Data in Action: Real-Time Job Data Case StudyNortheastern University: Rapid Growth Guided by Real-Time Jobs Data
Where should the university invest in new program growth?
Use cutting-edge data to vet each growth opportunity
Burning Glass’s user-friendly Labor Insight™ tool provides real-time job market information that helps educators, policy makers, and others make timely decisions that result in better outcomes for job seekers and employers. This case study describes how one college has used our cutting-edge technology to inform workforce decisions statewide.
The Client: Northeastern University
Northeastern University, a Boston-based research university, has long distinguished itself as a leader in cooperative and experiential learning models that integrate academic study with work-based learning. More recently, Northeastern has made a mark as one of the fastest-growing providers of online and hybrid degrees and certificates for professionals. In 2011 and 2012, the university launched new satellite campuses in Charlotte, NC, and Seattle. In addition, in 2015 Northeastern announced a new hub in Silicon Valley.
The Question: Where Should the University Invest in New Program Growth?
In 2009, Northeastern established the Office of Strategy and Market Development to assess and pursue innovative opportunities for growth. University leaders saw an opportunity to grow its student base and impact and position Northeastern ahead of its peers by expanding the university’s reach beyond its Boston campus. That included the possibility of developing online and hybrid programs that would prepare students for the needs of growing knowledge-based industries. This new office was tasked with determining which areas held the greatest potential for success.
The Solution: Use Cutting-Edge Data to Vet Each Growth Opportunity
To carry out these ambitious plans, Northeastern wanted to expand its market intelligence sources and tools to include leading-edge data and analytics that would reveal emerging job market needs and help identify geographies and degree areas with strong growth potential. The university’s team of analysts draws on the best data sources available, including Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts, the National Center for Education Statistics, state-level employment data, and employer surveys, to answer these and other market questions.
A New Frontier: Real-Time Labor Market Data
Northeastern added the Burning Glass Labor Insight™ tool to its research arsenal in 2010. As an early adopter, the university agreed to provide feedback to help Burning Glass refine the system’s capabilities. Even during its beta stage, Labor Insight™ presented a new horizon for the university’s market research with real-time data about employer needs, for example, providing reliable data on educational qualifications, desired skill sets, and so on. As the interface evolved and the analytics grew more sophisticated, Labor Insight became a go-to source for Northeastern’s Office of Strategy and Market Development, informing dozens of in-depth market analyses each year and many more just-in-time inquiries.
Burning Glass data have been particularly useful in guiding four types of recurring decisions:
- Whether to pursue new programs: When an idea for a new degree program arises, it’s the job of Northeastern’s analysts to test its merits. With detailed, real-time data, Northeastern analysts can stay ahead of job market trends, highlighting growth in emerging and interdisciplinary fields — like health informatics or nanotechnology — that can’t be tracked as easily in more static sources. These analyses have contributed to the university’s decisions to move forward with more than a dozen new and revised programs, including a suite of degrees and certificates in the data sciences. Perhaps even more valuable, analyses of Labor Insight and other data have also informed the university’s decisions about how to proceed when a proposed program has a small or limited market.
- How to shape curricula: Labor Insight data can help faculty and other academic leaders to prioritize the skills and concentration areas that are in greatest demand by employers as they shape new curricula. Labor Insight’s fine-grained job posting information can be particularly useful in shaping new programs with little precedent, such as the recently launched Master’s in Legal Studies. The legal studies planning team reviewed job posting data to pinpoint industries, like finance and biotech, that showed the greatest demand for legal skills and to identify additional skills required within each sector. These data helped the faculty decide which legal studies concentrations to develop and which ideas to set aside.
- Which new geographies to explore: Northeastern has focused its expansion efforts on leading U.S. knowledge-based economies — places with strong employment levels and where an advanced degree from Northeastern would be an asset. Labor Insight data, in combination with other indicators, have helped the university identify regions matching those criteria. The university’s first two regional campuses, in Charlotte and Seattle, enroll graduate-level students seeking to advance within their fields or move into other industries. Each campus offers a mix of online and hybrid programs in fields like information security and project management, areas where Northeastern had an established track record and where market data revealed unmet local demand. Labor Insight data have helped the university to tailor these programs to each region, as necessary, emphasizing the skills most valued by area employers.
- Who are the right industry partners: Using Labor Insight, Northeastern can see which employers are actively hiring in relevant sectors or geographic region. The university uses this information to identify promising partners for its experiential learning programs and to solicit industry input as it develops new curricula. Burning Glass data help the university vet proposals that come from employers as well, checking whether there is enough market demand to merit further exploration of a new venture.
- Where to target marketing efforts: Labor Insight helps the university determine where marketing dollars will be most effective. Analysts look for clusters of job activity—for example, health research around Atlanta or cybersecurity in the Bay Area—and marketing staff use that information to target advertising, promoting degree programs in regions and across channels that are more likely to have people seeking advancement in those fields.
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