National Support System:  Using Data Sources & Tools

M-SAMC Quick Tips Information Guide Series

A set of resources that introduces data sources and tools to help college faculty and staff work smarter in a competency-based education environment.

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How much does the manufacturing sector contribute to my regional economy?

Learn how to find the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by metropolitan statistical area using tools from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by metropolitan area is the measure of the market value of all final goods and services produced within a metropolitan area in a particular year. It is an important measure of the size of a regional economy. This can be an important measure for college staff preparing grant applications because it can demonstrate the importance of a given sector (e.g., Manufacturing) to its regional economy. These data are available from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis at the national, state, and metropolitan statistical area level.

How many people are completing programs in neighboring colleges?

Learn how to determine program completion rates of students in your college and colleges in the surrounding area.

All institutions of higher education submit information about their completers to the US Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These data are then compiled into NCES’ Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS). You can access IPEDS data through NCES’ College Navigator Tool. One of the many things this tool can do is help college staff determine the output of college programs at their neighboring schools. This will allow them to quickly assess the capacity and output of their neighboring or competing colleges.

What are the common occupations in a given industry?

Learn how to estimate the occupational mix of a specific industry using tools provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Different industries employ workers from a variety of occupations. Using the national staffing patterns matrix, we are able to estimate the occupational mix within a given industry. This information can prove helpful for colleges, as it may allow them to estimate the occupational demand of a new company in their region, or conversely the occupational composition of workers displaced from a large company that has closed or relocated. This information is available for each industry at the national level through the US Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

How to convert job titles to occupation codes.

Learn how to convert job titles to standard occupational classification codes.

There are a myriad number of titles describing any one specific job. In many instances, multiple job titles can be used to describe a job with a common set of tasks. In order for Labor Market Information providers to collect wage and employment information about jobs in a standardized and consistent manner, they must classify jobs as occupations. This classification system is known as the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). Therefore before accessing wage and employment data, researchers have to convert job titles to SOC codes. Data users can use the O*Net-SOC Autocoder to find the right SOC code to match the job title in which they are interested.

What levels of educational attainment are found in your area?

Learn how to find educational attainment levels of individuals found in your area.

Community college staff often must understand their area’s basic demographic characteristics to understand their market for potential students and help strengthen arguments in grant and funding proposals. Educational attainment levels are important demographic characteristics of relevance to community colleges. These data can be drawn from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is an ongoing survey conducted by the US Census Bureau. Five years of data are collected to generate a sample size large enough to produce statistically significant results.

What is the unemployment rate for your region?

Learn how to find the unemployment rate for your region using tools from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate in your region provides the percent of workers in your labor market who are currently out of work, but actively seeking employment. These data are often used in grant writing and are important for measuring the relative strength of the regional labor market, or the amount of distress in a given labor market. These data are available through the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. Unemployment rates are available for states, metropolitan statistical areas, counties or equivalents and cities of 25,000 or more.

How many manufacturers are located in your metro area?

Learn how to find the number of manufacturers located in your region.

In order to better meet the needs of your region’s manufacturing sector, it is important to know the scale and scope of manufacturing firms in your area. The US Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns data provides information about the employment size, but also about the number of manufacturing establishments and how many are large firms and how many are small or medium-sized manufacturers. These data can prove important in preparing grants or for corporate college representatives in preparing a strategy for engaging manufacturers.

How big is my region’s manufacturing sector compared to other counties in my state?

Learn how to compare individual industries by county in your state.

The employment size of a given sector or industry can provide some indication of the importance of that sector to a county or how that county compares to the rest of the state. For community colleges, this information can provide some indication of the potential demand for different kinds of programs or allow that college to justify efforts to support those industries with training programs. The primary source for this kind of industry employment data is the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, or QCEW. The QCEW draws on data from the Unemployment Insurance program to provide information about job counts and wages within a given industry.

What proportion of my industry's workforce is age 55 or older?

Learn how to find demographic information, including age distribution, for your industry using Quarterly Workforce Indicators.

Knowing the demographics of a given industry can prove important for many college faculty and staff. For instance, the age distribution of an industry can provide some indication as to whether companies in an industry are likely to face mass retirements as the baby boom generation retires. It can also provide some indication about the ages of students involved in incumbent worker training. In order to access this information, we will use Quarterly Workforce Indicators data set developed collaboratively by the US Census Bureau and State Labor Market Information agencies.

What are the demographics of workers living within a 30 mile radius of my college?

Learn how to find demographic information of workers within a specific distance of your college.

Knowing the demographics of the college’s service area is vital for community college administrators, grant writers and staff. The demographics of the surrounding workforce can be particularly important as many college programs are designed to train the region’s existing workforce. In order to access this information, we will use the OnTheMap web application developed collaboratively by the US Census Bureau and State Labor Market Information agencies.

How much should a worker in a given occupation be making in my region?

Learn how to find occupational wage information in your region.

Occupational wages are important pieces of information for staff at many colleges. For instance, they can help faculty set expectations for students looking to select a career, or help inform colleges about whether their programs prepare workers for quality jobs.

How has my region’s population grown?

Learn how to find population changes using US Census Bureau information.

Understanding the dynamics of regional population growth is important for colleges to track. Simply put, growth areas can create more potential demand for educational services. This can influence not only college growth strategies, but may also factor into how colleges staff satellite campuses. There are a number of population sources, and one of the most common and trusted annual sources comes from the US Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program. The population estimates program develops estimates for the nation, states, counties, cities and towns, and metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas.

How do you determine if you have a competitive advantage in a given industry?

Learn how to determine if you have a competitive advantage in your industry.

Calculating location quotients is a commonly used method for determining the relative competitiveness of a given industry within a given region. This can allow practitioners to better understand the industries that potentially have a regional competitive advantage.

"Aligning Education with Employer Needs"

Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (M-SAMC)

5101 Evergreen Road, Dearborn, MI 48128

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Unless otherwise noted this M-SAMC Website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

This workforce solution was funded by a grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. The solution was created by the grantee and does not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor makes no guarantees, warranties, or assurances of any kind, express or implied, with respect to such information, including any information on linked sites and including, but not limited to, accuracy of the information or its completeness, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, continued availability, or ownership.

*AMTEC is supported entirely by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technology Education (ATE) Program Grant (0903193). (AMTEC,NSF ATE DUE-0903193)