Colleges Turn to Technology To Foresee Workforce Needs

A handful of colleges think they’ve found the secret to closing the gap between the types of graduates they’re turning out and the types employers say they need.

Spiders.

Not the hairy, creepy kind. The colleges are using artificial-intelligence spiders that crawl through search engines and read thousands of online “help wanted” ads to check up on the job market in real time — not two years after the fact, which is how long the federal government can take to report on labor trends.

The technology is helping institutions add and update programs on short notice so their graduates can land real-world jobs. And at the same time, schools are using the new information to eliminate programs that leave students in debt with skills employers don’t want.

So far, the use of such technology is limited, but it is likely to increase as colleges and universities face growing pressure to help drive economic recovery and justify the cost of higher education by matching graduates’ skills with workforce needs.

“It’s not just good enough any more to educate a student,” said Elaine Gaertner, director of a system of regional centers that use spidering technology to collect real-time job-market information for California’s community colleges “You have to educate him with a purpose.” <Read more.>

Via Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report on Community College Week.