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New Data Tools Connect American Workers to Education and Job Opportunities

After she was infected with Lyme disease at age 6, Olivia was hospitalized for months, and suffered blackouts and the inability to walk for long stretches of her young life.  She had a dream of creating tools that would help other kids in her position. At 14, she is the inventor of Tick Tracker, a global app that uses federal data to help people identify ticks around them, and the founder of the LivLyme foundation. Because of her supportive family and access to STEM educational resources and opportunities, she was able to create a product that will help people around the world.

Starting his career in the Marines as an Arabic linguist in Iraq, Sergeant Lane received two years of language training, as well as developed skills in listening, interpreting, and processing complex situations under pressure.  He returned to the civilian workforce seeking a career change, but, given the largely credential based hiring process of most employers, he stayed in the Defense Department orbit fighting IEDs.  Years later, he became an expert in geospatial data and product development, helping veteran owned businesses like to create tools that leverage AI to help veterans connect with apprenticeship opportunities and seek out new career paths that help them to move beyond the restraints created by conventional hiring methods.

The Opportunity Project

These are the real stories of the people that recently participated in the Census Bureau initiative called The Opportunity Project—a novel, collaborative effort between government agencies, technology companies, and nongovernment organizations to translate government open data into user-friendly tools that solve real world problems for families, communities, and businesses nationwide.  On March 1, they came together to share their projects at The Opportunity Project’s Demo Day. Projects like theirs help veterans, aspiring technologists, and all Americans connect with the career and educational opportunities, like Bryan and Olivia did. 

One barrier for many American students and workers is the lack of clear data to help match them with educational opportunities and jobs.  Students want information on the best courses that lead to high paying and high demand jobs. Job seekers want to find the jobs that best match their skills, or where to find new skills that open up career development opportunities.  Despite the increasing availability of big data and the long-standing, highly regarded federal statistical system, there remain significant data gaps about basic labor market questions.

  • What is the payoff of a bachelor’s degree versus an apprenticeship, 2-year degree, industry certification, or other credential?
  • What are the jobs of the future?  Which jobs of today also will be the jobs of the future? What skills and experience do companies value most? 

The Opportunity Project brings government, communities, and companies like IBM, the veteran-led, and Nepris together to create tools to answer simple questions related to education, employment, health, transportation, housing, and many other matters that are critical to helping Americans advance in their lives and careers. 

A Call for a National Workforce Strategy

President Trump has made data—and innovative efforts like The Opportunity Project—a core part of his new national workforce strategy.  In July 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order calling for a comprehensive workforce strategy to “ensure that America’s students and workers have access to affordable, relevant, and innovative education and job training that will equip them to compete and win in the global economy.” 

Through the Executive Order, President Trump created the interagency National Council for the American Worker to draft and implement the new effort.  Among its initial tasks, this Council will propose ways to

  • increase access to available job data, including data on industries and geographic locations with the greatest numbers of open jobs and projected future opportunities, as well as the underlying skills required to fill open jobs. 
  • use existing data tools to support informed decision making for American students and workers.

Pilot Data on College Graduates’ Earnings

The Census Bureau already is meeting this call on multiple fronts.  For example, the agency has begun to publish new data on college graduates’ earnings by institution and field of study through the pilot Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes (PSEO) program. PSEO data can provide valuable insights for students deciding on their course of study. Additionally, this program strengthens our understanding of the connection between educational pathways and job opportunities. Not surprisingly, public education systems are clamoring to join this pilot, with several states and public higher education systems to be added in 2019.

The Opportunity Project’s Demo Day 2018

On March 1, the Census Bureau showcased several new education and employment tools developed through The Opportunity Project.  Among the more than 20 new tech tools presented in The Opportunity Project’s Demo Day were four that directly fulfill President Trump’s call to help American students and workers.

  • Veteran Apprenticeship Matcher
    Civis Analytics partnered with SkillsEngine, a workforce development and technology nonprofit, to create an algorithm that uses Department of Labor data and Natural Language Processing to show veterans the most relevant registered apprenticeships based on their declared skills, interests, and military history.

Career Nav’s tool CareerNav uses data from the Department of Labor's O*NET Database and Bureau of Labor Statistics to help veterans translate their skills as well as visualize career and educational steps toward reaching their dream jobs.

  • IBM Watson Employment Manager
    IBM’s tool Watson Employment Manager uses the Department of Labor’s Career One Stop, O*NET,, and Google Maps’ data to provide career recommendations on potential job/apprenticeship matches based on conceptual search and training recommendations, in addition to skill gap analysis.
  • Nepris Industry Connections
    Nepris Industry Connections platform uses Department of Labor O*NET data to link relevant and authentic industry content to actual job descriptions to provide learners and job seekers opportunities for career exploration and exposure.

The four new tools highlighted above are just the beginning.  This year, The Opportunity Project is supporting American workers by issuing a call for new workforce-related data projects. At the same time, data sources like the Census Bureau’s Post-Secondary Employment Outcomes program create new opportunities to develop solutions that improve access to economic opportunity.