Choosing a Training Provider Should Be as Easy as Buying a Car

This article was originally published on LinkedIn by one of our Skillful partners, Alexandra Peterson.

Let’s say you want to buy a car. While I’m sure everyone’s approach is different, I think it’s safe to assume that most people start their car-buying journey with at least a little research. After all, a car is an important investment, for two reasons: it increases your mobility, and you will likely be paying for it for a while.

You’ll probably start with a Google search, which will bring you to sites like Carfax, Consumer Reports, and Autotrader, sites where you can find out about a model’s price, its safety ratings, its miles-per-gallon, its reliability, and more. Based on this information, you’ll be able to narrow your search down to the best car that suits your needs and budget.

Data transparency makes your car-buying journey easy. Because all this data is made available, you’re more likely to find a car that truly fits you, and you’re more likely to pay a fair price.

People looking to hone or acquire skills should be able to choose a training program as easily as they can choose a car.

Education, like a car, is an important investment: it too will increase your mobility, and you likely will be paying for it for a while.

Unfortunately, looking for training today is nothing like buying a car. Due to the dearth of training provider outcomes data, people looking to upskill often have to make their decision almost blindly. They don’t know if they’ll be better off after they finish a program; many simply leap into training with fingers crossed, hoping their investment will pay off.

At the same time, the lack of training provider outcomes data deprives training providers themselves of valuable, real-time data and insights. If training providers knew how their graduates were faring, training providers could learn from the programs that are working and change programs that aren’t.

The need for data transparency in education could not be more pressing: Millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans struggle to stay relevant in an economy that increasingly requires employees to learn new skills and retrain.

We can do better. As a society grappling with the changing world of work, we must do better.

In order to provide educators, employers, job seekers, and policymakers the information they need to make data-driven decisions, my company, Skillful, has partnered with BrightHive, the Colorado Department of Higher Education, the Colorado Workforce Development Council, and the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment to create the , a data transparency pilot program that securely connects data from training providers with employment and wage databases — without the data ever leaving the Colorado Department of Higher Education.

After this data is scrubbed and anonymized, the output is made available through an application programming interface (API) in aggregate form. Approved programmers and developers can then access this aggregate data and build tools that can help job seekers make data-driven decisions about their training. Job seekers will be able to understand the value they can expect from a degree at one of the participating institutions.

Through the Training Provider Outcomes Toolkit, job seekers will be able to find the training that best fits their needs. Training providers will be able to improve their programs to better serve employers and students. And thanks to the toolkit’s ease of use, education leaders, policy makers, and others will spend less time on labor-intensive data collection and more time on using data insights to effect change.

Five Colorado training providers, including coding boot camps and community colleges, are leading the development and deployment of the Training Provider Outcomes Toolkit in Colorado, and the opportunity to join the next stage of the pilot will be coming soon.

As automation, artificial intelligence, and digitization transform the way we work, one thing is certain: we all must become lifelong learners. And we should make sure that these lifelong learners know their options and their opportunities.