© Copyright 2003 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


What Happens to Graduates? Outcomes from the South Dakota Follow-up Project
Reprinted with permission from the South Dakota Department of Labor, Labor Market Information Center, South Dakota Labor Bulletin, July 2003

For several years, the Labor Market Information Center (LMIC) has collected placement data on post-secondary educational program graduates as part of the South Dakota (SD) Follow-up Project. This project is a joint effort of state agencies and educational institutions. The project has two purposes. One purpose is to provide to educational planners information that will help improve educational programs. The second purpose of the follow-up is to provide information to prospective students about program outcomes. To accomplish this objective, the LMIC has used administrative data (already collected by others) and an employer survey to gather placement data on graduates. 

Since the Follow-up Project began in 1995, the following state agencies and institutions have participated: Department of Labor, Department of Social Services, Department of Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Corrections, Department of Tourism and State Development, the Board of Regents, the six public universities and the four technical institutes. The participating agencies and institutions provide data on the following types of program graduates or completers: public university, technical institute, vocational rehabilitation, Job Corps, adult basic education/GED, Workforce Investment Act and secondary education. 

It is important to remember that the SD Follow-up Project is for statistical purposes only. The project provides data about programs and not on individual graduates. However, to get aggregate data on programs, we do need to gather placement information about individual graduates.

Sources of Data

Two basic types of placement information are collected: (1) job placement and (2) enrollment in post-secondary education. To determine job placement, we use various administrative data bases. A primary source of data is the South Dakota Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage files. These files contain quarterly reports of worker wages submitted by employers who are covered by the unemployment insurance laws of South Dakota. Other databases include the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) employee files (federal employees); United States Post Office (USPO) employee files (postal workers); Department of Defense (DOD) employee files (civilian workers and military personnel); and other states’ unemployment insurance wage record files. We currently have data-sharing agreements with the following states: Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming. For the 2002 Follow-up round, we will be able to access the national Wage Record Interchange System (WRIS) which has wage records for additional states. The wage record information is used to determine whether or not the graduate has a wage and salaried job. However, wage records do not reflect workers who are self-employed.

As part of our goal of tabulating data on job placement and enrollment in post-secondary educational programs, we attempt to account for all graduates, using a wide range of administrative data sources. In addition to checking employee files for the states and federal agencies, we also match the completer files against files of unemployment insurance claimants, files of One-Stop Career Center registered job applicants, files of social service claimants for AFDC and food stamps and the file of persons incarcerated in the South Dakota Penitentiary System.

However, the most useful secondary source of information in accounting for all graduates are drivers’ licensing files. The graduates and completers were matched against the October 2001 drivers’ license file. After completing all of the other matches described above, we end up with the number of completers who are ‘accounted-for.’ For all of the 2001 completers, our accounted-for total was 10,174, which calculates to 74.3 percent of the total completers. The percentage of accounted-for completers ranges from a low of 62.7 percent for the vocational rehabilitation clients to a high of 96.3 percent for the technical institute graduates.

2001 Follow-up Results

This article will report on the results of the 2001 round of the Follow-up Project, since we have not completed processing data on the 2002 graduates. For the most part, the 2001 follow-up round contains those students who completed training during the time period July 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001. With respect to determining job placement outcomes, we attempt to collect data approximately one year after graduation. For several public training programs, a six-month to a one-year time lapse is used to determine program performance. Because of the wide variety of programs and different graduation dates, winter and spring graduates have varying time-lapses to determine job placement. (We recently changed some of the follow-up procedures; starting with the 2002 graduates, we will be able to more closely meet the 12 month time lapse standard.) Wage records for the third quarter of 2001 were used to determine job placement status for the 2001 graduates. We compared the graduate records to employment records for the third quarter of 2001 (July, August and September). 

The 2001 follow-up round included 4,342 graduates from the six public universities; 1,659 graduates from the four technical institutes; 5,963 vocational rehabilitation clients; 1,540 Adult Basic Education/GED completers; and 195 Job Corps completers. These numbers total 13,699 and are unduplicated counts from the participating agencies. When compared to the third quarter 2001 South Dakota UI wage records, there were 7,316 matched records (53.4% of all completers). The matched graduates worked for 2,925 South Dakota employers. 

In addition to the information tabulated from SD wage records, we use other sources of information to determine if the graduate was placed in a job. Those other sources include federal agencies, the US Post Office, other states wage records, and post-secondary placement staff. (We query and receive data from post-secondary placement staff on “missing” graduates who were not found on the SD wage records.) 

Table 1 shows the job placement outcomes for the different training programs. Because of problems extracting data from a new management information system, data on 2001 WIA program completers could not be compiled.

The job placement percentages in Table 1 are calculated on all graduates, even those we have not accounted for. In other words, it would not be correct to say that only 25 percent of public university graduates found jobs and the rest are unemployed, because a portion of those graduates would be enrolled and we do not know the status of the rest. The high level of job placement for secondary school graduates can probably be explained by part-time jobs that were continued after graduation or that were taken while the students were enrolled in post-secondary education. 

It should be remembered that these job placement ratios represent primarily wage and salaried workers. The job placement percentages do not include workers who became self-employed after completing their training. In some programs, the self-employed could make up a significant share of job placements. In addition, approximately 28 percent of the public higher education graduates were not state residents when they enrolled, and it would not be too surprising if they left South Dakota to seek jobs after they graduate. The job placement data includes wage records from some regional states, but not all states. Minnesota is a notable exception. 

Occupational Licensing

Another source of job placement data is information about persons who have been licensed in an occupation in South Dakota. Since many of the licensed occupations are professional jobs, they may be held by self-employed workers, and represent a job placement for graduates who are not wage and salaried workers. In order to determine if a graduate enters a profession that requires a license, we sought the help of licensing agencies throughout the state. This past year, 32 agencies provided licensing information for the Follow-up Project. The licensing agencies were asked to provide us with a listing of all individuals who received a license during the calendar year. This database is then matched to our graduate files. The graduates and completers were matched against calendar year 2001 licensing files. 

Current reports from the Follow-up Project provide licensed totals by program. However, the current reports do not allow us to tabulate how many of these licensed graduates are wage and salaried workers. If they are wage and salaried workers, they probably have already been tabulated as a job placement. Because they could represent a duplicate count, the licensed graduate numbers have not been added to the job placement totals. 

Instead the counts of licensed graduates are presented separately, in Table 2. The licensing data are also available in more detail and might be very useful for educational planners who want to compare licensing success for programs that prepare students for licensed occupations.

Employer Survey

For the graduates who were found on the SD wage records database, a survey was sent to their employers asking for six data items about each graduate. In addition, we collected job titles and wages from the federal government agencies, including the US Postal Service. The survey items are job title, hire date, starting wage, current wage, place of work and the types of benefits offered. We received data back from nearly 85 percent of the employers who were sent a survey. These employers provided us with data on just over 80 percent of the matched completers. 

From the survey responses, we are able to tabulate useful job placement information about each graduate. The job name (from the survey) was coded to a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code and title. This enabled LMIC staff to tabulate job placement information by both occupation and by program. 

One of the types of placement information tabulated was the average hourly wage. Because graduates and completers of the different programs receive a wide range of degrees, it is not a fair representation to compare wages among the programs. However, we can tabulate average wages by type of degree for university and technical institute graduates. Table 3 presents average hourly wages by type of degree. Even within degree levels, there are significant wage differences. For example, the average hourly wage for electronic engineering program graduates is $19.51, and the average for parks, recreation and leisure studies is $8.57.

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