Using employment market data to generate value for students and universities

Using employment market data to generate value for students and universities


Employment outcomes are a core focus for government, students and universities. Understanding what employers are seeking in today’s rapidly changing workplaces, and translating this quickly into course design and delivery, is a constant challenge. Analysis of real time employment market data can identify new learning needs for existing students, and target opportunities for lifelong learning for those already in the workforce. Sprint approaches to unit and course design can bring new learning opportunities to current and prospective students quickly.

The employment landscape is changing rapidly with technology disruption impacting industries and workplaces. The level of change varies between sectors and employers, but it is clear that constant change will be an ongoing challenge for students looking to enter the workforce, and for existing employees looking to maintain their currency in a dynamic employment market.

Universities face substantial pressure to provide learning experiences that will lead to graduate employment. There is also opportunity for universities to provide more lifelong learning options for employees looking to continually develop their skills and knowledge.

The speed of change presents major challenges for universities. Designing new degree programs that align with employer needs can take years, and is often based on outdated or anecdotal information. Additionally, skill requirements may well have changed by the time the first cohort of students graduate. Much can and is being done to prepare graduates to have the learning competencies, soft skills and resilience to respond in this dynamic environment. But the fact remains that teaching of in-demand technical skills needs to be current and relevant for graduates.

Rapidly identifying trends in industry specific skills needs can lead to new, tailored learning opportunities

Real time market insight data provides a strong evidence base to continually prioritise and revise the teaching and learning on offer. It identifies the generalist and specialist skills that are growing or declining, thereby accelerating market assessment decisions and helping to target investment in content development. For example:

  • Degree programs can be designed to balance core curriculum with just-in-time content. In rapidly evolving disciplines, courses for first and second year undergraduate students can focus on core curriculum, while courses in final years can be based on just-in-time content that is refreshed based on evidence of current and emerging industry needs.
  • Postgraduate offerings can be rapidly developed and delivered in areas of immediate need. Understanding where substantial change is impacting existing industries, employers and workforces; and providing micro-credentialing, micro-learning and digital badges that are timely, affordable and flexible around a busy work schedule; presents a strong value proposition for mature age learners.
  • Analysis of cross industry skills demand provides a strong evidence base for defining graduate attributes.

Real time market insight can inform more responsive and impactful teaching and learning

Nous uses real time labour market insight data[1] to provide a rich evidence base of the skills in demand by different employers and industries, at a local, jurisdictional and national level. The underlying data draws from job advertisements from over 4,000 sources in Australia and New Zealand, and captures references to over 1,500 general and technical skills identified by employers as important for new hires. Mining this data can reveal valuable trends in skill demand, including common skill sets for specific occupations, and how these are changing over time. It is a powerful way to answer questions such as:

  • What core skills do we need to ensure all of our graduates have?
  • What are the new and emerging skills in each of the occupations our graduates aspire to?
  • What new occupations, skill sets and employment opportunities are emerging?
  • What are the courses that we should and should not be offering?
  • Which employers are looking for new, hard to find skills, and may be open student placements or internships?
  • Who should we collaborate with to better understand employer needs?

The example below illustrates just some of the insights available.

Examples of cyber security roles

Example: Cybersecurity roles[2]

Combining market insight data with sprint methodologies enhances value and reduces risk

Developing new degrees, courses and learning opportunities can be expensive and risky for universities. The investment required for content development and delivery may not pay off if other providers bring out new products more quickly, or the targeted skills themselves lose relevance.

Taking a data driven approach substantially reduces these risks by utilising rigorous and current evidence to prioritise where and how to invest. It can also assist in identifying the employers looking for different skills, and, coupled with platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook, can inform focussed social media campaigns targeting individuals most likely to be interested in new learning opportunities.

Coupling data driven insights with sprint approaches is a powerful way to develop new teaching and learning content. Sprints are short periods (i.e. 2-4 weeks each) of focussed activity to develop content that is ready for immediate use. Sprints are a powerful way to develop or revise materials, drawing together relevant experts and specialists (including marketing professionals), to bring an impactful new offering to existing and prospective students, fast.

Where accreditation and regulatory bodies slow down the process, there is still substantial opportunity to road test and refine practice while waiting on approval of curriculum. Introducing extra-curricular content is a powerful way to test interest and can be highly valued by students. Market insights can also inform changes to pedagogy. These factors can be built into sprint approaches, using iterative development to first provide extra-curricular opportunities, then refining pedagogy, before fully implementing changes within the curriculum.

Get in touch to find out more about job market insight and how this can generate value for your students and your institution.

[1] Labour market data provided by Burning Glass Technologies’

[2] Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool. Roles include Cyber/ Information Security Engineer/ Analyst and Info Security Analyst