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  • Writer's pictureProject on Workforce Team

Ali Epstein | Team Profile


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Ali Epstein serves as a Research Project Manager at the Project on Workforce at Harvard, where she oversees various research initiatives and projects.


Her focus spans a range of topics in the education and workforce space, including bridging college-to-career connections, investing in community colleges as institutions that fuel economic growth, and designing equitable career navigation systems. She has co-authored a number of applied research papers that offer insights into each of these issues and is dedicated to further exploring strategies to promote broader access to economic mobility.


 

CONTENTS

 

Selected Research & Projects

The Project on Workforce has partnered with Education Design Lab's Community College Growth Engine to enhance community colleges' use of real-time labor market information (LMI) and emerging technologies for student economic mobility. Research underscores community colleges' pivotal role in regional economies. Lack of access to real-time LMI hampers colleges' ability to align programs with industry needs. This initiative aims to conduct case studies, design strategic micro-pathways, and develop best practices to modernize community college systems. Funded by Axim Collaborative, the project seeks to empower colleges to adapt to technological changes and improve student employment prospects.

The College-to-Jobs Map — Visualizing data on colleges and employment

The College-to-Jobs Initiative aims to bridge the gap between higher education and employment amidst rising student debt and skepticism about college value. Focusing on public colleges, HBCUs, and MSIs, it offers a College-to-Jobs Map merging data on colleges, job trends, and employment, alongside a Playbook detailing strategies to enhance student-workforce connections.

The College-to-Jobs Playbook — Exploring the intersection of higher education and the workforce

This playbook provides a framework to help college better deliver on the American Dream by creating a coherent, comprehensive taxonomy of the landscape of college-to-jobs programs and policies through a review of the existing academic research according to a set of common criteria. With a focus on public two-year and four-year colleges, Minority Serving Institutions, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, it identifies 13 “interventions” within the college ecosystem that could be used to ease the transition into good jobs in the workforce.


The paper examines the challenges faced by low-wage workers, highlighting stagnating wage growth and limited upward mobility opportunities. It conducts a comprehensive review of career navigation, identifying core drivers of success and several types of supportive interventions. Proposing 10 principles for equitable career navigation, it calls for collective action from policymakers, employers, educators, and philanthropists to build an effective and inclusive career navigation ecosystem. The paper also underscores the need for further research to address knowledge gaps and advocate for an ecosystem approach to empower individuals and foster economic prosperity.

The paper examines the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare labor market in Massachusetts, focusing on nursing, direct care, and behavioral health. It discusses the "Great Resignation" and subsequent staffing shortages, analyzing trends in job postings and wage growth. Data covers January 2019 to December 2022, sourced from Lightcast and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Unemployment Insurance.

The COVID-19 pandemic placed strain on the healthcare workforce, prompting emergency measures and innovative programs nationwide. This post highlights the impact of the American Rescue Plan Act and the subsequent stabilization of the healthcare workforce. While many states have suspended emergency funding, certain policy initiatives developed during the pandemic may offer solutions to future workforce challenges. The paper includes a table categorizing programs and policies adopted by states to address healthcare worker supply issues during the pandemic, offering insights for Massachusetts and others on effective recruitment and retention strategies.

The post discusses how employment growth outpaced college graduate growth in certain regions from 2014 to 2019, causing a misalignment between the labor market and higher education. It examines examples such as New Orleans and Laredo, TX, where employment grew significantly, but college graduates did not match this pace, leading to challenges in various industries. The analysis emphasizes the importance of aligning education with workforce demands and provides insights into specific occupations experiencing shortages. The College-to-Jobs Map is recommended for further exploration, with methodology details provided.

Immigrants are critical to the U.S. workforce, but there has been limited focus on what enables them to thrive in the economy. This report draws on data from 131 applicants to WES Mariam Assefa Fund’s open grant competition to better understand the landscape of programs, policies, and practices intended to strengthen immigrant inclusion in the workforce. Building the New High Road highlights organizations that are working to build an economy where all immigrants have the chance to thrive. Investing in immigrants’ human potential is an investment in our collective future.


Selected Media

"The paper argues that colleges aren’t offering the economic returns hoped for by students and families, contributing to a growing distrust in the value of a degree. It notes that in 2021, 40 percent of students who recently completed a bachelor’s degree found themselves in jobs that didn’t require one. Meanwhile, higher education and workforce data are generally “siloed,” with scant research that connects the two."

The white paper from the Project on Workforce underscores the challenges posed by technology in matching skilled candidates with job opportunities, stressing the need for a revamped career navigation system. Joseph Fuller and colleagues advocate for a comprehensive overhaul, emphasizing the importance of foundational human skills amidst technological advancements. They propose a "Waze app for career management" and call for improved access to labor market information (LMI) and better-designed job application processes. Employers are urged to play a proactive role in partnering with educational institutions and addressing workforce needs, including caregiving support. The report outlines four key steps for creating a 21st-century career navigation system, including leveraging generative AI for improved job matching and skills-based hiring.

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