May 4, 2015

Learning More from the Data the Federal Government Already Collects

From: OMBlog

Posted by Aviva Aron-Dine

Last week the Departments of Labor and Education published the draft regulations implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  These proposed regulations, and the underlying WIOA legislation, will improve our Nation’s public workforce system by strengthening coordination and accountability. One of their most exciting features is that they would require States to produce standardized, easily-understandable “scorecards.” What that means is that – for the first time – workers choosing among different training programs that receive WIOA funding will be able to easily compare them on criteria that matter, like how much the program costs, the percent of participants who actually complete the program, and the average earnings of participants. Right now, workers seeking training may not even be able to find apples-to-apples data on how much different programs would cost, much less how their students fare in the job market. WIOA and the proposed regulations published last week seek to change that. In addition, the draft regulations put in place the WIOA requirement that States implement high-quality evaluations of the core WIOA employment, education, and training programs. That will let them improve workforce outcomes over time by learning which approaches work best and then scaling-up those approaches.

All of this is possible because the proposed regulations encourage States to leverage their “administrative data” for maximum effect. Administrative data are data that are already collected by government entities for program administration, regulatory, or law enforcement purposes. In this context, administrative data include, for example, participant enrollment information and State-held unemployment insurance (UI) records on employment and earnings.  Being able to match these data is essential for States to reliably and cost-effectively generate accurate information about the employment outcomes that employment, education, and training programs achieve. It’s equally essential that States conduct these matches while protecting the privacy or confidentiality of these data, and that we ensure that personally identifiable, individual-level data are not disclosed to private entities without an individual’s consent.  The proposed regulations provide clarity on the structures that States can use to do that: match participant enrollment information, including information from training providers, with State-held UI employment and earnings records while maintaining the privacy and confidentiality.

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