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Maryland legislation improves state’s knowledge of employment outcomes

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
Maryland legislation improves state’s knowledge of employment outcomes

Wage data is an important tool for helping state policymakers understand whether postsecondary education and training programs are helping people find careers with family-sustaining wages. However, the most commonly used state wage data does not include this information about every state resident. To remedy this, Maryland recently enacted HB 1206, which allows the Maryland Longitudinal Data Center System (MLDS) to receive aggregate wage information about students from the state’s Comptroller. This law makes Maryland one of the first states able to access tax data to determine student employment outcomes.

State agencies get wage information by utilizing the records collected through the administration of the unemployment insurance program, called unemployment insurance wage records. Most employers within a state are required to submit wage records for each employee to the state, so that the state can determine what unemployment benefits an individual is entitled to if they were to lose their job. These records are maintained in secure databases, and when connected with data about participants in workforce training and education programs, can show whether participants are finding jobs, and how much they are earning after completion. However, state unemployment insurance wage records do not contain information about all employees. The federal government, military, and self-employed do not participate in the unemployment insurance program, so there are no unemployment insurance wage records about these individuals. Residents working for employers in other states also have no in-state records. This can lead to significant gaps in available wage information in a state like Maryland, where many residents work for the federal government or military, or work in nearby Washington, D.C. or Virginia.

To find the employment outcomes of more residents and produce information to improve the state’s education and training system, Maryland recently enacted HB 1206. This allows MLDS, which securely matches data from Maryland’s K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems, over time, to collect aggregate wage information from the state’s tax records. Aggregate data, which groups information about a number of students, allows MLDS to better understand student outcomes without jeopardizing an individual’s privacy.

Maryland was inspired to create this legislation after reading the Workforce Data Quality Campaign's (WDQC) case study, "How Montana is Using Data to Drive Policy." This report detailed how Montana measures the outcomes for college graduates using tax records maintained by the Montana Department of Revenue. Maryland utilized Montana’s method of providing student data to the tax agency, and receiving summary information in return. This method ensures that privacy laws surrounding tax records are respected.

The passage of HB 1206 makes Maryland and Montana the only two states that are able to have wage information about former students who are state residents – no matter where they are working. WDQC encourages more states to utilize their state’s tax information, or participate in cross-state wage data exchanges, such as SWIS, to ensure that they can understand the outcomes of all students and drive policies to ensure that taxpayer dollars are invested in successful programs that grow the economy.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

National Skills Coalition hosts state network-building events in Oklahoma and Louisiana

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch, Michael Richardson,
National Skills Coalition hosts state network-building events in Oklahoma and Louisiana

As part of its ongoing efforts to build the capacity of state partners in their network, National Skills Coalition hosted and cohosted convenings in Oklahoma and Louisiana this month through the Work-Based Learning Academy and the Louisiana Skills Policy Academy.

In Oklahoma – one of five states in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy – team members spearheaded the state’s first-ever Work-Based Learning Summit in Oklahoma City on June 17. Co-hosted by NSC, Oklahoma Works, the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and Oklahoma Human Resources State Council, the summit was attended by 200 stakeholders from throughout the state representing business, educators, community-based organizations, and more. A series of ‘lunch and learns’ throughout different areas of the state earlier in the year preceded this culminating event. Attendees were able to learn from peers in Oklahoma who are leading the way in work-based learning as well as other Work-Based Learning Academy team members and coaches from across the country who were featured on panels. For more information, please see the agenda. Sessions focused on the benefits of work-based learning, how industry partnerships play a pivotal role in implementing and scaling programs, and how to diversify the talent pipeline and the industries these programs are found in.

After the Summit, the Work-Based Learning Academy gathered for an afternoon and morning of meetings to mark a year of progress in the Academy. The Academy was launched in June 2018 with teams from five states: Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington. At the year mark, team members gathered to share successes and challenges from the past year and to brainstorm how to move forward most effectively to continue to achieve policy goals. A forthcoming publication will highlight the many team wins – from passing legislation to increasing awareness and more – as well as provide lessons learned that other state partners should find useful in their own work to advance work-based learning polices.

In Louisiana, the Louisiana Skills Policy Academy held a State Skills Policy Convening on June 7 in New Orleans. This day-long meeting consisted of a mix of presentations and discussions on state-level skills policy issues in Louisiana that drew on the expertise of NSC’s Louisiana partners, the Louisiana Budget Project, and peer learning with longstanding NSC partners from the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative and the Moore Community House Women in Construction Program. The Louisiana Skills Policy Academy is an 18-month initiative aimed at educating job training organizations and other key stakeholders throughout Louisiana on key federal and state workforce development policies and advocacy strategies.

Posted In: Louisiana, Oklahoma
Inconsistent analysis in recent CEA report highlights need to invest in – and collect data on success of – workforce and education programs vital to workers and businesses

Earlier this week, the White House Council on Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report on the effectiveness of job training programs, calling for further investments in a new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship system at the expense of investments in a broad spectrum of other workforce programs. The report offers inconsistent analysis of workforce programs, dismisses shortcomings of studies on which it relies and conflates goals and outcomes of a diverse set of workforce programs when drawing conclusions about effectiveness.

Despite these shortcomings, it does make two important points. 

  • Workforce programs in the U.S. are drastically underfunded when compared to investments made by other industrialized countries. A yearly $80 billion investment is needed  to reach even the median level of other international peers; and
  • Despite the overwhelming availability of data on skills training programs and their effectiveness, a national strategy is needed to make this data digestible for policy makers and understandable for participants and businesses.

The report was released a week after the administration’s Advisory Board on Workforce Policy held its most recent meeting. That advisory board – comprised of business and labor leaders, educators, and governors – is tasked with identifying policy recommendations to help develop a skilled workforce to fill open jobs. The CEA report is unlikely to be the early stages of a new workforce platform for the administration, as it reiterates previous White House recommendations instead of offering new proposals. It may, however, influence the conclusions of the advisory board in their recommendations that could inform future agency priorities.

Understanding the shortcomings in the report

The report’s incorrect conclusions about the impact of job training are simply inaccurate. There are millions of US workers who have earned credentials and degrees through community colleges, community-based organizations, labor-management partnerships, and other providers who have leveraged these credentials into family-supporting jobs.

Several mistakes in the report lead to this incorrect conclusion.

  • Inconsistent Analysis: The CEA Report is inconsistent in its analysis of literature on the effectiveness of job training programs. It praises the strong positive outcomes that non-random evaluations have found for registered apprenticeship programs but dismisses the same type of methodology when it comes to positive results for other training programs.

For other training programs, the CEA Report finds only randomized controlled trial evaluations to be reliable, citing a 33-year-old study of evaluation methodology, while acknowledging in a footnote that statistical techniques have improved substantially since that time.

Non-random net impact evaluations of workforce training programs using statistical techniques to control for differences between participants and a similar group have frequently found substantial positive impacts on employment and earnings. 

  • Ignoring inherent weakness in most randomized controlled trial evaluations: Moreover, as the CEA Report notes but largely ignores, there is a weakness common in most randomized controlled trial evaluations.  Individuals not randomly selected to take part may well receive the same type of service funded through another program. 

The “gold standard” evaluation of the Workforce Investment Act, the predecessor to WIOA, conducted by Mathematica, did not preclude individuals who were not offered WIA-funded training from receiving training financed by a different source. In fact, 22 percent of the control group completed a vocational credential funded through  other means, while just a slightly higher 27 percent of the study group completed a vocational credential. As a result, in contrast to the claim of the CEA Report, the study did not reach a conclusion one way or the other about the effectiveness of training. “Because differences across groups in rates of enrollment in training were small, our study produced inconclusive evidence on the impact of training.” (p. xxxiii) 

  • Conflation of diverse workforce services: Employment and training programs often combine a range of services from career counseling, to job search assistance, to basic education, to occupational training. Many critiques of training have not differentiated the impact of these services or their intended outcomes and instead referred to them as workforce training. In its critique of workforce training the CEA Report cites MDRC’s Hamilton and Scrivener (2012) report on welfare-to-work programs as evidence. But of the 12 local programs covered in the Hamilton and Scrivener report, none provided additional skills training to the participants. They instead provided other types of workforce services.

Workforce education and training is effective at meeting worker and business need

Skills training is overwhelming popular with both likely 2020 voters and leaders of small and mid-size companies. It’s also an effective strategy to help workers increase wages and find employment. Numerous studies have found training to positively impact employment and earnings. Just two examples -

Congress also took important steps to address necessary modernization in workforce programs in the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of WIOA in 2014. The reauthorization strengthened alignment across education, training, and human services programs and provided modest increases in funding for core programs to help rebuild our nation’s skills investments.

Data on WIOA continues the trend found under its predecessor - that individuals in training have higher employment rates and median earnings than individuals receiving fewer services. And continued technical assistance from the Department of Labor and Education, along with meaningful investments in a program starved for resources, will empower states and local areas across the country to continue to make the important progress enabled by bipartisan passage of WIOA.

The CEA Report is correct when it states, “[t]he large number of [training] programs and the heterogeneity in the types of programs make it difficult to establish a single general conclusion, but rather suggests that some programs are effective whereas others are failing to live up to their hoped-for potential.” These programs are not monolithic; they serve different populations, with different services, to achieve different purposes, and their degree of success can vary from one local provider to another. It is impossible to draw a single conclusion about their effectiveness.

NSC will continue to work with the administration and Congress to make necessary investments in those effective workforce education and training programs to empower local areas to serve workers, meet business demand, and adequately evaluate the impact of federal, state, and local investment in skills programs.

CA Future of Work event aims to serve incumbent workers in a changing economy

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
CA Future of Work event aims to serve incumbent workers in a changing economy

National Skills Coalition recently travelled to Silicon Valley to build bridges between those driving technological innovations associated with the “Future of Work” and current workforce policy debates in Washington, DC about how to respond to these disruptions.  With the recent announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom about a new state Future of Work Commission, NSC wanted to learn how the state’s emerging discussions around Future of Work could inform the Coalition’s efforts to advocate for polices that will help workers and local companies prosper through these structural shifts in the labor market.

On June 12, 2019, NSC joined with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Autodesk Foundation to co-host a roundtable discussion with 40 representatives from leading technology companies – Apple,  Autodesk and Salesforce – as well as community colleges, organized labor, community organizations , philanthropy, and the “futures” community.  These included leaders from the Skills for California Network who recently released an agenda of workforce and education policies that could better secure a strong economic future for all Californians.  Van Ton Quinlivan—NSC Board member, Institute for the Future fellow and former Vice Chancellor of the CA community college system—was instrumental in bringing together such a diverse group to discuss a set of actionable policies that could reskill millions of incumbent workers for a changing, tech-infused economy.

U.S. workers and companies face an unprecedented acceleration of workplace technologies, with broad implications for the “future of work” in America. By most estimates, at least 60% of today’s jobs will be impacted by digitalization, automation, and/or artificial intelligence. That means over 90 million working Americans may have to acquire new skills just to stay in their jobs, let alone to advance in their industries. An additional 10-20% of jobs are likely to be eliminated and replaced with new types of higher-skilled positions, requiring broad-based income and reskilling support for millions of impacted workers as they develop new careers.

While many conversations have focused on abstract solutions to address this impending shift, far less attention has been paid to actionable steps necessary to address the future of work…today.

Attendees discussed several key policy recommendations to best serve incumbent workers—particularly those most vulnerable to technological changes—to prepare for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the future of work:

  1. Update and scale education and workforce policies to support more rapid assessment and retraining of current workers at risk of technological impact.
  2. Increase both public and private investments in employee upskilling and target those investments at workers most vulnerable to tech displacement.
  3. Expand sector partnerships and technical assistance for local businesses to help them and their employees inclusively adopt new technologies.
  4. Launch a new comprehensive national workforce re-employment system that supports all unemployed workers, regardless of the source of their displacement.
  5. Align public and private workforce and labor market data to support better decision-making and equity across workers in this uncharted era.

In addition, Institute for the Future staff presented new innovations in the areas of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies that could impact the types of scalable training that could be made available to a range of current workers and future job-seekers who will need to continually raise their skills to keep ahead of the technological curve.  IFTF staff also shared current thinking on the ethics of current technology deployment and the tech industry’s role in evaluating – and preventing – bias  exacerbated by new technology in the workplace.

Participants agreed that there was great opportunity to continue working together to shape some of these policy discussions both in Washington and in Sacramento.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to continuing to engage with businesses, worker representatives, and training providers to advance a set of actionable, winnable polices to help today’s workers and local businesses benefit from the technology changes that are already restructuring the U.S. economy.

Posted In: Future of Work

Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

  ·   By Katie Brown
Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

Today, Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, in the House. This bipartisan legislation is identical to S.839, the Senate version of the JOBS Act, introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) earlier this year. House introduction of this bill underlines the mounting support for extending federal financial aid to short-term education and training programs of high-quality—a policy change that 86% of voters are in favor of. National Skills Coalition applauds the efforts of House and Senate sponsors of this bill and looks forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure its inclusion in a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization bill.

More on the JOBS Act, from our blog post recognizing the Senate introduction back in March:

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding