Credentials That Work

Credentials That Work

Aligning Career Training with Employer Demand

Using innovations in labor market information technology to narrow the skills gap by preparing community college students for high-demand jobs.

Tiffany Smith
617.728.4446 x251

With the "skills gap," rising college tuition costs, and policies pushing for credentials that translate to good jobs, the need to align postsecondary education with the demands of the local labor market is unprecedented.

Online job postings reflect at least 70 percent of all openings in the American labor market. Real-time labor market information vendors collect online job postings, and de-duplicate and analyze them in order to reveal up-to-the-minute regional job trends. We provide colleges access to this information, as well as training to enable staff to analyze and apply it to programming.

Credentials That Work provides 40 community colleges with access to real-time labor market information services.

Pressure to align postsecondary education with the workforce needs of local employers is unprecedented. Our nation faces major gaps between the skills of workers and the skills needed to succeed in today’s careers, contributing to high unemployment, declining economic competitiveness, and individual hardship. Rising student debt and a growing insistence that college credentials translate into good jobs with family-supporting incomes compound the challenge.

Community colleges and other key institutions often do not have the critical information they need for effective strategic planning, curricular design, career pathway development, and career guidance. In addressing the skill needs of both students and employers, institutions need labor market data that is adequately detailed about job requirements, wages, benefits, and other criteria. Lack of information is particularly acute concerning labor market information at the local level and about emerging and in-demand occupations.

Credentials That Work uses real-time labor market information (LMI) to help colleges align education and training investments with the needs of regional economies. College counselors can also use it to advise students on “best bet” careers and the education and training pathways they should follow to attain them. We are also exploring potential uses for federal agencies and national industry trade associations.

Real-time LMI is an emerging, web-based approach to track the extent and nature of employer demand for skilled staff by gathering online job postings and sorting them by location, industry, occupation, and skill and certification requirements.

Real-time LMI vendors collect up to 4 million de-duplicated job postings each day from up to 20,000 websites—a larger and more up-to-date pool than traditional labor data sources can gather.

How Real-time LMI Analyzes Online Job Postings

  1. Collect job advertisements posted on a wide range of online boards.
  2. De-duplicate those ads to ensure an accurate picture of available job openings by occupation and industry.
  3. Extract key information from job descriptions and analyze it to gain insight on job requirements and trends.

Since launching in 2011:

  • 7 community colleges and 4 state systems have joined Credentials That Work’s Innovators Network and are testing, applying, and integrating real-time data technologies into institutional decision making.
  • All 16 of Kentucky’s community colleges underwent the initiative’s Dynamic Skills Audit to determine how aligned their programs of study are to employers’ skill requirements.
  • Texas State Technical College is using real-time LMI to improve student placement, forecast business development, and establish performance and outcome measures for workforce education programming.


  • LaGuardia Community College is using it to align its curricula with regional programming demand in green occupations.
  • Harper College in Palatine, IL, is using it to support new program development in advanced manufacturing.
  • The Federal Reserve Board’s Division of Community Affairs is analyzing real-time LMI to determine how the chronically unemployed can best find jobs.



  • Real Time LMI

    Success in Real-Time: Using Real-Time Labor Market Information to Build Better Middle-Skill STEM Pathways

    Success in Real-Time: Using Real-Time Labor Market Information to Build Better Middle-Skill STEM Pathways encourages states to support their colleges as they use high-quality, real-time labor market information to align the creation of middle-skill STEM pathways with robust career opportunities, and provides recommendations and examples for how states can do so. This brief stems directly from Achieving the Dream and Jobs for the Future's work with STEM Regional Collaboratives, generously supported by the Helmsley Charitable Trust. JFF and ATD have worked with community colleges to build supportive pathways that lead students directly into exciting STEM careers in their local labor markets, a process that relies upon the improved data now available through real-time labor market information.

    Learn More
  • LMI

    Putting Labor Market Data to Work

    Jobs for the Future commissioned survey research to analyze how community colleges currently use labor market information to ensure their programs are matching the demand of local employers. The survey of 100 college leaders found that institutions aren’t yet taking full advantage of major opportunities to meet the needs of jobseekers and employers through cutting-edge data analysis.

    Learn More