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NSC joins national organizations to call for FY 2017 workforce funding

This morning, National Skills Coalition joined with more than 30 other national organizations as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW) to send a letter to Congressional appropriators urging them to maintain or increase funding for key education and workforce programs as part of any final Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 appropriations bill.

Most federal programs are currently being funded under a “continuing resolution” (CR) that was passed by Congress in December, and which temporarily extends funding at FY 2016 levels through the end of April. The CR was necessary because Congress was unable to complete work on most of the twelve regular appropriations bills before the December deadline, and because the incoming Trump administration had requested a delay on final spending decisions until spring to allow the White House to weigh in on funding priorities.

Both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees did pass Labor-HHS-Education bills last year, with the Senate committee approving its version in June and the House approving its slightly different version in July. However, neither bill was approved by the full House or Senate. The CIAW letter urges appropriators to work from the proposed levels in the committee-approved bills, adopting the higher of the House or Senate funding proposals where the two bills differ.

National Skills Coalition will continue to work with the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce and with our state and local partners to urge lawmakers to support critical investments in the skills of workers and businesses. With the return of strict budget caps and the threat of further funding cuts in coming years, it is more important than ever to ensure that lawmakers understand the value of federal workforce and education programs.    

California sees worrying drop in immigrant “Dreamers” applying for financial aid

New figures from California show a stark drop in the number of students applying for new or continuing financial aid under the so-called “California Dream Act.” The legislation allows eligible undocumented individuals who have graduated from a California high school or meet other requirements to apply for state financial aid to help them access higher education.

The drop in applications was steep enough to concern the California Department of Education and California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), which have issued a joint letter urging school officials to encourage eligible students to apply before the March 2 deadline.

The letter acknowledges that undocumented individuals may be confused by recent events regarding immigration at the federal level, and emphasizes that the California Dream Act is state legislation and entirely separate from the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The letter also addresses fears that students may have about their safety of their own or their family’s personally identifying information. It details the privacy protections in place in California, stating that “[t]he information provided via the California Dream Act Application is used solely to determine eligibility for state financial aid and is not shared with any other governmental agency,” and emphasizing that “students need to be reassured that the CSAC will take all available legal precautions to protect this information.”

The Los Angeles Times highlighted the dropping numbers in a February 23 article:

The drop in applications is even more striking considering that the [California Student Aid Commission] recently made changes to give students more time to apply. Last year, students only had from January through March 2 to submit requests for college aid. During that period, 13,200 students filed for first-time Dream Act grants, and 20,962 asked to renew their funding.

This year, officials opened up applications for Dream Act and other scholarships in October. But as of Feb. 17, only 8,668 students had applied for new grants, and 11,429 had applied for renewals.

California is one of a number of states that have passed such “state-level Dream Acts,” also referred to as “tuition equity” legislation. These laws do not allow an undocumented person to change his or her immigration status. Rather, they allow undocumented youth who have graduated from high school in a specific state to be eligible for in-state tuition rates at that state’s colleges and universities. (In states without such policies, undocumented students typically pay more expensive out-of-state or international student rates.)

In some cases, these state tuition equity policies also allow undocumented youth to receive state-funded financial aid. Such financial aid plays an important role in equipping young students to pursue their educational ambitions, because undocumented youth are not eligible for federal financial aid.

The National Immigration Law Center tracks the current status of tuition equity legislation and access to student financial aid across different states. 

Assuring the Quality of Short Term Programs

Workers with middle-skill credentials are critical to our economy - but our financial aid policies don’t support people seeking non-degree credentials. And, there’s no consensus on how to ensure that occupational education and training programs are aligned with the needs of industry and of sufficient quality to justify federal and state aid.

A new Workforce Data Quality Campaign publication entitled, Programs that Work: Quality Assurance for Short-Term Occupational Programs analyzes various quality assurance mechanisms that gauge the quality of academic institutions and programs. Programs that Work also offers state and federal policy recommendations that would direct financial aid to short-term occupational programs that provide training for in-demand jobs or start people on a career pathway to a family-sustaining wage.

New Congress and renewed energy at the 2017 Skills Summit!

  ·   By Jessica Cardott
New Congress and renewed energy at the 2017 Skills Summit!

On February 5-7, more than 300 workforce advocates from 34 states traveled to Washington DC to take their voices to Capitol Hill as part of NSC’s annual 2017 Skills Summit. Workforce advocates, educators, public sector partners, community-based organizations, and labor leaders shared the priorities of our coalition with 200 members of the 115th Congress, reaching both majority and minority leadership, and meeting with members of all key committees.  

NSC often draws on the expertise and advocacy of our deep, broad network of workforce advocates to push a skills agenda on the state and federal level. This year, NSC welcomed nearly 70 first-time attendees to the Summit, and added five new states to the delegation roster – growing our network to record levels. 

Advocacy focused and Hill ready

The purpose of the Skills Summit is to prepare our nation’s workforce leaders as advocates so that they have the tools to shape and drive key federal policies. The first two days of the Summit included an overview on the national political climate as well as deep dives on the federal policies that impact their work back home.

Policymakers and Congressional staff joined us at the Summit for dynamic conversations about welfare reform, the Higher Education Act, apprenticeship, the Perkins Act, infrastructure and upskilling the workforce. During breakout sessions, participants drilled down on specific policy asks and strategized on how to best use their time on the final day’s meetings with Senators and Representatives.

Kim Ford from the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTE) and Gerri Fiala from the Department of Labor shared their perspectives about the impact of the presidential transition on federal agencies, and Representative Brett Guthrie (R-KY02) shared how his support for upskilling comes from his background as a business owner. Congressman Mark Takano (D-CA41) spoke with attendees during the evening reception on Monday night and described his commitment to fighting for job training, career and technical programs, and partnerships between community colleges and businesses.

On the final day of the Summit, attendees met with Senators and Representatives in more than 179 meetings on Capitol Hill, discussing the workforce issues that matter most to their communities. They advocated for a range of issues including urging Congressional support for sector partnerships and job-driven financial aid to promoting apprenticeship, upskilling, and adult education.

Recognizing our network leaders

Each year, NSC recognizes members of our network who invest their time and talent to support our coalition’s shared policy initiatives. The 2017 Skills Champion Award was awarded to Carrie Thomas, the Executive Director of the Chicago Jobs Council, in recognition of her 15 years of strategic and effective advocacy with NSC. Carrie participated on our Leadership Council and currently serves on our Work-Based Learning National Advisory Panel (NAP).

Board Member Brenda Dann-Messier was honored with the Power NAP-per Award for her extraordinary contribution to our (NAPs). NSC also recognized Young Invincibles with the Partners in Crime Award for mobilizing their network in partnership with NSC to advance improved federal skills policy. Steve Long of the St. Louis Community College Workforce Solutions Group was honored with the Taking Care of Business Award for his outstanding effort to mobilize business partners and advocate for improved federal skills policy.

NSC is grateful to JPMorgan Chase & Co., Siemens Foundation, Walmart, and USA Funds whose generous support made the 2017 Skills Summit (and makes NSC’s ongoing work) possible. 

Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

  ·   By Sapna Mehta
Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

Governors across the nation are proposing new measures to increase middle-skill training.  Among the most common proposals are state support for apprenticeships and new investments in community college training, including free tuition. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed an additional $150 million for grants to support community colleges to develop and implement “guided pathways programs, an integrated, institution-wide approach” to improve student success.  The Governor also proposed utilizing $923,000 in federal funds to expand existing apprenticeship programs and create new programs in non-traditional and emerging industries.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan proposed $41 million for the Going Pro Program, a job training program that focuses on in-demand occupations in advanced manufacturing, construction, information technology and healthcare. The Governor also spoke of the need to work with legislators and the private sector to increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the state.

Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada proposed a $21 million investment in career and technical education programs at the state’s four community colleges. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf requested $12 million in new funding to establish the Manufacturing PA initiative – a partnership between the Department of Community and Economic Development, research universities, community colleges, and other training providers to foster growth and innovation in manufacturing.  Of the $12 million, $5 million is for a manufacturing training-to-career grant program, which would facilitate partnerships between manufacturers and community colleges and technical providers, to link job training to career pathways through programs such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and paid internships. The Governor also proposed $4 million to expand apprenticeship opportunities, including grants for employers of up to $2,000 for each registered apprentice.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin proposed a $5 million increase in state funds and a new $5 million program for the Department of Workforce Development to make grants to the Wisconsin Technical College System for in-demand certification programs for high school students. The Governor also proposed $5 million for a registered apprenticeship program.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan proposed the Student Debt Relief Act, which would allow “Marylanders to deduct one hundred percent of the interest paid on their student loans from their state income tax return.” Additionally, as part of the Governor’s $5 million 2017 Maryland Jobs Initiative, he proposed opening six new P-TECH high schools, and funding to support students currently enrolled in existing schools.  P-TECH schools partner with employers and colleges to provide secondary to postsecondary pathways in STEM.   The Jobs Initiative also includes a $3 million investment in cyber job training grants, modeled after Maryland’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) workforce training program.  The Governor also announced a $1 million investment in Maryland Partnership for Workforce Quality, to encourage employers to invest in employee training.   

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed the $4 million Learn to Earn program, which would offer scholarships for training and certificates in certain fields, as well as transportation and child care subsidies to make it easier for people to attend the trainings.

Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island proposed $2 million for the Community College of Rhode Island Westerly Job Skills Training Center, which prepare students for jobs in advanced manufacturing in partnership with employers, and $2 million for the state’s TechHire initiative for training in technology related fields.  The Governor also proposed free tuition for two years at the state’s public colleges: University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.  Additionally, she proposed expanding P-TECH high schools.  

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb proposed investing $2 million to create regional Jobs Ready Grants to help incumbent workers earn in-demand credentials or certificates.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a budget enhancement of $1 million for the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program, which supports 124 different training programs at Virginia’s Community colleges.  The Governor also proposed requiring community colleges to award college credit for apprenticeships and other related programs, expanding access to in-demand credentials for non-traditional students. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the Excelsior Scholarship Program, a “last-dollar scholarship” to provide free tuition at the state’s public two- and four-year colleges to residents earning up to $125,000 annually.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed tuition-free community college education for all adults without a post-secondary degree.  Currently, adults without post-secondary degrees can attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology tuition-free through Tennessee Reconnect, and only recent high school graduates can apply for “last-dollar scholarships” to attend the state’s community colleges through Tennessee Promise. Funding for the new adult scholarships would come from the state’s lottery proceeds.

Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed piloting the Accelerated Completion of Technical Studies program, which would provide financial support to low-income students pursuing associate degrees at community colleges for in-demand jobs.  This is modeled after a similar successful program at the City University of New York.

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas proposed free tuition at two-year colleges and technical schools for high school students who enroll in high-demand fields, such as computer science or welding.  The grants, known as Arkansas Future Grants, would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  They would be paid for by repurposing $8.2 million in general revenue funds from other workforce and higher education grants.

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