About Us
E Join Our Mailing List

News > Skills Blog

Skills training helps veterans find stable careers

  ·   By The Voices for Skills Team
Skills training helps veterans find stable careers

Every year, 200,000 service members transition to civilian careers, yet 41% of veterans say they didn’t feel well prepared to enter the job market after returning from active duty.

Skills training, however, can help veterans find good paying jobs in growing industries like manufacturing, IT, and healthcare. Our new nationwide poll shows that veterans are almost unanimous in their belief that skills training would benefit them (92%) and that expanding skills training would benefit vets (64%) more than workers generally (52%).

Skills training and work-based learning programs are already changing the lives of vets across the country. After 14 years on active duty, U.S. Army veteran Arthur “Patt” Patterson enrolled in an apprenticeship program offered by Minneapolis-based company Ajax Metal Forming Solutions. In just under six years, Patt went from filling boxes to supervising a team of machining experts.

95% of veterans strongly support increased investment in skills training, and 86% believe that we should invest in skills and technical training at the same level we invest in college. As we take time to honor our nation's military, let us also reflect on what we can do to better support veterans returning to the civilian workforce.

You can become a #VoiceForSkills today at voicesforskills.org.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Career and Technical Education
New federal immigrant integration bill includes NSC-recommended workforce and education components

Legislation introduced last week in the U.S. House of Representatives would significantly increase federal investment in immigrant integration. Key elements of the bill, known as the New Deal for New Americans, reflect recommendations made by National Skills Coalition.

The legislation was introduced by Representatives Grace Meng (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL).

Unlike the majority of federal legislation related to immigrants, which typically focuses on immigration policy such as how many individuals to admit to the U.S. and which types of visas to make available, the new bill is instead focused on the integration of immigrant newcomers into American communities. It reflects significant advances made at the state and local level in the field of immigrant integration over the past decade.

This bold, ambitious proposal has already been endorsed by more than 100 immigrant advocacy organizations and other stakeholders. Efforts are now underway to add additional Congressional co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. Use our action tool to ask your Congressional representative to sign on.

See below for more details about this vital legislation, and watch for additional updates from NSC in the coming months.

New investment in English, proven job training approaches 

The legislation reflects an increased Congressional understanding of the important role that adult education and workforce development policy play in ensuring that immigrant workers can contribute their full talents and abilities, and fill in-demand positions with American businesses. As documented by NSC in a range of publications, immigrants represent 1 in 6 American workers at all levels of the labor market, including in key middle-skill jobs that form the backbone of our economy.

Among the bill’s core elements are several recommendations put forth by National Skills Coalition. In particular, the legislation would:

  • Establish a new $100 million Workforce Development and Prosperity discretionary grant program, to be administered by the US Department of Education, office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Programs funded under these grants would be implementing Integrated Education and Training approaches as recommended in NSC’s 2016 policy toolkit and our 2019 Roadmap for Racial Equity. Entities eligible for these grants would include state and local government, educational institutions, and nonprofit organizations, including community-based organizations. Grantees would need to provide a 25% match in non-Federal funding or in-kind support.
  • Establish a new $100 million English as a Gateway to Integration discretionary grant program. Grantees would engage in a range of activities, including preparing individuals to receive a high school diploma or equivalent, enter postsecondary education, improve their digital literacy skills and civic knowledge, and prepare for and secure employment. NSC called for similar investments in our 2013 recommendations on immigration reform legislation. Similar to the workforce grants, these would be awarded by OCTAE. Eligible entities would be the same as those indicated above, and there would be a similar 25% match requirement in non-Federal funds or in-kind support. Unlike the workforce grants, eligibility would be restricted to entities located in either one of the ten states with highest rate of foreign-born residents, or a state that has experienced a large increase in the population of immigrants during the past ten years.
  • Create a federal Office of New Americans located in the White House. NSC called for this office in our 2013 recommendations. Staffing for the office would include a Deputy Director for Workforce and Economy, an important indicator of the value placed on skills policy issues by Congress.
  • Establish a Federal Initiative on New Americans that would bring together cabinet-level officials from a wide range of federal agencies. Among the issue areas to be tackled by this group would be English language learning, adult education and workforce training, postsecondary education, occupational licensure, and economic development. In 2015, NSC provided input to the White House Task Force on New Americans, a similar cross-agency group convened by the Obama administration.


Other aspects of the New Deal for New Americans legislation focus on a pilot program to promote integration at the state and local level through New Immigrant Councils; legal services; the lessening of barriers to US citizenship; refugee resettlement; and voting rights.

Moving from a hands-off to a hands-on federal approach

Because US immigration policy has historically focused on immigrant admissions, the federal government has had a relatively hands-off approach to how best to incorporate immigrants into the American fabric after they arrive. Almost no federal funding is specifically dedicated to immigrant services. The primary exception is refugee resettlement, which receives modest support through the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. However, refugees comprise a very small portion (between 2-7%) of new arrivals to the U.S. each year.

Federal support is also provided indirectly to immigrants via the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title II. Approximately 600,000 of the 1.5 million adults served under Title II are enrolled in English language classes.

The new bill represents a welcome sea change in how federal legislators are thinking and talking about immigration. Numerous NSC member organizations and allies have helped bring about this shift, including the state immigrant-rights coalitions that comprise the National Partnership for New Americans, such as the MIRA Coalition. NSC helped inform the development of NPNA’s New American Dreams policy platform, which in turn informed the new federal legislation.

 

Posted In: Immigration

House Democrats introduce HEA reauthorization bill

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba and Katie Spiker
House Democrats introduce HEA reauthorization bill

On October 15th, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, introduced the College Affordability Act, a comprehensive reauthorization of the federal Higher Education Act (HEA). The new 1200 page bill lays out a range of Democratic priorities for HEA, including the establishment of a new federal-state partnership to support free community college tuition, increased Pell grant funding permanently indexed to inflation, and expanding eligibility for federal financial aid to underserved populations, including incarcerated individuals, and DACA and DAPA recipients. The bill also includes new oversight rules for for-profit institutions, takes steps to try and rein in student debt, requires the Secretary of Education to establish a debt-to-earnings threshold for certain training programs similar to the Obama Administration’s “gainful employment rule” and strengthens rules around campus safety.

Importantly, the bill reflects a number of National Skills Coalition’s policy priorities for HEA reauthorization as outlined in our Community College Compact, a set of proposals to increase postsecondary access and success for working students and other non-traditional students, and support better engagement of businesses with our higher education system. Specifically, the bill would:

Expand access to Pell Grants for high-quality short-term programs

Sec. 4013 of the CAA would expand eligibility for Pell Grants to postsecondary workforce programs that provide at least 150 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of eight weeks, as long as those programs meet a variety of quality assurance standards. Current law limits Pell eligibility to programs of at least 600 hours over a minimum of 15 weeks.

National Skills Coalition has long supported making it easier for jobseekers to access federal financial aid for high quality short term programs at community or technical colleges and has endorsed the bipartisan Jumpstart our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act. The CAA language mirrors much of the JOBS Act framework, although it does add a variety of additional program requirements that are intended to address stakeholder concerns regarding program quality and student outcomes. While NSC is concerned that some of the proposed additions may place significant burdens on already under-resourced community and technical colleges as they seek to meet the needs of today’s students, we share Rep. Scott’s commitment to supporting only high quality programs and credentials, and we appreciate the Chairman’s leadership on this critical provision.

Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

As more and more jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training, it is increasingly important for jobseekers, employers, colleges, and policymakers alike to be able to understand which programs are providing the skills and credentials that lead to success. To this end, National Skills Coalition has endorsed the bipartisan College Transparency Act, which would lift the current ban on federal student record systems, and allow program-level reporting on student outcomes both during and after participation in postsecondary education. Sec. 1022 of the CAA largely mirrors the language of the College Transparency Act, and would represent a critical step towards increasing the availability of critical postsecondary data. We applaud Chairman Scott’s decision to include CTA as part of this broader reauthorization proposal.

Ensure the success of today’s college students by strengthening support services

States and postsecondary institutions across the country are working hard to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to persist and succeed. However, federal support for student supports has historically been relatively limited. To address this challenge, National Skills Coalition endorsed the bipartisan Gateways to Careers Act, which would provide dedicated funding to career pathways partnerships between community colleges, workforce partners, and adult or secondary education partners to support a range of programs and student services.

The CAA does not directly adopt the grant program outlined under the Gateways to Careers Act, but the bill does make a number of important investments in student supports that are consistent with that legislation, including:

  • The establishment of an emergency grant program at eligible public and private non-profit institutions participating in the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program, which would allow students to receive assistance in response to financial emergencies
  • Expansion of the Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools (CCAMPIS) program, which supports campus-based child care programs
  • The establishment of a new Community College Student Success program, which would provide $1 billion annually to support efforts to increase student completion, including through financial assistance and the provision of academic and career counseling
  • The establishment of a new remedial education reform grant program that would provide roughly $160 million in grants annually to support evidence-based strategies – including accelerated learning models - that allow students to reduce time to program completion.

National Skills Coalition applauds the Chairman for inclusion of these provisions, which we believe would enhance opportunities for working adults and other non-traditional students.

Provide targeted funding for partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Across the nation, employers in a range of industries rely on partnerships with community and technical colleges to develop their workforce and stay competitive. Congress has not invested in these partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014.

National Skills Coalition has endorsed the Community College to Career Fund Act, which would provide dedicated funding to support these critical industry-college partnerships. The CAA does not directly adopt the grant program outlined in CC2CF; however, it does authorize $181 million per year in additional funding for postsecondary programs provided under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V). These new funds must be used to support partnerships with local workforce and educational entities and may be used to support the development and implementation of industry or sector partnerships as defined under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. While not exactly mirroring the language in CC2CF, we believe the proposed expansion of Perkins postsecondary funding is consistent with our recommendations under the Community College Compact and our 2015 recommendations for Perkins reauthorization

Next Steps

The introduction of CAA comes less than two weeks after Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced his own scaled-back HEA reauthorization bill, the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019. Sen. Alexander’s proposal has been criticized for focusing on a narrower set of policies than the more comprehensive reauthorization envisioned under CAA, but the bill likely serves as a starting point for negotiations on the Senate side as the two chambers look to potentially reconcile their competing versions and produce a compromise bill. National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the committees as they continue these discussions to ensure that any final reauthorization bill includes the four priorities outlined in the Community College Compact.

Posted In: Higher Education Access

Applications for California Advocacy & Policy Academy now open

  ·   By Devon Miner
Applications for California Advocacy & Policy Academy now open

National Skills Coalition is launching a California Advocacy & Policy Academy (CAPA) for people from nonprofit community-based organizations (CBOs) in California who want to build their capacity to engage in workforce development policy and advocacy activities. Applications for participation are currently being accepted and are due November 18, 2019.

Community-based organizations play a critical role in recruiting and training workers, providing culturally competent services, and supporting people as they work to fulfill their career aspirations. Yet too often, state skills policies fail to support these organizations. CAPA will empower participants to change this narrative. CAPA will be a platform to better connect the work being done at the local level and the decisions being made at the state policy level. Participants in CAPA will have the opportunity to examine how CBOs and non-profit service providers can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.

The goals of CAPA are to:

  • Build the capacity of CBO leaders and nonprofit service providers to engage in state workforce development policy.
  • Empower more CBOs and nonprofit service providers to become more active advocates for workforce development policy change.
  • Educate and widen participants understanding of key workforce development policy issues, the policymaking process, and landscape.
  • Examine and understand how CBOs can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.
  • Create a community of practice that unearths and elevates best practices that impact policy change and decisions.

 

Academy members should represent CBOs or non-profit providers that are:

  • Expanding high-quality, industry-based job training and/or support services across California.
  • Working towards a more equitable economy.
  • Committed to removing systemic barriers and creating more opportunities for people who have been structurally disconnected from economic opportunity.

The Academy will officially launch in February 2020 and will include four in-person workshops through November 2020. Participants will be expected to attend the 2020 Skills for California Summit in Sacramento on May 13-14, 2020*.

To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

*A stipend will be provided to cover the cost of travel and any necessary lodging

Posted In: Sector Partnerships
New fact sheets will help education and skills advocates prepare for immigration “public charge” rule

National Skills Coalition is releasing two new fact sheets to assist adult education, community college, and other skills advocates in preparing for the imminent implementation of the immigration “public charge” rule. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently finalized this rule, which will make it significantly harder for millions of immigrants who are here legally to stay in the country.

Under the rule, US officials will deny green cards to individuals who are deemed likely to be dependent on the government for support. Officials will weigh a long list of positive and negative factors via a totality of circumstances test to make this determination. These include an immigrant’s age, income, English skills, educational credentials, and use of certain public benefits, among other factors.

In addition, a narrower version of the test, focusing just on public benefits usage, will be applied to non-immigrants who are living in the U.S. and seeking to extend or change their visa type (e.g. from a student visa to an employment visa).

The rule was due to take effect on October 15, 2019, although a New York federal judge has put the rule on hold.

NSC opposed this rule, which hurts our nation's efforts to build a skilled workforce. (See our public comment against the rule from December 2018.) With record low unemployment, businesses are struggling to fill open positions, particularly for middle-skill jobs. Immigrants, who account for one in six U.S. workers, are essential to closing this skill gap. But the rule will undercut immigrants’ ability to access training for middle-skill jobs. The rule will also create substantial additional burdens on adult education and workforce training providers trying to help their participants comply with its provisions.  

The bottom line for skills advocates

These are the key points that skills advocates should be aware of regarding the public charge rule:

  • Participating in education and workforce programs will NOT count against immigrants in the public charge test. Individuals should feel free to continue participating in adult education, higher education, and other workforce training programs. Participating in programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) or receiving Pell Grants will NOT be counted against immigrants, and can actually improve their ‘totality of circumstances’ by improving their education and skills.

  • Education and workforce programs may nevertheless see a drop in enrollment due to a chilling effect. Even before the final public charge rule was announced, many types of programs serving immigrants had already seen a drop in participation due to confusion and fear. This occurred despite the fact that participating in education and training programs does not count against immigrants in the public charge test, and despite the fact that many individuals (such as refugees) are exempt from the public charge test altogether. Given the high levels of media coverage and the complexity of the new rule, it is anticipated that this chilling effect will continue.
 
  • The new rule creates difficult choices for adult learners and jobseekersWhile education and training programs themselves are not included in the list of public benefits that count against immigrant applicants, many participants in training programs depend on other benefits that are counted against them -- such as SNAP or Medicaid -- to be able to persist and complete their education. As a result, adult learners and jobseekers are now faced with the difficult decision of whether to dis-enroll from health and nutrition programs and jeopardize their ability to complete their training, or to stay enrolled in the programs and potentially jeopardize their immigration status.
 
  • Education and workforce providers will face numerous new requests for enrollment documents, transcripts, and other proof of participation. As part of the new public charge rule, immigrants who are applying for green cards are now required to submit a new federal form, the I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency. (See form and instructions.) This document requires applicants to submit transcripts and other documents demonstrating their educational attainment, occupational skills and credentials, and English proficiency. Organizations will begin receiving requests for these documents from their current and past students and participants starting immediately. Organizations that do not typically issue such documents will be asked for a letter to that effect.
 
  • End of “bright line” standard will greatly increase demands on service providers. The new rule removes a clear, bright-line standard for when an immigrant may be considered a public charge, and replaces it with a highly complex, multi-faceted and subjective test. This increased complexity will make it difficult for education and workforce providers to provide straightforward guidance to frontline staff about how to advise participants on whether using a public benefit may jeopardize their immigration status. Higher education institutions, nonprofit organizations, and state and local agencies will also face the challenge of updating enrollment forms, software programs, and other documentation that currently provides blanket reassurance to participants that enrolling in publicly funded programs will not jeopardize their immigration status, and substituting a much more nuanced and complicated disclaimer. 
 
  • Education and workforce providers will need to provide training for their staff members on how to respond to inquiries about public charge issues. Staff members should not attempt to provide legal advice to immigrants, but should be prepared to answer general inquiries, to reassure immigrants about their continued ability to participate in education and workforce programs, and to refer individuals to reputable legal services providers for additional guidance.
 

It is important to note that the public charge test pertains to benefits received by individuals. Funds that are received by institutions – such as community colleges that blend TANF or SNAP dollars with other funds to support an educational program – are not counted against immigrant participants in those programs, unless those individuals have filed an individual application for public benefits.

National Skills Coalition urges skills advocates to read and share our new fact sheets on the public charge, designed for adult educators and higher education advocates.

To learn more about the rule, read NSC's analysis below. NSC’s analysis of this complex, 837-page regulation focuses specifically on issues relevant to skills advocates. For broader analysis, we recommend materials from the National Immigration Law Center and its partners in the Protecting Immigrant Families campaign.

What is the public charge?

Public charge is the standard by which individuals can be denied lawful permanent resident (green card) status or otherwise forbidden from extending or changing their visas if they are determined likely to be dependent on the government for support. The public charge is a totality of circumstances test, in which federal officials weigh the positive and negative factors in an individual immigrant’s application and determine whether they are at risk of becoming a public charge. Before this new rule was enacted, the old public charge policy had been in place for decades. It was a much narrower rule with a clear, bright-line standard that was easier for immigrants and advocates to comprehend and navigate.

The public-charge test is a forward-looking test that will be applied to immigrant applicants beginning on October 15, 2019 if it is not enjoined by the courts. Use of public benefits before that date will not be counted against immigrants unless it is one of the two types of benefits that had been included in the longstanding public charge definition in effect since 1999 (cash assistance or long-term institutionalization at public expense).

Understanding the major changes under this new rule

DHS has made significant changes to the previous public charge policy. Among the key changes:

1. More people are now subject to the public charge test. Previously, individuals were subject to the public charge determination when applying for lawful permanent resident (“green card”) status, or when existing green card holders were being readmitted to the US after more than six months outside the country. Under the new rule, people will continue to be subject to the public charge test in those cases. In addition, individuals living in the United States will face a narrower test -- focusing just on public benefits usage -- when they apply for, extend, or change the category of any one of a long list of non-immigrant visas. This also means that the same person might be subject to the public charge test on multiple occasions, as it is very common for individuals to extend or change their status repeatedly. For example, someone might arrive in the US on a student visa, then later change to an employment visa, and eventually become a permanent resident.

2. The factors that are considered in the totality of circumstances assessment have been further codified. While the general list of factors to be considered in the totality of circumstances test was already codified in statute, the final public charge rule has now fleshed out those with substantially more detailed considerations, including a requirement that immigrants provide their credit history and credit score (if they are available).

Factors now include:

  • Age (between 18 and 61 is a positive factor; below age 18 or age 62 and over is a negative factor)
  • Health (e.g., if the individual has a health condition that could require extensive treatment in the future, or that could affect their ability to work, attend school, or care for themselves, and if they do not have access to private health insurance or other resources to pay for treatment, it will be weighed as heavily negative)
  • Family status (i.e., household size)
  • Income, assets, and financial status (having income below 125 percent of Federal Poverty Guidelines is a negative factor; income above 250 percent of FPG is a heavily weighted positive factor; other considerations include the immigrant applicant’s assets and liability; credit history and credit score; whether they have applied for or received a public benefit; received a fee waiver when applying for an immigration document; and more)
  • Education and skills (considerations include recent history of employment; credential attainment at HS diploma or higher level; occupational licensure; English skills; and other language skills)
  • Affidavit of support from a person who is sponsoring the immigrant (if required to be filed)
 

3. More kinds of benefits are now counted as negative factors in the public charge test. Under previous policy, only two types of public benefits usage counted against immigrants: receiving cash assistance or receiving long-term institutional care at public expense. DHS has significantly expanded that list, which now includes:

  • Any Federal, State, Local or Tribal cash assistance for income maintenance, including TANF, SSI and general assistance programs
  • Medicaid (with exceptions including coverage for emergency services, children under 21 years old, pregnant women and 60 days of post-partum services)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called “food stamps”)
  • Federal Public Housing, Section 8 housing vouchers and Section 8 project-based rental assistance
 

Non-cash benefits that are wholly state-funded are not considered in the public charge test.

(Benefits received by family members of the immigrant applicant do not count. However, the size of an immigrant’s household – including people who may not be physically living with but are financially dependent on the immigrant – will still influence many of the calculations for the public charge test.)

4. The process of calculating public benefits usage is now more complicated. Under the new rules, receiving any of the above-listed public benefits for more than 12 months in any 36-month period is a heavily negative factor. If an individual is receiving two benefits in a given month, that will count as two months for the purposes of the public charge calculation.

5. The ripple effect of the new rule will be felt far beyond the immigrants who are personally subject to the public charge test. For example, an individual already living in the US who is applying for a green card may have a US citizen spouse; if federal officials deny the green card application because the applicant is at risk of becoming a public charge, the couple may be faced with a difficult decision about whether they can continue their lives together in the United States, or must move abroad or be separated. 

Similarly, immigrants who are themselves already green-card holders or US citizens may be hoping to sponsor a family member to immigrate to the US in the future. These individuals will likely have questions about how the public charge rule will affect their future plans; they should be referred to a reputable legal services provider for advice.

6. A new “public charge bond” process is being implemented to allow individuals to override their negative public charge determination. DHS has established a complex new process to allow individuals who are at risk of becoming a public charge to purchase a bond that enables them to be admitted to the United States, but only at the discretion of the DHS official processing their application. The minimum cost of the bond will be $8,100 plus fees; the immigrant will forfeit the entire value of the bond if they use public benefits in the future. Much remains unknown about the bond process, but its existence adds an additional layer of financial pressure for immigrant applicants.

Benefits that do NOT count against immigrants

Only the benefits specified in the rule will count against immigrants in the new public charge test. Thus, other benefits will NOT count. These other benefits include:

  • Social Security retirement benefits
  • Medicare benefits
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Non-cash benefits that provide education, child development, and employment and job training (even if funded by TANF)
  • Education-related benefits
  • Any exclusively local, state, or tribal public benefit that is not cash assistance for income maintenance
  • Benefits used by persons other than the applicant, including benefits used by their children


Individuals exempt from the public charge test

Some categories of immigrants are not subject to the public charge test.

  • Active duty and reserve US military service members and their spouses and unmarried minor children
  • Refugees, people who have been granted asylum, individuals receiving U visas for crime victims or T visas for trafficking victims
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
  • Select other categories of vulnerable individuals
  • Family members of the immigrant applicant (unless and until they make their own applications for green-card status, visa extensions, or changes of status)
 

In addition, individuals are not subject to a public charge test when they apply for US citizenship.

Posted In: Immigration