too high-level to be actionable, while the contacts with employers and faculty are vital but necessarily anecdotal.
With Labor Insight, the university could analyze job postings in the geospatial information field. Since Burning Glass’ network of robots spiders more than 40,000 job sites on a daily basis, the university was able not only to examine the labor market in real time but also to analyze the market over the previous year.
The numbers told an unexpected story: although Baltimore is close to federal agencies presumed to have strong demand for GIS skills, the Washington metropolitan area had a much more robust market for geospatial information jobs. In fact, there were more than 1,200 geospatial openings in Washington over the 12-month period examined, representing 11% of all the jobs nationwide in this field. By comparison, despite being a hub of activity, Baltimore only had 97 openings during the period. If the program had moved to Baltimore, UMBC would have inadvertently moved it away from its best pool of candidates.
If the program shouldn’t move, how should it evolve? The findings shaped next steps.
- Further national analysis showed that Washington was only one of three viable markets for a tightly focused course of study training geospatial application developers and users – a specialization which the university began to emphasize.
- Another analysis showed that two-thirds of the Washington area job postings were in Virginia, on the other side of the Potomac and of the D.C. metro area. So this confirmed the wisdom of intensive Saturday classes, one of the university’s original ideas, as a way to reach commuter students.
- The data revealed that most of the targeted job postings were from large defense contractors and engineering firms. UMBC was able to direct its recruitment efforts to those seeking to move up in these companies or to make a career switch into the field.
- Finally, placement programs now had access to a rich additional source of market data. “Instead of sending our graduates out into the workforce and hoping for the best, we can now enhance placement services by providing students with detailed job listings in a highly targeted manner,” said Christopher Steele, interim vice president for Professional Studies.
The data also complemented the university’s other information-gathering efforts. Equipped with analyses of the skills requested in job postings, university officials were able to have more detailed, more effective discussions with the members of their industry advisory boards who shape program content.
The fact that Labor Insight complements other forms of research is crucial, according to UMBC. No one source of information gives a complete picture of the labor market, and relying too much on one tool could lead decisions astray. In combination with the university’s industry connections, policy analysis, and other data sources, Labor Insights is a powerful tool.
“Real-time labor market data have the power to inform program development in a way that can enable continuing and professional studies units to keep pace with a dynamic job market and adapt to the needs of a changing workforce,” Steele said.
 Continuing Higher Education Review, “A View from UMBC: Using Real-Time Labor-Market Data to Evaluate Professional Program Opportunities,” Vol. 77, 2013
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