The University of ConnecticutMaking Thoughtful Program Decisions with Labor Market Data
The University of Connecticut is home to over 32,000 students and offers undergraduate, graduate, online, and certificate programs.
Peter Diplock, the Associate Vice Provost for the Center of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), and his team are responsible for supporting the launch of new graduate degrees and certificate programs. Academic departments will often develop a graduate certificate, typically 4 courses or 12 credit hours, to validate the level of demand in an area. In most cases they then turn their efforts to developing a graduate degree in the same area, rolling up the certificate courses in a manner that someone who has completed the certificate can seamlessly continue to earn their degree. These programs are designed to address identified needs by employers for upskilling and reskilling their workforce. For example, the Advanced Business Certificate in Business Analytics teaches business professionals how data analytics skills can be applied to make better business decisions. Students who take these courses are looking to gain additional skills or to determine if they should pursue a graduate degree in this field of study.
In order to create new certificate programs, the team started by gathering labor market data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and researching other institution’s programs to identify opportunities for new programs aligned with labor market needs.
“Coming up with actionable data was a very disjointed effort. The government data was imprecise and dated,” said Diplock. To create the data-driven infrastructure for new programs, the University of Connecticut needed a better way to understand labor demand to ensure students were learning the correct skills and for the institution to stay ahead of the competition and the available research didn’t provide the level of granularity needed to make these program decisions.
“This data provides academic leaders with greater assurances they wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Understanding the Demand and Evaluating New Course Opportunities
The University of Connecticut turned to Burning Glass Technologies to get the labor market data they needed to understand demand and evaluate new program opportunities.
With Burning Glass data, the institution has established more than 30 new graduate programs and reviewed more than 20 existing programs. The CETL built reports in Labor Insight to examine employer demand and specified which skills graduates need for specific professions, while also looking to situate the competitive landscape by checking out degree conferrals and trends competitor institutions. This enabled programs to pinpoint skill clusters and create alignment in programming like never before.
For example, Diplock and his team noticed an increased demand for data analytics skills in positions that had not traditionally asked for these skills like, project coordinator or account manager. Using Labor Insight enabled the team to gauge the different value of graduate certificates vs. master’s degrees and enabled the team to drill down into emerging areas like Data Science and Applied Data Analytics. Coupled with Program Insight™, Diplock and his team could quickly assess the competitive landscape and identify other valuable information including top employers regionally and nationally.
Being able to identify and subsequently connect with employers is an important piece of the research process since they are another important data point to validate the efficacy of program design and curriculum.
This data has enabled them to rethink their approach to data science and applied data analytics, and inform their current strategy to launch multiple programs in this area that are differentiated from the competition.
Lessons for Future Work
Validating new academic program ideas has enabled the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to better understand the labor market and employer needs in a way that ultimately benefits enrolled students by helping to ensure they have the skills employers want. “This data provides academic leaders with greater assurances they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Diplock.
By analyzing skills in demand and labor market trends, Diplock and the University of Connecticut team can keep programs up-to-date and more effectively and critically examine opportunities for new programs.
Labor Insight™ enabled the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning to critically examine new academic program ideas and provide institutional leaders with a greater assurance of success. The labor market data available provided the information needed to make thoughtful and intentional decisions to set the University of Connecticut apart from the competition.