How Colleges Can Create Programs That Will Actually Produce Revenue

As higher education enrollment rates continue to decline, the pressure to meet enrollment targets is growing. This pressure can cause institutions to hastily add new programs without clear strategies in mind, causing continued poor enrollment rates and large costs to the institution.

Higher education institutions are now analyzing real-time labor market data to ensure their programs are providing their students with the right education while producing revenue for their school. Labor market data allows you to identify the demand for all jobs in any given region, as well as the skills that make up those jobs. This information fuels new program development and reshapes curricula to match every students’ skill set to the jobs in the labor market.

How to Create Programs Based on Trends—the Right Way 

New and emerging trends are popping up in the news every day, from blockchain to drone technology. It may seem like a smart idea to jump on the bandwagon and begin building programs for these new trends. Surely there’s going to be demand for workers, and you can get ahead of the game and set your students up for promising jobs, like Montclair State University is doing with bitcoin. Right?

But how do you know if a trend represents a real opportunity for your institution? What if you misjudge the demand for workers, or the skills the workers will require?

Basing a new program on a gut feeling or educated guess isn’t the best way to create a new program, especially when the start-up cost can range from $100,000 to millions of dollars.

“People don’t really know if anyone will show up for that program. You add an engineering program and you’re wrong and that’s a few million dollars,” said Bob Atkins, CEO of Gray Associates, in a recent Hechinger Report article.

Let’s look at a real-life example on wind energy.

Wind energy is on the rise in the US. It’s projected that by 2050 the U.S. will more than quadruple wind energy capacity across the country.

Based on this information, an institution may think it’s a great idea to start a program to produce local wind turbine technicians. This could be a smart idea, but it depends where the institution is located since wind speed varies greatly by location. As you can see by the below map, the highest wind speeds range from North Dakota down to Texas.

After quickly running a report in Burning Glass’s data analysis tool, Labor Insight, we can see that demand for Wind Turbine Technicians is very high in Texas. However, it’s significantly lower in states like New York and Nebraska. 


So, if an institution in Texas wants to create a program for wind turbine technicians, there will be plenty of career potential for these graduates. However, if an institution in New York wants to create the same program, then there will be much lower demand for local wind turbine technicians.

By analyzing labor market data, institutions can quickly understand demand in their region, along with insights from local employers. Using an unbiased, third party source of data allows you to quickly understand the market demand from a high level. Labor market data also allows you to look at previous data and projected data to see if there is consistent demand.

Read how the University of Wisconsin—Madison used real-time labor market data to cut their data analysis time in half when researching new program ideas.

Create Programs Based on Emerging Skills 

A great way to create programs is by basing them on new and emerging skills, because emerging skills show promising, rapid growth in the labor market over the next ten years. Adding these skills into your institution’s programs will help increase the likelihood that your students will be qualified for great job opportunities once they graduate.

Burning Glass Technologies’ higher education tool, Program Insight, recently added a new Explore Skills feature that allows you to find these emerging skills that will be needed for the future workforce.

If you aren’t sure where to start or which skills to research, that’s okay. Program Insight will show you the fastest growing skills in your region or industry. Or you can validate whether or not there is an actual need for a specific job or skill set, like wind turbine tech jobs in Texas or New York.

You can also see how much the skills are projected to grow in the next five years. Program Insight data is gathered directly from online job postings, and it’s updated every day from over 40,000 sources. This trusted source of data can help your institution create new programs that are aligned to the labor market, setting your students, and your school, up for success.

How to Find Emerging Skills

Let’s look at a real example from Program Insight where we’ll find emerging skills in Information Technology.

In the below image, you can see that some of the IT skills that are projected to grow at an explosive rate (over 100%) are Amazon Redshift, Cloud Foundry, and Amazon DynamoDB. Other IT skills that will grow at a very fast rate (50-100%) are Google Drive, API Management,  Oauth, and AWS Simple Storage Service (S3). Program Insight also provides you with the job posting demand, salaries, skill versatility (how many different occupations commonly request the skill), number of employers, and more.

By understanding which skills are relatively new to the market, you can then create programs around the skills that are going to be in great demand by employers. Your prospective students won’t have these skills, and the competition likely isn’t teaching these skills either. Get ahead of the competition and create new programs that will set your students up for the best jobs of tomorrow.


With Program Insight, you can see data for the entire nation or you can easily drill into any location, from state to metro area to county. Program Insight also allows you to explore by occupations, programs and for-credit certificates, as well as skills and skill clusters (a group of similar skills). 


Give Graduates the Skills to Avoid Underemployment 

One of the crucial challenges facing college graduates is underemployment: being stuck in a job that doesn’t require a college degree. According to our recent study with Strada Education Network, The Permanent Detour, four in 10 college graduates are underemployed in their first job. Further analysis in our report Majors That Matter found that not all majors are the same, and some seemingly promising majors, such as Business and Biology, actually have high rates of underemployment.

The key to setting  students up for success is adding new and emerging skills to majors that otherwise might lead graduates to underemployment. For instance, majors such as Business, Management, and Marketing can add skills such as social media, budgeting, Salesforce, SQL, and account management to broaden a student’s skill set and make them more valuable in the job market.  For more insights on how to help your students avoid underemployment, read our latest report, Majors That Matter.

Labor market information allows you to get ahead of the market by building programs for the future workforce. Start discovering the skills that need to be included in your programs today. Contact us to learn how.

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