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March 2010

From the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

NCES Division Helps Coordinate Federal Effort on Workforce Training

The Postsecondary, Adult, and Career Education (PACE) Division within NCES is helping to launch a cooperative federal effort to better track and learn more about the importance of industry-recognized certifications and other educational certificates in the development of workforce skills.

The federal statistical community has long felt the need for more complete and accurate data collection about non-degree education and training. But this issue has taken on a new urgency, given President Obama's recent call for higher educational attainment to support economic growth and a flurry of interest in these certificates. The development of new data sources on subbaccalaureate education also is a stated priority for senior officials in the departments of Education and Labor, foundations including Gates and Lumina, and research organizations such as the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce.

The PACE Division has the responsibility for collecting and reporting data on postsecondary education, adult education, and career and technical education. Its role and its work are shaped by the Department's distinctive role in postsecondary education; in particular, ED's sizeable investment in postsecondary education, centering on federal student aid awarded to millions of students enrolled in more than 6,000 universities, colleges, and vocationally oriented postsecondary institutions that train workers ranging from welders to beauticians.

ED Budget Service, the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Office of the Under Secretary, and the Office of Vocational and Adult Education make extensive and frequent use of PACE data to meet their analytic responsibilities. Staff from these offices look to PACE to address their data needs through their sample surveys and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. PACE also provides technical advice about data collection and brings their expertise to bear on questions of postsecondary education. Outside the Department, staff in the Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office and General Accounting Office also use PACE data to meet their needs for program review, cost estimation, and accountability.

It was these close working relationships that led these groups to convene an interagency working group to develop and implement a plan for the collection of data about postsecondary certificates prior to the bachelor degree.