Social and Decision Analytics | Official Statistics

Skilled Technical Workforce


National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics

By 2022, the United States will have a staggering labor shortage in the skilled technical workforce (STW) — a workforce that feeds growth sectors like information technology, healthcare, and advanced manufacturing. This shortfall could hinder our ability as a nation to compete globally and grow our economy.

Jobs in the STW require a high level of knowledge in a technical domain, but are not dependent on a costly four-year college degree. Yet, we are not providing job seekers with information on the pathways that can lead to a job of the future — partly because there’s a data gap. The U.S. lacks the data needed to define the landscape of skilled workforce pathways. We are working with the National Center of Science and Engineering Statistics to address this gap. By discovering nontraditional data sources and using them to describe and quantify the skills and non-degree credentials that can lead to STW jobs, we can help policymakers and educators address an urgent problem and empower job seekers to make informed decisions about their future.

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) within the National Science Foundation (NSF), is an independent federal statistical agency. NCSES serves as a clearinghouse for objective data on the U.S. science and engineering workforce and has developed the skilled technical workforce initiative to understand and measure the skilled technical workers.

Project Overview

We’re addressing the need to understand how job seekers enter the STW, maintain relevance, and advance by:

  • Conducting a data discovery process to find and assess data sources that could inform our understanding of the STW and address the data deficits; and
  • Analyzing the Adult Training and Education Survey to find out what could be learned about the STW.

We conducted a data discovery search to access the availability of non-survey data sources (e.g., administrative data from federal, state, and local governments, for profits, and not-for-profits) with the potential to fill in some of the STW data gaps. The results of our data discovery process are provided in the Skilled Workforce Data Discovery Dashboard. Our search resulted in our purchase of Burning Glass Technologies (BGT) job-ad and resume data, which includes data on the skills and nondegree credentials demanded by employers and the pathways of job seekers currently in STW jobs.

Without federal guidance on the use of secondary data, our researchers did an extensive review of the academic literature on the use of the BGT job-ads data. The literature review highlights issues researchers found in using the data and benchmarking results as well as our own data profiling and benchmarking. This work is described in the technical report, Review of Burning Glass Technologies Job-ad Data (Lancaster et al. 2019). Prior to our using the BGT job-ads data in our research, we used the Biocomplexity Institute’s data profiling framework and exploratory data analyses to the assess fitness-for-use of the BGT job-ad data and conduct own benchmarking against two federal surveys. The results of our data profiling and benchmarking are provided in the BGT Profiling and Benchmarking Dashboard.

The Adult Training and Education Survey (2016) is a federal survey directed at adults ages 16 to 65 that is focused on nondegree credentials and work experience programs.Our paper analyzes the responses from those ATES respondents whose education level is less than a Bachelor’s degree, have a post-secondary nondegree credential, and are using it in their current STW job. The results are discussed in the paper, What the Adult Training and Education Survey Tells Us About the Skilled Technical Workforce (Lancaster, 2020).


Chart of usefulness of post-secondary nondegree credentials
How Useful is the Post-secondary Nondegree Credential or Work Experience Program in Improving Skills by STW Education Category and Job Type Combination and Job Type Combinations. Data source: National Center for Education Statistics 2016 Adult Training and Education survey.

The results of our data discovery are provided in Skilled Workforce Data Discovery Dashboard. The dashboard includes:

  • Data Sources with a data table with information about each data source
  • Display Chart describing various categorical variables from the data sources table
  • Data Dictionary with definitions of all variables included in the data sources table

Principal Scientist

Postdoctoral Research Associate

Division Director

Distinguished Professor in Biocomplexity, Biocomplexity Institute

Professor of Public Health Sciences, School of Medicine

Postdoctoral Research Associate