Photo of Miami’s skyline by Ryan Parker on Unsplash

How a new Miami partnership seeks to close equity gaps in tech jobs

This week’s issue looks at assessments designed to tap diverse talent for free data science training in Miami, wage gaps for women in Colorado, and how a two-year college in N.Y. tweaked course scheduling based on job skills. (To get this newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.)


Assessments and Equity

Miami is making a push to be a global tech hub. But the campaign led by Francis X. Suarez, the city’s Republican mayor, faces a big challenge: a history of gaping equity gaps for lucrative tech jobs.

For example, just 3.7 percent of computer and math jobs in San Jose are held by Latinos, even though 25 percent of the region’s workers are Latino, according to a recent analysis from the Brookings Institution. And only 15-22 percent of all data science-related jobs globally are held by women, according to the Boston Consulting Group.

A newly announced public-private partnership between Miami Dade College, SoftBank, and Correlation One could be a model for creating more tech career opportunities for job seekers from underrepresented groups. And Correlation One’s approach to assessment is worth watching.

The company’s focus is “data science for all,” says Shamsudeen Mustafa, Correlation One’s co-founder and co-CEO.

Here’s how it works: Employers underwrite data science training that Correlation One offers for free to qualifying students and workers, with the company prioritizing those who identify as Black, Latino, or LGBTQ+. To be eligible for the 13-18 week program—which features online courses offered on weekends with lectures by Natesh Pillai, a professor of statistics at Harvard University— students must make the cut on an assessment from Correlation One. The company is seeking to train at least 10,000 people from underrepresented communities during the next three years. Correlation One also offers a fellowship for women.

As long as you qualify, it’s free for you,” says Mustafa. He adds that “you can point this tool across any talent pipeline.”

‘Creative Partnerships’

Correlation One started off in 2015 as an assessment firm. Since then 300,000 people globally have used its data workflow framework, which seeks to define skills that are necessary for organization-specific roles, including data scientists, data analysts, business intelligence analysts, data engineers, product managers, and quantitative researchers.

All Miami-Dade students will be eligible to take the assessment as part of the newly announced project, regardless of their major. At least 50 slots for learners from Miami will join the Correlation One training cohort, with plans to significantly expand the program’s Miami footprint this fall.

Participants will work on case studies and projects, including ones submitted by the SoftBank Group, a Japan-based conglomerate that is spending $100 million to support Miami’s tech push. Students will be connected with mentors for career coaching. And those who are not currently students at Miami-Dade will receive credit toward a bachelor’s degree in data analytics from the college.

Streamlining the path between education and the jobs of the future, according to Laura Gaviria Halaby, SoftBank Group’s Miami-based head of partnerships and strategic initiatives, will “depend on creative partnerships between industry, universities, and learning platforms with the potential to address both skill and equity gaps in fast-growing industries like data science.”

Rasheed Sabar, Correlation One’s co-founder and co-CEO, says “data science is the most important skill for the future of work.” He says data skills have a vertical payoff in the job market, rather than a horizontal one—meaning they are valuable across nearly every job type, compared with more narrow skills like computer programming.

The Kicker:

When big employers create their own hiring assessments, says Sabar, score-improving details often get leaked on Glassdoor. Third-party assessment firms also are attractive because they can eliminate an employer’s bias.

The equity and merit-based focus compares favorably to the status quo for making connections between education and training and jobs, says Sabar. And the company’s assessment has a much lower error rate than most hiring processes, he says. “We try to simulate the actual skills of the job.

Fads or Enduring Shifts?

With all the noise around alternative credentials and skills-based hiring, are we looking at serious change and accelerated growth or what Gartner calls the “the peak of inflated expectation” in its hype cycle graph (below)?

I’ve appreciated getting answers to this question from several of you—The Job‘s sources and subscribers. So here’s a simple poll to hear from more of you. Let me know what you’re thinking?

Course Scheduling and Job Skills

The pandemic has taken a toll on New York’s Mohawk Valley Community College and its students. Enrollment at the college is down more than 10 percent and its budget is projected to take a similar sized hit. Even the college’s courses in general studies, which had not previously seen enrollment dips, have been attracting fewer students.

To better understand what was going on, the college brought in Ad Astra. The company analyzes course scheduling to help colleges decide which sections to run and where to prioritize spending on faculty, often to help avoid broad job cuts. It also compares skills local employers want with what students are learning in the classroom.

We’re just fitting the pipe a little tighter,” says John Barnshaw, Ad Astra’s vice president for research and data science.

Preliminary findings from the analysis at Mohawk Valley included some surprises, says Jim Lynch, assistant vice president of academics at the college.

Many of the skills that industry needed for jobs were not part of the curriculum,” he says, and “many of the soft skills industry has told us were necessary were not actually skill sets that were listed in job postings.”

One shift Mohawk Valley made in response to the findings was to its graphic design program. Postings for graphic design jobs cited specific web programming skills applicants tend to lack. So the program replaced outdated skills training with programming skills.

“The hope is to give our students a critical advantage in the job market,” Lynch says.

The Kicker:

The best way colleges can give students what they want and need, Lynch says, is by “offering the skills necessary for the local industries and partnerships to support our students in those industries.”

Wage Gaps for Women in Colorado

State policy has long targeted postsecondary attainment gaps, but data investments made over the past decade have made it easier to now drill into related gaps in labor-market outcomes. The State of Colorado’s first-ever Report on Educational Equity provides a trove of data, looking at education, training, and workforce outcomes by race, ethnicity, and gender.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the report found that men in the state consistently earn more than women with the same credentials—with the highest gap in STEM bachelor’s degrees, where men earn up to $24K more annually than women in certain fields. Substantial gaps also exist across race and ethnicity.

Perhaps the most illuminating findings are at the certificate level. Consistent with national data on attendance patterns, women in Colorado are more likely to pursue lower-paying certificates in healthcare, while men are more likely to pursue higher-paying trades. And within each of those fields, the new data reveal big gaps by race and ethnicity. Black women with health certificates earn an average of almost $37K annually at five years post completion, more than all other racial and ethnic groups and almost $7K more than Latino women, at just shy of $30K. Among men, Asian and white workers with certificates in the trades earn substantially more on average ($49K and $48K, respectively) than Black ($41K) and Latino workers ($42K). —By Elyse Ashburn

Open Tabs

Skills Gap Research

Employer confidence in higher education and the value of a college degree is rising, according to the seventh edition of a survey of employers conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a membership group focused on liberal education, with 87 percent of respondents saying they believe getting a college degree or credential is worth students’ investment of time and money. However, just 62 percent of employers believe college grads have the knowledge and skills to succeed in entry-level positions.

An analysis of the skills employers desire (per AAC&U’s data) and the institutional learning outcomes from a sample of 125 American colleges and universities found statistically significant alignment across all categories. This suggests the skills gap is not derived from misaligned curricula, and must be something else, such as inadequate assessment, according to the doctoral dissertation by Brooks Doherty, a grad student at Saint Mary’s University.

A new paper from Harvard’s Interdisciplinary Project on Workforce found that “many organizations purporting to connect both education and career are still struggling to do so,” said Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School and co-author of the report. “While standout organizations exist in the field, too few programs are linking soft and hard skills, prioritizing evidence, working with employers, or providing wraparound supports.”

The new JobTech market map from Ayesha Khan and Ryan Craig of Achieve Partners visually depicts the expanding field of companies that seek to connect job seekers and employment by matching, training, and placing candidates into jobs.

ROI

Third Way used federal data to create a sortable analysis of the earnings premium for two million low-income students who attended roughly 2,500 colleges and universities. The price-to-earnings premium report from Michael Itzkowitz, a senior fellow with Third Way, found that “public institutions on the whole showed a quicker return on investment (ROI) than private nonprofit and for-profit institutions.”

The nonprofit Education Quality Outcomes Standards Board (EQOS) has created standards for the outcomes of nontraditional postsecondary education and training programs, including apprenticeships. The new framework focuses on the learning, completion, job placement, earnings, and satisfaction of learners.

New survey data from the Strada Education Network found that just 38 percent of Black college alumni and 47 percent of Latino alumni felt it was worth taking out their student loans. Borrowers were more likely to feel their loans were worth it if they felt they received adequate career support from their college, and the differences in perceived value among racial and ethnic groups diminished.

Alternatives to College

Attending a four-year college remains the ideal for many families, according to the results of a new public opinion poll from Gallup and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. But 46 percent of respondents said they prefer other options. Even among parents who hope their child will earn a bachelor’s degree, at least 40 percent are interested in career-related learning opportunities such as internships or apprenticeships.

Partnerships

UVA has partnered with InStride, which works with employers on their education benefit programs. UVA’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies will join a group of five universities that offer online bachelor’s degree-completion and professional certificate programs to employees in InStride’s network of corporate partners.

Three New Jersey institutions have partnered with Modern States to help learners earn free college credits. The nonprofit Modern States will offer New Jersey students free online courses and a voucher to take CLEP exams for credits from Mercer County Community College, Thomas Edison State University, and Centenary University.

Tennessee Policy

Tennessee’s employers need more community college students to graduate, wrote David Pickler, education council chair of the Tennessee Business Roundtable. Pickler said proposed state legislation to provide short-term, low-dollar completion grants to students in Tennessee’s free-tuition program could help them “overcome and persist when ‘life happens’ along their college completion paths.”

Let me know what I missed? Catch you next week — PF @paulfain

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