Bringing the ‘Hidden Infrastructure’ of Short-Term Training to Light

The Harvard Project on Workforce just launched the first-ever directory of the nation’s short-term training providers.

The Harvard Project on Workforce is out this week with the first-ever directory of nearly 17K short-term training providers—community-based nonprofits, apprenticeship intermediaries, colleges, and more—across the United States.

Until now, project leaders say, the infrastructure for short-term training “has been hidden in plain sight.”

The big idea: The interactive Workforce Almanac begins to make sense of this highly-fragmented market. The idea is to help policymakers, researchers, education providers, and philanthropies better understand where funding for short-term training is going and which communities are well-served and which ones aren’t. 

Nathalie Gazzaneo, co-director of the Project on Workforce, says the ultimate goal is to drive resources to the people and places that most need it—and to the training programs that are most effective. 

“When policymakers and philanthropies, especially local-level policymakers, are making funding decisions, it’s really important for them to have a broader view of workforce training so they can make those decisions more effectively,” she says.

The details: The availability of training varies widely by state and metro area, and the almanac allows users to drill down on those disparities. 

  • Connecticut, for example, only has six training providers for every 100K workers, while Maine has 32 per 100K.

Some states, including Maine, rely heavily on training providers supported by federal funding from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Others lean more heavily on community colleges or, in places like Massachusetts, on apprenticeship sponsors.   

  • Across all states, at least two-thirds of the training providers operate outside of the federal government’s primary workforce system funded by WIOA.

An Evolving Tool

The directory draws on federal data on postsecondary institutions (IPEDS), WIOA-eligible training providers (TPR), registered apprenticeships (RAPIDS), and nonprofit organizations that offer training and credentials that take less than two years to complete. For now, the almanac only includes provider names, locations, and types, such as whether they are WIOA-eligible. 

But as the team continues to build out the tool, it plans to add more specific information on programs, the types of jobs they’re training people for, and how those align with local needs.

“There is a significant mismatch between job openings and job seekers in this country,” says David Deming, the lead researcher on the almanac and a professor of political economy at Harvard. “Emerging technologies require new skills, and a more integrated approach to workforce training is required to better prepare the U.S. workforce now and in the future.”

Who’s it for: Gazzaneo says that throughout the development process, the Harvard team tested the directory with intended users, including policymakers, researchers, and training providers themselves. The team assumed that education providers would primarily use the almanac as a benchmarking tool—but found out that they were just as interested in visibility and the opportunity to find other providers to collaborate with.

A number of the country’s largest nonprofit providers, like Per Scholas, are already experimenting with how to scale up through collaboration. Per Scholas’ community-partner strategy is about cost efficiencies, local trust and insights, and strengthening economies, says Plinio Ayala, the group’s longtime president and CEO.

“There are so many workforce models across the country, and often there is significant crossover in services being delivered,” Ayala says. “I’ve always believed in the ‘stay in your lane’ approach.”

Parting thought: With the new Workforce Almanac, it may now be easier for providers to see their lane. And the Harvard team plans to continue adding features and making updates.

“We’d love to keep hearing from people, from practitioners, about how we can continue to refine the tool to move the field more toward clarity and equity,” Gazzaneo says. “This is meant to be used. And this is meant to see how it can be improved over time.”

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