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Meeting Colorado’s Workforce Needs: It’s All in the Data

Graphic illustaed map of the state of Colorado.

Caption: UNC Alumni Are Colorado’s Workforce. UNC is proud to call Greeley home, and so do the many alumni who choose to live and work in Weld County and across Colorado.Yellow bubbles indicate cities/towns in Weld County. 

Debbie Farris
November 27, 2023

With a 20-year-old promise to provide career support to alumni for life, the university launches an extraordinary Alumni Employment Dashboard powered by actual career data. 

The average person will now change careers three to seven times during their working life, and an American employee changes jobs on average 12 times, according to a 2023 article on Zippia, a top career-planning website. Their research further revealed 91% of millennials say they expect to change jobs every three years.  

While navigating and changing careers can be challenging, job changes are clearly becoming commonplace, especially post-pandemic, according to Zippia. The reasons are many. People are seeking greater stability, flexibility, financial security or new interests, or they have shifting values or priorities, among others.   

Late this summer, the Division of University Advancement launched an Alumni Employment Dashboard, an interactive online career exploration platform built on industry data and thousands of actual career paths of UNC alumni. The tool helps job seekers and others understand different career paths for UNC degree programs and identify which ones have a strong pipeline for UNC alumni.   

Anyone can explore the dashboard at unco.edu/bears-go-big. Users can simply click on one of the charts to be able to manipulate the employment data with different filters based on interests. Anyone — including alumni, students, advisors and parents — can research careers and see which majors or fields of study graduates studied at UNC and the careers in which they are currently employed. Data is updated weekly.  

“As UNC aims to be the university that Colorado looks to as the future of higher education, we have an opportunity to align the impact of alumni careers with institutional transparency and strategic priorities for career readiness,” said Lyndsey Crum, ‘05, Assistant Vice President for Alumni Relations. “And it all begins with data.”  

The dashboard also features a map showing the geographic distribution of alumni to illustrate how far-reaching Bear careers go across Colorado, the region and the nation, demonstrating the power of UNC’s alumni network as well as the strong contributions to the state’s workforce and talent.  

UNC is the first university in Colorado to build a public dashboard populated by actual alumni employment data.  

While the daily data fluctuates, on average, the career data populating the dashboard represents 45% of UNC alumni from the 1960s-2020s drawn from multiple sources. These include self-reported data, LinkedIn information sourced from LiveAlumni, university event attendees and communication information, an annual alumni survey and various university updates. Currently, the data comprises undergraduate alumni only, but future plans will include data from graduate alumni.   

The dashboard data and filters include:  

  • Academic college and major 
  • Industry (classification of employer) 
  • Profession (classification of a position or occupation) 
  • Donor-funded scholarship status 
  • First generation student status  

Finding Your Passion and a Job, Too 

Alumni know all too well the power of a UNC degree. But now, they can see tangible, aggregated data visually depicting alumni successes. Alumna Ashley Valenzuela-Ruesgen, ’11, Human Resources Director for United Site Services and a member of the university’s alumni board, sees tremendous value in and application of the new dashboard.  

“Data is powerful, and seeing is believing,” said Valenzuela-Ruesgen. “All universities love to tout their alumni network and job placement but it’s pretty rare to have actual alumni data, tangible numbers. [The dashboard] provides true visuals of who’s hiring UNC alumni, where alumni are going and what they are doing with their careers.”  

“I had a non-traditional path as a student at UNC,” explained Valenzuela-Ruesgen, who majored in Political Science and Mexican American Studies with a Spanish minor. “I am grateful to have explored such different areas that interested me. No one ever told me that you have to go from point A to point B to point C in your career. Careers are rarely built on a highway, frequently, it’s not a straight shot. Often careers have on and off ramps. There are traffic jams, construction, detours, speed bumps — all nature of obstacles along the way to navigate — and that’s OK! The journey provides us with unique experiences and perspectives.”  

“It’s about finding joy and purpose in your work. And making a decision [of what to study] with data is incredibly helpful,” said Valenzuela-Ruesgen, who went on to earn a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from the University of New Mexico and a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Strategic Human Resources from Regis University.  

Where the Bears Are 

The university is putting actual alumni data into the hands of students and influencers to help incoming and current students find the best career path for them. By accessing the Alumni Employment Dashboard, admissions counselors, academic and career advisors, high school guidance counselors and teachers can provide up-to-date information to help students research careers, industries and the academic majors at UNC that lead to jobs.  

This student-centric approach of empowering students with data early in their college career can help them bridge the gap between their education and the job market. They can see how their interests, experiences, skills and academic major and coursework build on each other to prepare them for the workforce. Students can access alumni data and industry insights via summaries of aggregated demographic, geographic and employer data. They can also see trends by academic major, graduation year and geographic location. The dashboard illustrates the power of a UNC degree.  

“Graduates of UNC go on to do big things — leading companies, leading social change and even leading major league baseball clubs,” said Crum. “With nearly 140,000 living alumni making up the global Bear Network, we want to continue to be intentional in our efforts that tie curriculum to career paths that will help our students become the future leaders, change-makers and innovators we need in the world.” 

For students struggling to find their purpose and settle on an academic major and for parents concerned about them landing a good job, the Alumni Employment Dashboard offers convenient and quick ways to research professions and jobs and obtain career guidance and advising, but it also helps them forge connections with UNC’s vast alumni network. Alumni often serve as invaluable career resources, mentors and professional contacts for current students, while fostering connection and providing insights into the job market or specific professions, all with a shared UNC experience.  

Supply and Demand: Getting to Work 

The powerful career platform is also a valuable tool for incoming and current UNC students as well as parents, counselors and advisors to explore the data behind successful alumni careers as they consider potential careers. It takes the guesswork out of identifying industries and career paths with in-demand, well-paying jobs in a changing workforce.  

The annual Colorado Talent Pipeline Report identifies areas of growing demand and opportunity, key features of the current labor force and strategies to balance the supply and demand equation for talent. It also highlights the top jobs in Colorado — jobs with high annual openings, above average growth and a good wage.  

In July 2022, CNBC ranked Colorado the number four state in the country to do business, and number one in the nation for workforce. At the time, Colorado had two job openings for every available worker. 

UNC graduates are filling these jobs, significantly educating and training students to meet the needs of Colorado’s employers, businesses and the top industries. More than 11,000 undergraduate alumni are working in these in-demand fields in Colorado: education, health care, computer and math areas, social and community services, and life and physical sciences. The chart on the next page shows the percentages of alumni from each college at UNC who are now working in education-related professions. This truly demonstrates that all disciplines contribute to the in-demand workforce of education. 

While K-12 is the #1 industry for UNC graduates, the data reveals that they show up inside and outside the classroom as principals, superintendents, school psychologists, nurses, nutritionists, coaches, biology teachers and other roles. With strong representation in these industries thanks to its legacy of preparing teachers and education professionals, UNC is well-positioned to continue building a strong workforce for Colorado and to ensure students pursue career paths and programs that guide them to upward social and economic mobility. Forbes has called college “one of the most important investments of students’ lives” so it makes sense that they are looking for an excellent return on that investment.  

Colorado’s Top Jobs by Major Occupational Profile in 2022 

Colorado Workforce Development Council’s Talent Pipeline Report, 2022

Computer and Mathematical  Architecture and Engineering  Life, Physical and Social Sciences  Education  Health care  Community and Social Services 

Software Developers and Software Quality Assurance Analysts and Testers 

(7,808 annual openings) 

Civil Engineers 

(1,243 annual openings) 

Biological Technicians 

(466 annual openings) 

Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education 

(2,307 annual openings) 

Registered Nurses 

(4,024 annual openings) 

Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors 

(1,431 annual openings) 

Computer User Support Specialists 

(1,606 annual openings) 

Architects, Except Landscape and Naval 

(1,449 annual openings) 

Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health 

(346 annual openings) 

Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 

(1,461 annual openings) 

Massage Therapists 

(1,452 annual openings) 

Paralegals and Legal Assistants 

(925 annual openings) 

Computer Occupations, All Other 

(1,369 annual openings) 

Electronics Engineers, Except Computer 

(605 annual openings) 

Clinical, Counseling and School Psychologists 

(248 annual openings) 

Middle School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 

(1,161 annual openings) 

Dental Assistants 

(1,308 annual openings) 

Child, Family and School Social Workers  

(909 annual openings) 

Building a Bear Workforce 

The Alumni Employment Dashboard is also strengthening UNC’s strategic partnerships with local and regional organizations on workforce development. One important collaboration is with The Weld Trust, with $12.8 million in funding in 2022 to advance its mission of positively impacting the education and wellness of the people of Weld County.   

UNC recently partnered with the philanthropic organization to build a custom employment dashboard so they can track the students they support through Bright Futures, a workforce initiative launched in 2015 to financially assist students pursuing post-secondary education or training and certification programs at a Title IV accredited institution.  

“Bright Futures programming helps students attain their educational and vocational goals with the big picture goal of retaining Weld County’s homegrown talent and enhancing our community pipeline,” explains Lisa Taylor, senior program officer for The Weld Trust. “One of its core pillars is to guide long-term sustainable strategies for workforce development.”   

“But tracking labor data, especially when someone exits our program, can be problematic. We want to know where our [Bright Future] students are going — the fields and industries, the jobs and geographic locations,” said Taylor. “The dashboard helps us track this data and is part of how we measure the long-term effectiveness of our program.”  

“We are invested in individual student success as well as the impact our Bright Futures scholars will have in Weld County’s workforce” adds Taylor. “The employment dashboard is a tool we can use to continue growing and improving our services.”   

What Else Can I Do with My Degree? 

UNC made a promise to its graduates 20 years ago that it continues to uphold. During the first three years after graduation, alumni can obtain support from the Center for Career Readiness. They can access the full suite of services including the online platform Handshake to find jobs, new career opportunities or schedule appointments with staff.   

After three years, Bears can seek career support from the Office of Alumni Relations for a range of services, including coaching sessions during career advancement or changes, career panel discussions, referrals to other alumni working in a desired field to discuss advancing or transitioning your career, and resume review among others.  

According to a 2021 survey by The Motley Fool, a leading provider of investing and financial advice and related research, nearly 55% of Millennials, about 22% of Gen Xers, 15% of Gen Zers and 7% of Baby Boomers have changed career paths, not just jobs since March 2020. One-third of millennials said they would look for a new job, a larger percentage than any other generation, according to a 2021 survey from Prudential, and 26% of all workers have plans to look for a job now that the pandemic is no longer an issue.  

Since we have returned to life post pandemic, the workplace has changed and so have people’s expectations, needs and desires.  

Whether you are a recent graduate, a rising professional, established professional or are re-entering the workforce, UNC’s Alumni Relations can support you.  

“We are committed to supporting the long-term careers of our alumni, providing assistance during all phases of their professional lives,” said Crum. “We are here to help you navigate your career journey, make meaningful connections, overcome challenges and celebrate success.”   

Share your career updates and your de-identified data will be aggregated into the dashboard’s weekly refresh.

Learn more at unco.edu/bears-go-big. 

Graphic pie chart showing Education Professionals, by Their College of Graduation.

Caption: Education Professionals, by Their College of Graduation. Users can select a profession to see the percentages of alumni currently working in a specific profession by the college from which they graduated. The example above is for Education-related professions (either teachers/educators or educational administrators). Note: Data reflects undergraduate alumni from 1960-2023 who are currently employed.