Labor Market Information: Gauging Effectiveness in Preparing Students for the Workforce

By Alicia Crouch, Director of Research and Data Analysis and Baron Wolf, Coordinator of Institutional Research & Communications, both from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System

Effectively preparing students for the workforce and meeting the needs of employers are integral parts of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) mission. To gauge its effectiveness in these areas, KCTCS began performing regular matches of educational records and Kentucky’s unemployment insurance data in 2005. KCTCS uses this match and additional sources of traditional and real-time labor market information to inform accountability efforts, program approval, and curriculum review in an effort to support student success and employability.  

High Wage, High Demand Completions

KCTCS graduate data are combined with traditional labor market information (occupation wage rates and occupational projections) produced by the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. 

The goal of the high wage, high demand measure is to drive programming to increase the number of graduates trained to enter such occupations. The measure is defined as the number of unduplicated credentials in programs which prepare students for occupations with a median annual wage at or above Kentucky’s 75th percentile occupational wage ($47,150 in 20121) and projected to grow at a rate at or above the state average (12.4% through 20202) or produce 100+ annual job openings. 

The occupations in Figure 1 below are limited to those in the healthcare sector and to those that typically require an associate degree or below. There are four quadrants; the gray quadrant contains occupations defined by KCTCS as high wage, high demand programs for 2011-12 graduates.   

Figure 1. Occupational Wage and Demand Matrix - Healthcare - View Larger PDF Version (opens in new tab)

The graph contains four key pieces of information: 

  1. 2013 Median wage (x axis) - occupations to the right have higher wages;
  2. Projected percent change through 2020 (y axis) - occupations near the top are growing more quickly;
  3. Average annual openings - the larger the bubble, the higher the number of annual openings;
  4. KCTCS program offering - the colors of the bubbles indicate whether KCTCS offers programs to train for the occupations (yellow/gold = yes; blue = no). 

These bubble graphs are produced for each of the state’s Area Development Districts (ADDs) and for the six KCTCS targeted industry sectors (Healthcare, Banking and Finance, Construction, Transportation and Logistics, Energy, and Manufacturing). These industry sectors are aligned with the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board’s Sector Strategies.

KCTCS uses wage and demand quadrants to categorize existing and potential academic programs. Proposals for new programs must include documentation of anticipated employment outcomes for graduates. The KCTCS System Office has made this type of information easily accessible through an Institutional Intelligence system with the use of dashboards and special reports. Figure 2 below is an example for the Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse Training program. It contains the three occupations linked to credentials awarded in the program as well as the wage and projection information for an ADD, the state, and the nation. 

Figure 2. KCTCS Dashboard – Wage and Demand Quadrants


Online Occupational Wage and Demand Matrix 

In an effort to make this data more accessible to faculty, staff, general public, and state policy leaders, the KCTCS Office of Research and Policy Analysis has made this data available online in an interactive dashboard using Tableau. To access the most up-to-date Kentucky Occupational Wage and Demand data please visit our website.

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012 State Occupatuinal Employment and Wages Estimates
2 State Average on next line is Kentucky Occupational Outlook to 2020, Kentucky Office of Employment and Training 






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