Points of View

Longitudinal Data Systems in Michigan

Longitudinal Data Systems in Michigan

Kevin Stotts

From its start, Talent 2025 has promoted the idea that West Michigan’s economic future will be determined by the skills and education of its workforce. Competing in the 21st century talent landscape demands education and workforce systems that are designed for a global, knowledge- based economy.

 

As our Vision 20/20 report makes clear they’ve made progress, but to be effective these systems must be built on a foundation of high-quality data that measures the effectiveness of our education and workforce programs in delivering results for Michigan’s citizens, employers, and communities.

 

That transformation already is under way, and national studies predict it to accelerate, driven by the growing roles of automation and artificial intelligence. To compete in this environment, employers increasingly demand worker qualities – a combination of soft skills and technical expertise – that can be difficult to quantify with existing data systems.

 

Meanwhile, Michigan’s lagging levels of education and training relative to the nation, a declining birthrate and tight labor market have only added to the need for more sophisticated and detailed education and workforce data. To provide that information and to guide improvements, Michigan needs a best-in-class state longitudinal data system (SLDS) to quantify educational and training outcomes for youth and adults.

 

As a recent report by the National Skills Coalition points out, a best-in-class SLDS benefits everyone, “Policymakers can use this data to design and fund programs that help people gain skills and find good jobs; educators can use the data to adjust their programs based on outcomes; and students can use this data to find education and training that meets their needs.”

 

Our research of the Michigan SLDS funded by the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation found what appears to be one major challenge: A lack of access to longitudinal connections across K-12, post-secondary and workforce data in a way that allows for research, innovation and evaluation of institutions and individual programs.

 

As of December 2019, over $20 million in federal funding has been invested in Michigan’s SLDS. Along with employer demand for more sophisticated data, expectations for more capabilities have been rising for years among school administrators, community colleges, university researchers, the workforce system, and nonprofit workforce intermediaries. These expectations range from on-demand systems level data, to granular program level data, which could result in answers to a wide range of questions about education and workforce investments.

 

Michigan has a terrific opportunity to take a leadership role in the way it leverages education and workforce data to enhance the quality of our education and training institutions and organizations from cradle to career to produce the high-quality talent Michigan needs to compete in a global economy.