Bridging the Growing Skills Gap: Putting Career and Technical Education to Work
The growing gap between employers’ needs and our current workforce’s skills threatens the well-being of individual workers and the country’s economic security. Half of U.S. employers struggle to hire skilled workers, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The shortage of workers is particularly acute in health care, information technology, and other skilled trades.
In response, policymakers are developing innovative approaches to career and technical education (CTE) that prepare workers to drive their own success. To help policymakers and workers succeed, Mathematica studies a variety of secondary and post-secondary initiatives designed to arm the national workforce with the credentials and skills they need to meet current and future labor market demand. Our seasoned experts provide critical insight and analysis to help our clients bridge this skills gap.
Building collaborations to meet demand for skilled workers
- Students need learning paths that prepare them for the evolving skills required in high-demand jobs. The Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic convenes educators, institutions of higher education, and industry representatives to address this challenge, and develops resources such as the following to better align workforce supply and demand:
- An infographic and blog exploring the soft skills employers seek in new hires
- A fact sheet on research-based instruments for assessing soft skills
- An infographic that describes changing competencies workers will need throughout their careers
- Collaborations between school districts and other community partners can help connect youth to high-growth industries. Early results from our evaluation of the Youth CareerConnect grant program suggest that grantees succeeded in structuring their programs and implementing services, laying the foundation for a stronger workforce.
- As momentum builds around expanding apprenticeships, we’re supporting efforts to improve, replicate, and scale up these initiatives. Our study of Registered Apprenticeship programs in 10 states provides a critical benchmark for understanding the impacts of apprenticeship on wage gains and social benefits. We’re also analyzing the effectiveness of recent investment to expand state apprenticeships by the U.S. Department of Labor and continuing to look at ways to ensure that women and other traditionally underrepresented groups have access to the benefits of apprenticeship programs.
Serving the needs of those at risk
- High school dropouts are at risk of long-term unemployment. Together with our partner MDRC, we measured the impact of YouthBuild, a program that helps out-of-school youth learn construction skills geared toward career placement. The program increased participants’ completion of high school equivalency credentials, college enrollment, and involvement in vocational training, and it led to a small increase in wages and earnings 30 months after participants began the program.
- To help high school dropouts improve their job prospects, we’re evaluating the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe and Job ChalleNGe program, which aims to improve education, life skills, and employment potential. The study builds knowledge about how to boost employment and other outcomes for this group.
- High school students with disabilities face obstacles in their transition to adulthood. We’re studying a five-year initiative in Vermont to help them develop soft skills and professional networks, understand how their interests align with potential careers, and know what supports they need.
Improving prospects for dislocated and low-skilled adults
- Community colleges can serve as a key bridge between high school and the workforce. We studied three efforts to enhance education, employment, and training for dislocated and low-skilled workers through (1) competency-based information technology instruction, (2) health sciences training, and (3) supply chain management courses. We worked closely with community colleges to help them use administrative data to measure performance and improve programs.
- Finding ways to improve the life trajectories of low-skilled adults is a mounting policy challenge. To support CTE policy and practice, we provided technical support in evaluation and measurement to help grantees collect and analyze data to drive program improvements and provide evidence about effective strategies to enhance education, employment, and training for this group.
Grounding the path to progress
- We provide policymakers with valuable information about the evidence supporting a range of employment interventions, such as apprenticeship, on-the-job training, career academies, and community colleges through the Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research and the What Works Clearinghouse. For both clearinghouses, we systematically review the literature so that policymakers can access information about evidence-based interventions.
- To strengthen the academic content of CTE, we helped curriculum developers infuse more math into their curricula and enhance their teacher professional development plans.
Learn more about how Mathematica is continuing to reimagine the way the world gathers data and uses evidence to foster collaboration among key stakeholders, promote innovative practices, and support state and local efforts.