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National Skills Coalition, New America and partners move Apprenticeship Forward

On May 4th and 5th, National Skills Coalition and New America, along with seven other organizations and in consultation with the Departments of Education and Labor, brought together 600 leaders from the apprenticeship community at Apprenticeship Forward. We heard from business leaders championing apprenticeship, state leaders working to expand apprenticeship in their communities, education and training providers preparing students and workers for their new careers, and apprentices who showcased how well apprenticeship can connect skilled, passionate workers to willing companies.  Most importantly, each of the attendees contributed to the dialogue through discussion groups and engagement with each other throughout the two days.

Apprenticeship Forward was a first of its kind convening, intended to continue the momentum around expanding apprenticeship in the U.S. It focused on three critical challenges facing this expansion: increasing industry engagement across a range of sectors and firms; addressing equity issues while diversifying the apprenticeship pipeline; and implementing new public policies that can support industry’s taking apprenticeship to scale.

Even if you weren’t at the conference, there are a few ways for you to stay in touch and join in the work to move apprenticeship forward!

  1. Visit ApprenticeshipForward.org as we update the site to include videos, images, and other content from the conference partners and sponsors.
  2. Watch for Apprenticeship Forward follow-up in NSC emails to read about and connect with the apprenticeship efforts of conference partners.
  3. Continue the conversation on social media using the conference social media tool kit and your own success stories – we’ll be following #apprenticeship and #apprenticeshipworks.

Finally, an extra thank you to our Apprenticeship Forward sponsors: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Siemens Foundation, The  Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, and The JPB Foundation.   And kudos to the Departments of Labor and Education, as well as all our conference sponsors.

Posted In: Work Based Learning
Fifty-State Scan of State Work-Based Learning Policies

Across the country, employers are reporting a skills gap for middle-skill jobs that require some form of post high school education or training but not a bachelor’s degree. Employers report there are insufficient numbers of job applicants with the occupational/technical skills required for open middle-skill positions and that too many applicants lack critical “soft skills,” and have no relevant work experience. State policymakers have heard employers’ concerns and are seeking solutions.

One key strategy for filling these skill gaps is work-based learning programs like apprenticeship and career and technical education with a worksite component — programs that blend worksite and classroom learning to prepare workers with the skills employers need. This dual model of training has a long tradition of proven effectiveness. Yet, the scale of workbased learning, especially paid work-based learning, is limited in the United States.

Recognizing the value of work-based learning and the opportunity to spread work-based learning to more populations and sectors of the economy, states have adopted policies to help increase the scope of work-based learning opportunities.

National Skills Coalition (NSC) has scanned the fifty states and the District of Columbia to identify the policies that states have in place to support work-based learning that includes paid employment. Through the scan, NSC finds that:

Thirty-five states have a policy in place to support work-based learning.

  • Fourteen of these states have an expansion initiative that directs resources for state staff or other organizations to support the growth of work-based learning.
  • Eighteen of these states provide a subsidy to employers who participate in work-based learning.  Ten provide a grant or reimbursement to employers, and ten provide a tax credit. (Two states provide both.)
  • Fourteen of these states have a policy supporting pre-apprenticeships or youth apprenticeships.
  • At least eleven of these states have another type of policy to require or fund work experiences for secondary students that include paid work-based learning.
  • Nine of these states have a policy subsidizing postsecondary classroom instruction for apprentices.

The scan explains each type of work-based learning policy, identifies which states have work-based learning policies in place (including descriptions of those policies) and reveals which states have opportunities to adopt new policies. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning
National Stakeholders and Foundations Announce Apprenticeship Forward National Conference in May 2017

Following several years of new attention and expanded state and federal support, apprenticeships in the United States are growing and innovating in unprecedented ways. For example, the number of registered apprentices nationwide is approaching 500,000, up from just under 400,000 in early 2014.  Nevertheless, the work of extending apprenticeship to more industries and diversifying the range of youth and working adults who have access to these earn-and-learn opportunities has only just begun. 

To continue this momentum, a number of national workforce, education, industry, foundation and public agency leaders are working together to organize  a national convening about the current and future status of apprenticeship in the U.S.. The Apprenticeship Forward conference will take place on May 4-5, 2017 in Washington, DC, drawing on stakeholders from across the apprenticeship system – including industry associations and employers; unions and labor-management partnerships; community-based organizations; community colleges; high schools; and workforce boards—as well as policymakers from the new administration, the 115th Congress, and state governments from throughout the country.

The event is being developed through a unique collaboration between key national stakeholders, including National Skills Coalition, New America, Advance CTE, AFL-CIO Working for America Institute, National Association of Workforce Boards, National Fund for Workforce Solutions, National Governors Association, and Urban Institute. Other national partners will soon be added to fill out the planning committee. The event is being organized at the initiation of a number of national foundations, including Annie E. Casey Foundation, Joyce Foundation, JPB Foundation, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Siemens Foundation

The conference will focus on three critical challenges facing the expansion of apprenticeship:  increasing industry engagement across a range of sectors and firms; addressing equity while diversifying the apprenticeship pipeline; and designing and implementing new public policies that can take apprenticeship to scale. Apprenticeship Forward will feature engaging plenaries and breakout panels, as well as interactive discussions between attendees about their apprenticeship efforts within specific industries and well as with specific groups of students and prospective workers

Conference participants will work to

  • Sustain the momentum of a broad range of apprenticeship investment and interest through to the next administration and new Congress;
  • Provide the opportunities to new and existing stakeholders in the apprenticeship field to hear from experts;
  • Facilitate peer learning among stakeholders in the same industries, working to engage underrepresented populations, and advocating for public policies to support this work; and
  • Strengthen networks at both the state and federal levels, building on existing strengths and redefining the apprenticeship field.

Registration will open in January 2017. Apprenticeship Forward will be hosted at the Washington Hilton Hotel.

Please mark your calendar and join us this May in Washington, DC!

Posted In: Work Based Learning
DOL announces $50.5 million in Apprenticeship State Expansion Grants

On October 21st, Department of Labor announced $50.5 million in State Expansion Grants under the ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative. The 18-month grants, ranging from $700,000 to $2.7 million, were awarded to 37 grantees across the country.

Grantees are state projects that bring together stakeholders across the apprenticeship system – intermediaries, industry, education providers, community based organizations, etc. – to develop innovative system reforms to increase the use of apprenticeship as a training strategy. States are tasked with integrating workforce and education systems, building capacity to conduct outreach to new sectors not traditionally using apprenticeship and to populations underrepresented in the current system, and build on and develop practices to increase demand for apprenticeship and availability of apprenticeship opportunities.

The State Expansion Grants represent the final set of investments supported by a $90 million appropriation for apprenticeship in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 omnibus spending bill.  DOL had previously released $10.4 million in state Accelerator grants in June 2016, and $20.4 million in intermediary and equity technical assistance contracts to national organizations late last month.

It is unclear whether there will be further funding to support the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative next year. The Senate Appropriations Committee proposed an additional $100 million in FY2017 to build on this year’s investments; the House did not include additional funding in their version of the FY2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies bill. Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution in early October that lasts through December 9th, so final decisions on FY 2017 funding will be made once lawmakers return following the November election. National Skills Coalition supports continued funding for apprenticeship for youth and adults and other key education and workforce programs, and we look forward to working with the appropriations committees to ensure that investments in skills are a priority in the coming year.

States and Territories with projects under this grant are listed below:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Guam
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
New paper highlights promising practices in work-based learning for youth

A new paper by National Skills Coalition and National Youth Employment Coalition finds that well-designed work-based learning opportunities can provide youth with occupational and work readiness training while providing income support for disconnected and at-risk youth. The paper examines four different work-based learning strategies, illustrates key elements of success, identifies challenges, and makes policy recommendations to address those challenges. 

The paper, entitled Promising Practices in Work-Based Learning for Youth is a companion piece to an upcoming Webinar on October 6 at 2pm EST. Click here to register.

Through conversations with youth intermediaries and employers, community-based organizations running youth programming, and youth participants, we concluded that work-based learning programs should provide the following elements to ensure success for both the participant in the program and the business for which they work:

  1. Paid work-based learning opportunities, with wages provided either through employer, provider, or combination of the two: By combining paid work with academic instruction, work-based learning makes it easier for youth participants to support themselves and their families while gaining skills and credentials that can translate into longer-term career advancement. 
  2. Strong partnerships with business and other community stakeholders: To realize the benefits from WBL, business partners must be engaged throughout the process of starting and running a program. The most successful programs also rely on partnerships with other stakeholders to deliver key educational or support services.
  3. Positive youth development and continued support services: Work-based learning requires significant investments in wages, education, and necessary partnerships among a variety of stakeholders. WBL may be even more expensive to deliver to youth participants because they often need more intense support services for a longer period of time than adults need in order to succeed
  4. Linkages to career pathways either through future employment opportunities or future education and training opportunities: Work-based learning can expose youth to different career opportunities, help them build work experience and a work history, increase understanding of the application of classroom learning on the jobsite, and connect them with adult mentors successfully working in their chosen industry.

While a number of youth serving organizations successfully provide work-based learning opportunities for youth, federal policy must better support these practices across the country to maximize the impact on our youth and our business capacity. NSC and NYEC recommend the following policy changes to better align the youth workforce development system with the needs of youth and business in their communities:

  1. Congress should increase funding for youth workforce development activities that facilitate WBL;
  2. The Administration should invest in intermediaries that facilitate expansion of work-based learning for youth;
  3. Congress should expand financial incentives to businesses participating in work-based learning; and
  4. Department of Labor should issue additional guidance for the workforce development system on working with employers hiring with out-of-school youth and at-risk youth.


Posted In: Work Based Learning
DOL announces recipients of $20.4m in ApprenticeshipUSA intermediary and equity contracts

On September 21, Department of Labor (DOL) announced the recipients of $20.4 million in contracts to expand intermediary capacity and improve equity in registered apprenticeship. The intermediary contracts focused on projects serving either a single industry or multiple industries. The funding for these contracts comes from a Congressional investment of $90 million in Fiscal Year 2016 appropriations and is part of DOL’s overall ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative.

Under Intermediary Contracts, recipients will work to expand apprenticeship programs in healthcare, construction, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, energy, and technology sectors through dissemination of tools and strategies to help employers start and grow their apprenticeship programs.

Recipients of the Intermediary Contracts (and their industries served) are listed below:

  • National Restaurant Association Education (Restaurant and Hospitality)
  • AFL-CIO Working for America Institute (Advanced Manufacturing and Hospitality)
  • AHIMA Foundation (Healthcare)
  • H-CAP, Inc. (Healthcare)
  • Jobs For The Future, Inc. (Advanced Manufacturing)
  • National Institute for Metalworking Skills, Inc. (Advanced Manufacturing)
  • FASTPORT, Inc. (Transportation)
  • South Central Louisiana Technical College – Young Memorial Campus (Marine Manufacturing and Technology)
  • North America’s Building Trades Unions (Construction)
  • Washington Technology Industry Association (Information and Communications Technology)

Recipients of the Equity Partner Contracts are tasked with increasing the diversity of apprentices and improving completion and retention rates for underrepresented populations.

Recipients of the Equity Contracts (and their populations served) are listed below:

  • Chicago Women in the Trades (Women and People of Color)
  • Jobs for the Future (Women, People of Color and Disconnected Youth)
  • National Urban League (Women and People of Color)
  • North Carolina A&T State University (Women, People of Color and People with Disabilities)


Posted In: Work Based Learning
Training, skills gap in media spotlight as economy becomes focus of election

Training programs, career and technical education, and the middle skills gap are in the national media spotlight this month, including two recent stories featuring National Skills Coalition - just as we head into election debate season.

This month, NPR’s Marketplace and the Christian Science Monitor consulted with NSC for insight on job-driven investments in skills training, and the idea that our economy desperately needs people trained to the middle-skill level, not just those with four-year degrees.

In the Marketplace story entitled, “Skills Training is Having a Moment” NSC Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh explained, “right now and in the next ten years, the largest portion of jobs are going to be in that middle area, the jobs that require more than high school, but less than a four-year degree, but that's not really how we invest,” Even though the jobs that require a four-year degree are a much smaller part of the labor market, we invest considerably more resources in preparing people for those jobs,” 

The Christian Science Monitor article entitled “Training programs promise good jobs without college degrees. Can they deliver?” highlighted National Skills Coalition’s analysis on middle skill jobs, publishing an NSC graphic showing how middle-skill jobs make up 54% of jobs in the U.S. economy, but only 44% of U.S. workers are trained at the middle-skill level. And CEO Andy Van Kleunen weighed in on how four-year degrees aren’t the only path to a good job. “There was an ideology and philosophy that the only good job out there is one for which you need a four-year degree,” Andy Van Kleunen, chief executive officer of the coalition, tells the Monitor. “The data never showed that.”

The issue of the economy is likely to take center stage during the election season – and there’s plenty of evidence candidates want to talk about skills. Recently, in a major address given at a manufacturing plant in Michigan, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laid out her economics agenda and asserted that, “a four-year degree should not be the only path to a good job in America.”

Vice Presidential Candidate Tim Kaine has advocated for apprenticeship and career and technical education throughout his career. Most recently, he introduced the JOBS Act which would expand Pell grants for workforce training and short term credentials in addition to traditional two and four year degree programs.

And former Presidential candidate John Kasich penned an oped for the New York Times advocating for connecting training opportunities with TANF.

Throughout the election season and beyond, NSC will be a resource to reporters covering skills issues, and a voice on our key issue: getting workers and industry the skills they need to compete.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Adult Basic Education, Work Based Learning
DOL publishes notice on revisions to Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium (RACC)

On August 26, DOL published a thirty-day notice of revisions to the information collection request associated with the RACC. RACC members include postsecondary institutions and registered apprenticeship programs. Postsecondary institutions agree to grant participants in registered apprenticeship programs college credit based on their engagement in the registered apprenticeship program.

Under the current structure of the program, DOL collects information from interested entities to establish three types of membership in the RACC – membership for postsecondary institutions, for registered apprenticeship programs and for national associations or institutions that facilitate membership for their local entities or partners. In order to establish membership, entities must describe the types of examinations and certifications students/participants are required pass, the types of courses or occupations on which the program is focused, and the region in which the program is run.

DOL is particularly interested in comments that describe whether the proposed collection of information is necessary to the performance of the RACC, whether the agency’s estimate of the burden of the collection request is accurate and comments that enhance the quality or use of the information DOL will collect.

DOL issued a previous sixty-day notice on March 17. The August 26 notice serves to extend the deadline for comments until September 30, 2016.

Posted In: Work Based Learning
Department of Labor solicits proposals for national equity intermediary contracts

On July 27, DOL released a solicitation for proposals for $7.5 million in contracts to be awarded to national equity intermediaries or “Opportunity partnerships.” DOL anticipates awarding 3-5 contracts which will be for 1 year of work with the option to renew for up to 4 additional years.

The contracts are intended to increase representation of women, people of color, and people with disabilities within Registered Apprenticeship, with DOL intending to award at least one contract to address the needs of each of these target populations. Contractors are able to target, within these populations, the needs of youth, low-income workers, Limited English Proficient, Immigrants or any other groups the contractor identifies. Contractors must be able to evidence industry expertise and national scope of the equity intermediary.

To be eligible, contractors must –

  1. Engage with partners such as employers, labor-management organizations, community based organization, educational providers, and the workforce development system to form “opportunity partnerships” at either the national or regional level;
  2. Create and share tools that increase access, entry and retention of underrepresented populations in Registered Apprenticeship;
  3. Provide technical assistance to sponsors of programs with the goal of helping these programs develop plans to improve diversity and inclusion in their programs and among program graduates;
  4. Work with other DOL initiatives, such as ApprenticeshipUSA LEADERs, a sector-based network of apprenticeship leaders, to support the diversification of apprenticeship programs across the country and across industries.

Contractors and Opportunity partnerships will be required to show increases to the percentage of individuals from their target population entering pre-apprenticeship or preparatory training, the percentage of apprentices entering  a Registered Apprenticeship Program, an increase in the number of sponsors of programs who are committed to expanding equity among apprenticeship programs, and the percentage of new apprentices who receive supportive services to support entrance and retention in apprenticeship programs.

In the solicitation, DOL requires applicants to detail how their work would align with regulations in 29 CFR 30, rules covering Equal Employment Opportunity in Apprenticeship. DOL is currently finalizing these rules, with an anticipated release date this fall, and NSC submitted comments to the Employment and Training Administration during comment period last year. These regulations are intended to update the regulations for the first time since 1978, and NSC recommended that updates include alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and additional guidance for sponsors on the selection of Apprentices. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Sector Partnerships, Federal Funding
House Appropriations Committee passes FY2017 Labor-HHS bill

On July 14, the House Appropriations Committee passed the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) funding bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 by a 31-19 vote.

Unlike the bipartisan Senate bill marked up last month, the House bill funds Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programming at current FY2016 levels; the Senate bill cut those programs by $33.5 million and $35.4 million respectively. The House version would also increase the state dislocated worker formula grant by $20 million relative to current funding levels, but makes cuts of nearly $90 million to the dislocated worker national reserve.

The Committee Report explains that this reduction of funding for the Dislocated Worker National Reserve is in part because DOL had used this fund in past years to support the Job-Driven Training and Sector Partnership grant programs. The Report criticizes the use of these funds to support these grant programs,  since the Administration had included funding for the programs in budget request and Congress had explicitly not funded those items. Even if the final FY2017 appropriations bill does not include this cut, the Committee Report language signals that we may see additional Congressional scrutiny for DOL discretionary grants, perhaps even H-1B grants, moving forward.

The House bill also leaves out funding for apprenticeship included in the FY2016 bill at $90 million and in the FY2017 Senate Labor-HHS bill at $100 million. Committee Report language criticizes the Employment and Training Administration for not releasing more programmatic data about the use of their FY2016 funds. While this lack of data is in part because ETA has only released the bulk of these funds within the past few months, this criticism is further evidence of Congressional scrutiny of Administrative grant programs. While the Senate does not seem to have the same concerns voiced by the House Committee, Senators Murray and Hatch have introduced the Effective Apprenticeships to Rebuild National Skills (EARNS) Act, which would address the lack of data about which the House raises concerns. Under the EARNS Act,  DOL would be required to engage an outside entity to evaluate the effectiveness of apprenticeship programs and the success DOL has had in meeting the goals of each of the provisions in the bill, including increasing employment, the number of workers attaining postsecondary credentials, the return on investment of all funding mechanisms, and longitudinal outcomes for participants.

The House Labor-HHS bill, like the Senate version, would fund Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants at FY2016 levels.

Adult education state grants under WIOA Title II and career and technical education state grants under the Perkins Act are level-funded. However, the House bill does not include the restoration of “year-round Pell” that was included in the Senate bill, and makes a cut of approximately $1.3 billion in funding to the overall Pell program, which is not expected to impact maximum grant levels for the coming academic year but would reduce the amount of overall funding available for Pell in future years. At the subcommittee and full committee markups, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would reinstate year-round Pell, consistent with the Senate’s Labor-HHS bill. The Subcommittee and full committee voted against including the amendment, on party lines, though Subcommittee Chairman Cole (R-OK) acknowledged this issue would likely resurface during bicameral negotiations later in the appropriations process.

National Skills Coalition appreciates the committee’s efforts to maintain WIOA formula funding at current year levels, especially as states and local areas continue with implementation of the law, though we do not support the proposed cuts to the national reserve. We are deeply disappointed by the committee’s cuts to apprenticeship grants, and we believe the committee has missed a significant opportunity to expand access to postsecondary skills and credentials by failing to adopt the Senate’s proposal to restore year-round Pell.  

The House and Senate are will recess July 15 through Labor Day, September 5, for the National Conventions and summer recess.  FY 2017 begins October 1, 2016, so Congress must pass legislation to fund the government by September 30.  Given the relatively limited time left on the legislative calendar, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to complete work on a final Labor-HHS bill, and so it is likely that lawmakers will need to pass at least a short-term continuing resolution (CR) in order to continue federal government operations until after the November elections. The House Freedom Caucus has proposed a six month CR that would extend funding at FY 2016 levels until March 2017, which would allow final FY 2017 funding decisions to be made by the next administration and Congress. House appropriators and leadership have been cool to this approach. There are some reports, however, that Senate Republicans may support such a move as well. While extending funding through a long-term CR would likely avoid any significant funding cuts for education and workforce programs in the short term, it would add to the uncertainty around future funding levels and in particular make it difficult for states and local areas to implement key workforce strategies outlined in their WIOA state plans. 

Advocates should weigh in with their members of Congress to educate them on the importance of skills investments, and urge them to push for full funding of key education and workforce programs as part of the final FY 2017 appropriations package. National Skills Coalition will continue to monitor the process and provide updates to the field as new information becomes available. 

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act
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