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Making sure that policy conversations are informed by the deep expertise of adult educators in the field is a core element of National Skills Coalition’s work. In addition to bringing practitioners into Washington for federal-level conversations, NSC staff also regularly travel around the country to connect with people who are engaging in advocacy in their local communities and states.

This spring, two NSC staff members joined adult educators at two major conferences to talk about emerging opportunities for policy advocacy, new research findings, and resources for practitioners to connect the dots between local programs and the broader adult education and skills policy conversation.

Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh journeyed to Orlando, Florida, for the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference. The COABE conference brings together more than 2,000 adult educators from across the United States, including teachers, administrators, researchers, and other stakeholders. Rachel joined a panel of national leaders in adult education to discuss the federal policy and funding landscape for adult education.

Rachel also presented on results of NSC’s recent Foundational Skills in the Service Sector study. Co-presenting along with Rachel were NSC’s research partners at American Institutes of Research: B. Jasmine Park, Emily Pawlowski, and Katherine Landeros.

Among the policy tools that Rachel discussed were NSC’s state policy toolkit on sector partnerships. The toolkit is accompanied by a 50-state scan showing which states have already adopted such policies. 

Meanwhile, NSC Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock traveled to Salt Lake City for the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association conference. The conference brings together adult educators from across nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Amanda led two workshops:

  • Implementing WIOA: Early Examples of How Adult Educators Are Partnering with the Workforce System, Launching IET, and More
  • Immigrant Integration: Practices and Policies that Can Support Adult English Language Learners (ELLs) in their Career Transitions

Amanda also presented a solo plenary session on Standing Up for Adult Education: Strategies for Policy Advocacy. She encouraged educators to use NSC’s resources in their advocacy with business leaders, policymakers, and others. 

Among the resources she highlighted are NSC’s two new 2-page fact sheets, which draw on findings from the Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report. One fact sheet, The Business Case for Upskilling, includes a case study of how one hotel benefitted from partnering to provide Vocational English classes to its housekeeping staff. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education

Maryland leaders consider data tools for policymakers

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
Maryland leaders consider data tools for policymakers

Workforce Data Quality Campaign, in collaboration with the Maryland Longitudinal Data System (MLDS) Center, held a packed meeting this week about using data tools to impact policy change in Maryland. At the meeting, more than 35 representatives of Maryland state and local governments, postsecondary academic institutions, and Maryland-oriented foundations joined together to learn about data tools for policymakers and discuss how they could be used to further Maryland’s policy priorities.

Domenico "Mimmo" Parisi and Zack Krampf, of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (nSPARC) at Mississippi State University, began the meeting with a demonstration of three data tools they have created for Mississippi: 

  • Dashboard - uses a small number of common metrics to report on education and employment outcomes across workforce development programs;
  • Pathway evaluator - shows the best pathways to gain skills for work in particular industries; and,
  • Supply and demand report - compares the number of trained workers in a state to the number of workers that employers need, in order to help align training with employer demand.

They explained how Mississippi policymakers have used these tools, and data more generally, to make policy decisions in the state. For example, Mississippi used data to identify gaps in its skilled workforce, and created a workforce training fund to help workers gain skills required by employers moving into the state.

Mississippi’s tools were created as a part of National Skills Coalition’s State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP). The project seeks to create better cross-program information that allows state policy leaders to see how education and workforce training programs can work together, and how individuals can advance through these programs over time in the pursuit of postsecondary credentials and higher-paying employment. SWEAP is assessing how state policy leaders find such information useful for improving workforce development policy, and ultimately educational and labor market outcomes for program participants.

After the demonstration of Mississippi’s SWEAP tools, the conversation shifted to Maryland’s policy needs, its data tool priorities, and the potential challenges the state faces in creating data tools. MLDS staff will take this information to its Research and Policy board in the hopes of building its own SWEAP tools and promoting a better understanding of the connection between education and employment in the state.

You can learn more about the SWEAP project here. Moving forward, WDQC plans to provide assistance to states seeking to implement SWEAP data tools. If your state is interested in implementing SWEAP tools, please contact us at info@workforcedqc.org.   

*Workforce Data Quality Campaign is a project of National Skills Coalition. This blog was originally posted on the WDQC website

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Maryland, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Maryland enacts major workforce legislation

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Maryland enacts major workforce legislation

On April 11, Governor Larry Hogan signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 317, More Jobs for Marylanders Act of 2017, a bill that the Governor requested. The many features of the bill include a business tax credit linked to job training, a tax credit for apprenticeships, a student financial aid program for non-credit training, and a goal for the percentage of high school students completing secondary career and technical education or other skills training.

Many states offer a tax break for new businesses or businesses increasing employment. SB 317 does that and more. It authorizes a business income tax credit for up to 10 years for new or expanding manufacturers equal to 5.75 percent of wages paid for qualified positions. The business must be located in Baltimore City, an economically distressed county, or on a site of 3,000 or more acres. But what is unique about SB 317, is that in order to qualify for the credit the manufacturer must offer “an ongoing job skills enhancement training program or a postsecondary education program that is approved by the Department of Commerce.”

For apprenticeships, the bill creates a tax credit against the business income tax for firms that employ an apprentice for at least seven months during a taxable year. The apprentice must be in a program registered with the Maryland Apprenticeship and Training Council. The tax credit is equal to $1,000 for the first year of employment for each apprentice, and may be carried forward to succeeding tax years until the full amount of the credit is claimed. Total credits are capped at $500,000 annually. In addition, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR) must issue recommendations for creating apprenticeship programs at state agencies and on combining youth apprenticeship and registered apprenticeship programs. According to Grant Shmelzer, the Executive Director of IEC Chesapeake, the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc., “This bill shows Maryland’s commitment to leading the country in expansion and promotion of apprenticeship based upon the needs of the residents and business in the state.”

The Act also creates a new $2 million financial aid program for students in non-credit training at a community college, Workforce Development Sequence Scholarships. To be eligible for a scholarship, a student must be a Maryland resident or have graduated from a Maryland high school and enrolled in a “Workforce Development Sequence” of courses—training related to job preparation, apprenticeship, licensure, certification, or job skills enhancement. An award may be used for tuition, mandatory fees, and other costs of attendance. A student may receive up to $2,000 per year. This new aid program is consistent with National Skills Coalition’s call for job-driven financial aid, and NSC provided technical assistance on this part of the bill.

Finally, The bill requires the State Board of Education, in consultation with DLLR and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board, to develop annual statewide goals such that by January 1, 2025, 45 percent of high school students successfully complete career and technical education, earn an industry-recognized occupational or skill credential, or complete a registered youth or other apprenticeship before graduating high school. And, by December 1, 2017, the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center and the Governor’s Workforce Development Board must develop annual income earnings goals for high school graduates who have not earned at least a two-year college degree by age 25.

See here to view the full Act.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Maryland
House subcommittee holds hearing on examining federal support for job training programs

On April 4, the House Appropriation Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing, Examining Federal Support for Job Training Programs.

The witnesses were Zoe Baird (CEO and President, Markle Foundation), Douglas Besharov (Professor, University of Maryland School of Public Policy; Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council), and Dr. Demetra Smith Nightingale (Institute Fellow, Urban Institute). You can read each witness’ prepared testimony here.

Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) framed the hearing as an attempt to evaluate how federal job training investments can target skills needed to fill the more than 5.5 million job openings across the country. Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) similarly described the goal as garnishing information on job training programs that work and what appropriators can do to ensure programs are effective.

Witnesses and members of Congress highlighted the importance of maximizing the ability of industry and sector partnerships to bring stakeholders together and impact systemic change, the success of work-based learning and apprenticeship as models to equip workers with in-demand skills connected to employer demand, and the role of the workforce system in engaging workers and business to meet the needs of both.

This hearing comes after the Trump Administration’s “skinny budget” for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 proposed approximately $2.5 billion in cuts from the Department of Labor’s (DOL) budget and $9 billion in cuts from the Department of Education.

Most federal programs – including job training programs funded by DOL and Department of Education – are currently being funded through a temporary stopgap known as a “continuing resolution” (CR), which largely maintains funding at prior year levels. The current CR was enacted in December, and runs through April 28th. There have been reports that the administration is pushing for further dramatic cuts to spending levels in any FY2017 spending bill passed after the expiration of the current CR.

National Skills Coalition joined with more than 40 other national organizations as part of the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce in a letter to House and Senate Appropriators urging them to adequately fund workforce training and education programs in FY2018.

We will continue to monitor the FY2018 budget process and the appropriations process for both FY2017 and FY2018 and will continue to work with our national, state, and local partners to education policymakers on the vital role these investments play for industries and jobseekers across the country, and to reject cuts that would reduce our nation’s ability to compete in a global economy.   

Posted In: Federal Funding

New Fact Sheet: The Business Case for Investing in Upskilling

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
New Fact Sheet: The Business Case for Investing in Upskilling

Businesses have a powerful stake in the skills of their frontline employees. That’s the message of a new fact sheet, one of two publications being released today by National Skills Coalition.

The Business Case for Upskilling highlights findings from NSC’s recent report on service-sector workers who have limited literacy, numeracy, or digital problem-solving skills. Among the findings emphasized in the fact sheet: A majority (58%) of these workers have been with their employer for at least three years, and 39% have recently pursued additional education and training.

Companies can help workers overcome their skill gaps through a variety of mechanisms, including partnering with training providers to offer classes and providing paid release time for employees to participate in learning activities.

An on-the-ground example of such collaboration is provided in the story of the Hyatt Regency at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which identified employee language skills as a key barrier hampering the hotel’s efforts to become a four-star facility. Through a partnership with labor, workforce, and other stakeholders, the hotel has been able to upgrade worker skills and obtain the coveted four-star rating.

Also being released today is a second fact sheet, which distills key findings from NSC’s report for a general audience. Low Skills are Widespread in the Service Sector, But Investments in Worker Upskilling Can Pay Off also summarizes key employer and policy recommendations.

Both fact sheets accompany NSC’s Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report, released last month. Slides from NSC’s webinar on the report are also available. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education