Chapin Hall Launches CWICstats, a Workforce Research and Data Initiative for the City of Chicago
Chicago, like most of the nation, is facing a high rate of unemployment, even while many businesses report a shortage of skilled labor. At the same time, many working residents in low-skilled jobs struggle to make ends meet, but lack the skills necessary to move into higher paying jobs.
To address this gap between supply and demand for labor, and to help both workers and employers compete in a global economy, the City of Chicago worked with business leaders to create Chicago LEADS (Leading Economic Advancement, Development, and Sustainability), a multiyear initiative led by Mayor Richard M. Daley, to align the City’s workforce development, education, and economic development systems. As a result of this effort, the Chicago Workforce Investment Council (CWIC) was launched in August 2009, to oversee the more than $300 million in public funds annually invested to support workforce development. To fill a vital missing element—the availability of consistent data and analysis on workforce programs and outcomes—CWIC and others turned to Chapin Hall to house the newly created CWICstats, a research and data initiative.
CWICstats collects and analyzes data on Chicago’s public job training and education programs, and conducts in-depth research on the challenges and opportunities facing the local workforce. Findings will be communicated to CWIC and other workforce stakeholders, who will then use this information to better understand workforce programs and policies and to allocate resources.
“Information provided by CWICstats is helping stakeholders in Chicago’s workforce development system make informed decisions,” says Carmen Tomshack Brenner, Vice President of Programs and Policy at CWIC. “Policymakers, program administrators, and providers are learning about how best to improve the skills and earning potential of residents and respond to the needs of businesses. This work will do much to strengthen our local economy.”
To understand Chicagoans’ work experiences before, during, and after participating in workforce programs, CWICstats matches individual-level administrative data from partner agencies to wage data for workers involved in the programs. CWICstats maintains data sharing agreements that enable researchers to analyze program information on all participants or students served by workforce programs provided by the Chicago Department of Community Development, the City Colleges of Chicago, the Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services.
Matthew Stagner, executive director of Chapin Hall, says that a key activity of CWICstats is providing stakeholders with information in the forms they can use, including a dashboard of key workforce indicators and a program report card. “For policymakers and managers, CWICstats uses standard performance measures. These include measures of workers’ characteristics and process-oriented measures, such as their participation in workforce programs. Outcome measures, such as wages after program completion, will also be included.”
Another vital role for CWICstats is developing and executing a workforce development research agenda. Dan Black, Professor and Deputy Dean at the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, will direct this research. An advisory council that includes researchers, funders, business leaders, and other workforce development stakeholders provides input on the research agenda.
Says Stagner, "CWICstats is an innovative opportunity for Chapin Hall to assist the new Chicago Workforce Investment Council in making the system more data-driven. Chapin Hall excels at partnerships with policymakers and program administrators to address key policy issues. And our expertise at matching employment and program participation data will enable us to provide performance information to partner agencies and to conduct innovative research."