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How to use state demand data to launch or revitalize programs

May 13, 2022

When invited to design new programs, faculty and institutional leaders often fall back on the familiar: develop a specialization in my research area, add a prestigious terminal degree in our field, and see what our peers have been developing. In conversations to improve existing programs, the path is similar-or concludes that, if just given additional resources, a program could be more successful.

These stagnant approaches could lead to developing programs that are misaligned with student needs and market demand. Leaders of graduate, online, professional, and other adult-serving programs can spark more productive discussions and ultimately achieve more successful launches and robust portfolio development.

Each year, the Professional & Adult Education Forum analyzes statewide employer demand data. This informs state demand profiles with the top requested skills, employers with greatest demand, and most frequently posted occupations for each state. Beyond the data, the state demand profiles offer discussion questions and guidance for how to use the data and insight into select data points where numbers alone do not tell the whole story.

Read on for three ways to leverage employer demand data in program decision-making.


Leverage labor intelligence to identify and motivate employer partners

Labor market intel allows universities to approach prospective employer partners with a more granular understanding of potential training and educational needs. Employer partners can offer:

  • Insight into nuanced needs via program advisory boards
  • Access to high-potential audiences in need of education
  • Opportunities for current students’ experiential learning and alumni employment

Updated Color - TPE v ESN

Reposition and scale existing programs

Refreshing existing programs can help maximize investments already made in programs with the potential to grow.

Updated Color - Most Commonly Sought Job Skills

EAB Data Insights

While data analytics skills are often requested in directly aligned occupations such as “Data Scientists and Mathematical Science,” these skills are increasingly requested within other occupations such as “Marketing Managers,” “Medical and Health Service Managers,” and “Registered Nurses.”

Job postings seeking data analysis skills also list specific programming languages, most often requiring SQL, followed by Python.

Opportunity for Program Improvement

Add data analysis courses or concentrations into programs. Also consider designing the curriculum to prepare students for programming certifications (e.g., Certified Associate in Python Programming). Below are concentration/certificate ideas based on degree topic:

  • STEM: Health Informatics, Applied Data Analytics
  • Business: MBA with a concentration in Data Analytics
  • Liberal Arts: Social Science Analytics

Generate new program ideas aligned to students’ motivations and employers’ needs

Employer demand can also ignite new offerings. Once discussions have identified gaps between employers’ needs and available offerings, explore what programming could teach those valuable skills and prepare students to enter those hot jobs.

Updated Color - Top Skills...Amazon

A closer look at job postings from Amazon
  • Amazon is one of the top employers in Virginia.
  • Top skills Amazon requested in 2021 from bachelor’s- and master’s-level professionals nationwide included computer science, software development, and automation.
  • Once discussions have identified gaps between employers’ needs and available offerings, explore what programming could teach these and other in-demand skills to prepare students to enter the workforce.
  • Demand for professionals with digital revolution skills, including knowledge of automation, artificial intelligence, and big data, grew 68% over the past three years, on average.
  • What new technology credentials should we offer to stay current with the market?
  • Computer science skills are in-demand but we’re not teaching automation in our programs. Could we utilize resources from existing and adjacent programs to build in-demand skills into course offerings?

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