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The House of Representatives Just Reauthorized the National Apprenticeship Act. Here’s What it Means for Workers

The House passage of the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA) is an important down payment on the urgent need to not only modernize our national apprenticeship system but also expand equitable access to apprenticeship and work-based learning for all workers. The bill, first introduced in March by Representative Susan Davis (D-CA), invests significant new resources in expanding pre-apprenticeship, registered apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship to more workers in more industries. 

Investments in Industry Partnerships

The legislation authorizes funding to support the administration and expansion of apprenticeship – up to $400 million in funding in 2021 and $800 million by 2025 for grant contracts to partnerships between workforce and education stakeholders. Expanding apprenticeship programs by prioritizing investments in industry partnerships is an approach that National Skills Coalition has long championed. It’s also an approach that is consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act, which was introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Davis (D-CA), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY). Bringing together different stakeholders – from businesses, education and training providers to human service organizations and labor – who have the knowledge and experience to help meet the needs of workers and businesses, and leverage public investments in apprenticeship, is key to building an inclusive economic recovery.  

Investments in Pre-apprenticeship and Support Services  

It is not enough to simply expand access to apprenticeship by supporting industry partnerships, we must also invest in pre-apprenticeship programs –which is particularly important for people of color and women who have been historically underrepresented in certain industries and apprenticeships. The NAA legislation prioritizes access to pre-apprenticeship programs, support services like affordable child care and transportation, and post-employment support like career counseling. These supports are critical to broadening the pipeline of workers with access to and success in apprenticeship programs. The investments are also consistent with the bipartisan BUILDS Act led by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI), Bonamici (D-OR), Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI).  

Making Data Available to Help Ensure Equitable Outcomes

It is no secret that the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 has been disproportionately felt by workers of color, women, immigrants, and workers with a high school degree or less. Not to mention the small businesses – including minority-owned small businesses – that have already gone under or are vulnerable to shutting down. Policymakers must ensure that investments in apprenticeship are done with an eye towards advancing racial equity in the workforce.  It is encouraging that the bill calls for data sharing on apprenticeship program outcomes, including in alignment with the Department of Education, consistent with NSC recommendations. Data transparency is key to ensuring that we’re truly building an inclusive economic recovery that leaves no one behind. 

What’s Next? 

The bill’s passage by the House is the latest step in the continued momentum in recent years to expand apprenticeship across the country, including increased appropriation over the past five years and commitments by both the Obama and Trump administrations to expand apprenticeships.  It has been 80 years since the National Apprenticeship Act has been updated. Reauthorizing NAA is a necessary first step in a series of steps that a new Congress and Biden administration must build on to equitably expand apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and the supports that workers need to succeed in those programs.  

President-elect Biden has already made expanding registered apprenticeship – both as part of an infrastructure package and as a strategy to increase access to good jobs – a high priority. National Skills Coalition is committed to working with the Biden administration and Congress to make sure there is follow through on those commitments. Workers and businesses deserve action! 

Encourage your member of Congress to support and inclusive economic recovery today. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Workforce Update: Going Virtual - Defining Quality for Online Training Programs

  ·   By Rachel Vilsack,
Workforce Update: Going Virtual - Defining Quality for Online Training Programs
Unemployment rates for workers across all levels of educational attainment increased substantially due to the pandemic, but adult workers without a college degree have been disproportionately impacted with unemployment remaining at nearly double the rates for those with a four-year degree. To ensure an inclusive economic recovery, we need to invest in quality training that leads to sustainable careers for those who have been hurt the most by this pandemic recessionFor adult workers who want to retrain for careers in in-demand sectors, online training programs can offer greater flexibility and affordability to a short-term credential. While the trend towards online learning had been growing long before the pandemic changed the way education needed to be delivered, it now represents the preferred way that adults want to connect to training options.

However, the explosive growth of online learning has made it tough for learners, employers, and public policymakers to gauge the quality of these thousands of options. quality assurance process can benefit states who need a way to effectively and efficiently allocate limited financial resources to training programs for displaced workers who need to reskillQuality criteria can also help states address racial and other equity gaps by providing more pathways into quality postsecondary education and training and good jobs for people of color, thereby ensuring an inclusive economic recovery.

Defining Quality  

In 2019, National Skills Coalition worked with 12 states to review how they were using employment, earnings, and competencies to set quality standards for credentials. The analysis – and feedback from research and advocacy organizations with expertise in higher education and workforce policy, including those with a racial equity mission – led to the development of a vetted consensus definition of quality non-degree credentials that can be evaluated through data.  

The four key criteria for defining quality non-degree credentials: 
  • There must be evidence of substantial job opportunities associated with the credential. Evidence must include quantitative data and direct communication with employers. 
  • There must be transparent evidence of the competencies mastered by credential holders; where the appropriate length of time is how long it takes to master the competencies.
  • There must be transparent evidence of the actual employment and earnings outcomes of individuals after obtaining a credential and the data should be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, disability status, and other characteristics to measure equitable progress.
  • Finally, stackability to additional education or training is a preferred criterion and can help individuals advance in education and employment. 
Quality assurance tied to data can help individuals identify the right program and credential for their circumstances while avoiding low-quality or ineffective options. It can also help businesses ensure that the competencies and skills obtained by individuals will be what they need on the job. Reliable data iscritical to ensuring that quality assurance definitions are student-focused and support equitable credential attainment.

Establishing Quality Criteria and Policy Actions

For states who wish to establish quality assurance criteria for online trainings, they should take steps to create an inclusive process that is transparent to stakeholders, including education and training providers, consumers, and the public. While the appropriate lead entity for convening group of stakeholders who will adopt a quality definition may differ from state to state, it will likely include representatives from the state’s education, postsecondary education, and workforce or labor agencies. The process should also include a significant and meaningful role for: 
  • Organizations that represent underserved or underrepresented worker and student populations to ensure that the criteria support broader equity and attainment goals.  
  • Industry leaders who represent both employers and workers in the state’s major industries or economic development associations who can bring the voice and credentialing needs of businesses to the discussion.  
  • The governor’s office, if possible, to be engaged in the development of the criteria to ensure consistency with overall postsecondary attainment goals, and to facilitate discussions between both internal and external partners where appropriate.  
States should also look at where to embed quality assurance credential definitions in state policies. Policy options could include a state-level legislative request to adopt quality assurance for credentials or polices to support the increased attainment of quality credentials, such as expanding state financial aid or other training funds or expanding apprenticeship and other work-based learning models. Policies could also be agency-specific and require, for instance, that all publicly funded training programs meet minimum quality standards. States that National Skills Coalition is currently working with in a Quality Postsecondary Credential Policy Academy are looking at quality assurance policies that can be applied to the state’s Eligible Training Provider List, or training approved for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds.

Applying Quality Criteria to Online Programs

States who wish to apply quality assurance criteria to online training programs should also consider these suggestions 
  • Quantitative data and employer feedback should measure substantial job opportunities. While what is considered “substantial” will vary by state or region, data is needed to evaluate the market demand for the occupations that credentials are associated with. Use of real-time labor market data, existing sector partnerships, or emerging industries that represent a regional economic development strategy are all potential sources to inform whether or not employers demand the credential.  
  • The learning objectives of an online training program should be mastered by credential holders. Rather than fulfill a standard number of online hoursthe learner should instead demonstrate proficiency in the learning outcomes required for the credential and valued by the employer to perform in the occupation. This proficiency is often validated by a third-party, like a certifying or licensing body, that confirms the learning outcomes that are required.  
  • There is proof of employment and earnings outcomes for individuals who obtain credentials through online training programs. It is key to accurately track and record outcomes to ensure that the credential provides individuals with the means to achieve their employment goalEmployment and earnings information should be disaggregated to ensure racially equitable attainment.
  • Credential stackability is a strongly preferred criterion for online programs. Individuals may be pursuing short-term training as a quick route to stable employment during this economic recovery. Stackability can ensure that their new credential will be an on-ramp to a longer career pathway. Stackable credentials can be particularly important for people of color and others who have been traditionally underserved by higher education. 
Finally, and beyond quality criteria, it’s important to remember that access to other resources and supportive services, like free or low-cost computers, broadband access, childcare, or other supports may be needed for learners to successfully participate in online training and complete their credential.

Quality Credentials to Support an Inclusive Economic Recovery

State and local investments in online training programs can increase access and allow more flexibility for workers without a college degree to retrain and upskillAdvocates should ensure that investments in online training programs include quality assurance measures so that adult learners have pathways into good jobs now and additional credentialing opportunities in the futureAnd, finally, cross-agency and cross-organization partnerships around quality assurance lead to better outcomes: they ensure that equity is at the center of the work and the voices of individuals and businesses disproportionately impacted by the pandemic are included in this economic recovery. 
How America Can Build Back Better for Everyone: A Guide for the Biden Transition Team to Help Build an Inclusive Economic Recovery 

The promise of America is based on a fundamental principle that no matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, achieve their aspirations, and live the American Dream. But we all know that the pursuit of that American Dream has been a nightmare for too many families for too long. Decades of structural racism in public policy continues to perpetuate racial inequality in every aspect of American life from education and employment to housing, health care and beyond. 

These inequities have been further exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on workers of color, women, immigrants, and workers with a high school degree or less – all of whom have shouldered the greatest job losses in what has been the most unequal recession in modern American history. Not to mention the shuttered small businesses all across the country, including millions of minority-owned small businesses.  

This is the economy that President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will face. National Skills Coalition – and our network of business leaders, labor leaders, community advocates and community colleges, and workforce and education officials – is ready to partner with the Biden Administration to advance an economic agenda that is inclusive and leads to equitable results for every worker in every industry. 

Earlier this week, NSC released Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery: An Agenda for President Biden and Congress, which includes concrete legislative proposals that would help build an inclusive economic recovery.  

Building on those ideas, NSC also provided the Biden-Harris transition teams with 10 detailed policy memos, which outline proposals that could be implemented administratively by the Biden Administration during the first year in office to transform the lives of millions of workers and businesses, and set us on a path to a truly inclusive economic recovery. 

  1. Establishing – as part of a new Economic Recovery Task Force – an interagency Sub-Task Force on Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery, which would help prioritize federal investments in education and training as part of stimulus and recovery efforts to ensure that all US workers have the skills and credentials to gain family-supporting employment while supporting US business growth. 

  1. Directing existing and new federal investments to address digital literacy gaps for 48 million US workers with limited or no digital literacy skills. 

  1. Supporting a new Assistant Secretary of Community and Technical Colleges at the Department of Education, who would be responsible for spearheading the President-Elect’s ambitious plans for expanding community college access. 

  1. Supporting the work of a new Office of New Americans within the White House, and particularly a new Skills for New Americans initiative that would focus on increasing equitable access to education and skills training opportunities for immigrants and refugees. 

  1. Refocusing apprenticeship policy on high-quality programs that lead to access and success for all workers and more businesses, and reinforcing the importance of Registered Apprenticeship and other work-based learning strategies as a way to help workers earn a wage while learning necessary skills. 

  1. Using existing Department of Labor resources to expand industry partnerships, a proven multi-stakeholder approach that helps workers enter into and advance along career pathways in key local or regional industries. 

  1. Expanding access to income supports and reskilling opportunities for workers who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, technological changes, or other economic disruptions. 

  1. Putting workers at the center of future infrastructure investments by advancing policies that prioritize projects that hire and train community residents for family-supporting careers. 

  1. Establishing a cross-agency data working group to support the setting and tracking of stimulus human capital goals outlined above, while also promoting data sharing, data transparency, and other policies that lead to more inclusive investments in education and training. 

  1. Reversing the Trump Administration’s cruel and ineffective policies that expand work requirements for public assistance participants, and instead focusing on building better educational and employment pathways for individuals in safety net programs. 

We have to “build back better” by including everyone. That means making sure people’s essential needs are met while they train for newly created jobs, new industries and technologies. It means investing in the people most impacted by the pandemic, and ensuring that they are better off as our economy improves. We can’t train our way out of this recession, nor can skills policy shoulder alone the weight of a more inclusive economy. But we absolutely cannot build back better without a set of generation defining investments in our people. 

With more than 40,000 members and subscribers, NSC has for the past 20 years regularly brought local experts to Washington to meet with federal policymakers—including then-Vice President Biden himself when he was overseeing the implementation of the Obama Administration’s Recovery effort and later its Job Driven Training agenda.

We look forward to working with the Biden-Harris Administration to achieve these ambitious goals, and to ensure that every worker and every industry can share in our nation’s economic prosperity. 

The Four Steps State Policymakers Can Take to Bridge the Digital Divide for All of California’s Workers

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, and India Heckstall
The Four Steps State Policymakers Can Take to Bridge the Digital Divide for All of California’s Workers

When pandemic-related social distancing moved much of the nation’s economic, social, and civic lives online, it also put a spotlight on the challenges facing residents who lack broadband access, digital devices, or essential digital skills and the inequities of that digital divide. In California, the rapid shift to a virtual world has only exacerbated these challenges.

In our latest brief, Four Ways to Promote Digital Inclusion for California’s Workers, we outline concrete steps that the state’s policy leaders can take to invest in digital skill-building for quality jobs, as well as access to broadband and digital devices.

Prior to COVID-19, jobs were already undergoing massive technological transformation, with even entry-level workers using all manner of digital devices and equipment. Since the pandemic, the importance of digital skills has only accelerated. By expanding access to digital skill-building, particularly in the context of occupational training, states can empower workers and promote industry resiliency now and in the future.

Digital inclusion is key to a better and more equitable economic future that is inclusive of every worker. It can’t be stressed enough: the digital divide is not a failure of individual workers or families. It is in large part the result of policy decisions that failed to keep pace with technological advances, even as broadband internet access, digital devices, and digital skills have become baseline necessities for navigating everyday life.

California’s policy leaders have committed to rebuilding a more inclusive and resilient economy in the wake of COVID-19, and policies that promote digital inclusion must be part of that effort. National Skills Coalition is working with SkillSPAN coalitions in California and several other states to advocate that state policymakers provide digital access and learning for all working people at home and on the job as part of an inclusive economic recovery. Earlier this year, we released Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery, calling for a recovery in which workers and businesses most impacted by this recession, as well as workers previously held back by structural barriers of discrimination or opportunity, are empowered to equitably participate in and benefit from economic expansion and restructuring.

In California, specifically, we’re recommending that state leaders take the following actions to promote digital inclusion for the state’s workers:

  1. Create a new digital equity grant program for those most impacted by the pandemic economy
  2. Expand the use of existing adult education funds to support digital skill-building
  3. Ensure that digital skill-building is an explicitly permitted use of existing workforce development grant programs
  4. Utilize federal funds to provide digital skill-building, device access, and digital support for workers in workforce development programs

We’re also calling on the state to take action to expand broadband access so that all Californians, and especially the state’s most underserved communities, have high-quality, affordable access to the internet.

Our partners in the Skills for California network have already identified digital inclusion as a priority – calling on the state’s policymakers and the Future of Work Commission to support digital access and learning for all workers. We look forward to advocating for policies that promote digital inclusion in the coming months.

To learn more about the steps California’s policymakers can take, read our brief: Four Ways to Promote Digital Inclusion for California’s Workers.

An Agenda for President Biden and Congress

  ·   By Rachel Unruh,
An Agenda for President Biden and Congress

With 72 days until America’s 46th president takes the oath of office, National Skills Coalition released Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery: An Agenda for President Biden and Congress. The agenda includes specific federal policy proposals that would help achieve the Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery call to action that NSC released in September.  

The federal agenda includes legislative proposals that Congress could enact immediately. NSC also sent to the President Elect’s transition team a set of memos with proposals that could be enacted administratively within his first 100 days in office. Together, these actionable proposals could help make the goals of Biden’s Build Back Better agenda a reality by addressing the pandemic’s structural changes to the labor market and historical inequities. 

“Let’s build back better by including everyone,” said Andy Van Kleunen, NSC’s CEO.  “That means ensuring people’s essential needs are met while they train for newly created jobs, new industries and technologies.  It means investing in the people most impacted by the pandemic, and making sure that they are better off as our economy improves.” 

The COVID recession has disproportionately impacted Black, Latino, Indigenous, and immigrant workers, particularly women, as well as people with a high school diploma or less. These impacts are the result of a history of structural racism and public policies that undermine the aspirations of working people who want to train for a better job. For small businesses, the pandemic has likewise levied disparate impact on locally own firms compared to large international corporations.  

“We have a history of economic recovery strategies that pick winners and losers rather than creating real pathways to prosperity for everyone,” said Van Kleunen. “We can’t train our way out of this recession, nor can skills policy shoulder alone the weight of a more inclusive economy. But we absolutely cannot build back better without a set of generation defining investments in our people.” 

NSC’s Agenda for President Biden and Congress puts forward concrete policy changes that could advance an inclusive recovery in which workers and businesses most impacted by this recession, as well as workers previously held back by structural barriers of discrimination or opportunity, are empowered to equitably participate in and benefit from economic expansion and restructuring. These include: 

  • Enacting a 21st Century Reemployment Accord for all workers, including expanded access to training, expanded income assistance and support services, and support for a national network of industry partnerships. 

  • Supporting new investments in incumbent worker training, with a particular focus on upskilling and reskilling frontline workers who have played such an important role in keeping our economy going during this crisis, but may need new skills or credentials to adapt to changing technology or other economic disruptions. 

  • Investing in training as part of any job creation efforts, including building into any infrastructure package, a new $20 billion Workforce Trust Fund and incentives to train and hire women and people of color who have been excluded and underrepresented in the past. 

  • Investing in partnerships between community colleges, businesses (including small and medium sized businesses) and other key stakeholders to develop meaningful pathways for workers to enter into and advance in critical industries, with a particular focus on addressing racial equity gaps within target occupations and industries. 

NSC’s memos for the President Elect’s transition team include calls for immediate administrative action to enact: 

  • An interagency sub-taskforce on Skills for an inclusive Economic Recovery as part of a White House-led Economic Recovery Task Force. The sub-taskforce would be charged with addressing racial and other equity gaps in education and employment outcomes from workforce investments. 

  • Appointing a new Assistant Secretary for Community and Technical Colleges at the Department of Education who would be responsible for spearheading the Biden Administration’s ambitious goals to provide up to two years of tuition-free community college for working adults and other students 

  • Creating a new interagency Digital Skills for a Digital Age task force, led by the Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce, which would identify strategies to better support digital literacy through existing federal programs while providing the White House with recommendations for new investments needed to ensure that the 48 million US workers with limited or no digital literacy skills can succeed in today’ economy 

NSC will analyze and share opportunities to advance these and other proposals in our Agenda for President Biden and Congress during the upcoming webinar, Breaking Down the Election: Prospects for Skills and Inclusive Recovery. Register here. 

You can also hear more about NSC’s Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery framework in an interview with NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen on the latest episode of Skilled America podcast.