About Us
E Join Our Mailing List

News > Skills Blog

Last week, Montana’s Department of Labor & Industry (MTDLI) and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) released a new report entitled "Meeting State Worker Demand: A report on the Labor Market Outcomes for Montana Colleges." The report answers two particularly important questions:

          (1) Are Montana’s colleges producing enough graduates to meet employer demand? and

          (2) What are Montana graduates’ employment outcomes one, three, and five years after graduation?

This report will be helpful for policymakers and program managers, who can make policy changes (such as creating more or different education and training programs) to ensure that the state’s education and training system is meeting the skill needs of Montana employers. Students can also use this information to make better decisions about their educational options.

The report contains data from sixteen colleges who participate in the Montana University System data warehouse, as well as two other institutions that submitted data solely for this report. This data was linked with Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records maintained by the MTDLI, tax data maintained by the Department of Revenue (DOR), and two and ten-year labor market projections produced by MTDLI in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Linking education and DOR data allowed Montana to get more accurate graduate employment outcomes than many other states have been able to get for similar reports. Because self-employed persons do not participate in the UI program, they cannot be found in UI wage records. Linking with the DOR data allowed the state to find those who are self-employed and others who do not participate in the UI program. In order to comply with strict confidentiality requirements, the DOR provided only aggregate level data to MTDLI.  

WDQC applauds Montana not just for making better information available to policymakers and students, but for committing to using this data to impact policy. The state has already used this data to inform the development of new college-sponsored apprenticeship programs, to create new career pathways, and to inform Missoula College’s strategic planning.

To learn more about Montana’s data infrastructure and use, please visit Montana’s state page


*This blog post was originally posted on the WDQC website

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
NSC Calls for Postsecondary “Career Pathways Support Fund” in New Paper

In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training, expanding access to high quality workforce programs at community and technical colleges is increasingly critical to our nation’s economic competitiveness. However, our current federal higher education policy doesn’t do enough to support the needs of working adults and other non-traditional students who need postsecondary skills and credentials to get and keep family-supporting jobs. In a new issue brief released today, National Skills Coalition proposes a new $500 million Career Pathways Support Fund that would allow community and technical colleges to provide critical academic, counseling and support services that help low-income and other non-traditional students succeed in job-driven education programs.

Today’s college students are increasingly diverse: more than 70 percent of all undergraduates are classified as “non-traditional,” and roughly 40 percent of college students are over the age of 25. Many of these students are balancing school attendance with work and family obligations: at community colleges, 22 percent of full-time students and 41 percent of part-time students are also working full-time, and 30 percent of community colleges are parents. These changing demographics mean that we need to be rethinking the kinds of supports that postsecondary institutions offer to better align with the realities of working adults, including strategies to accelerate time to completion, career counseling, and wraparound services like child care and transportation assistance to help students.

Our new issue brief highlights examples of three states that are tackling these issues head-on, including the Career Pathways Initiative in Arkansas, the Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE) program in Iowa, and the Basic Skills Plus program in North Carolina. The paper also provides an overview of current federal efforts to support parents and other adult students, which have not kept up with the growing demands of today’s college enrollees.

With Congress looking to begin discussions around reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this fall, NSC calls for lawmakers to consider creating a new dedicated fund that supports community and technical colleges who are providing career pathways programs aimed at working adults and other non-traditional students. This new Career Pathways Support Fund – which is part of NSC’s broader Community College Compact proposal outlined in our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda - would encourage qualifying institutions to partner with employers, adult and secondary education providers, and other stakeholders to ensure that participants are able to obtain industry-recognized credentials while also receiving necessary support services. We also urge Congress to pair the new Career Pathways Support Fund with increased investments in financial aid for working students, consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act, and strengthen support for partnerships between community colleges and local and regional industries. 

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Arkansas, Iowa, North Carolina

NSC kicks off Welcoming Week with UnidosUS affiliates

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
NSC kicks off Welcoming Week with UnidosUS affiliates

Hundreds of immigration-related events are being held across the United States during Welcoming Week from September 15-24 (yes, it’s more than a week). Many of the events are focusing on the skills and contributions of immigrant workers.

National Skills Coalition began the week by joining more than 150 workforce advocates at the UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) 2017 Workforce Development Forum, held in Las Vegas. Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock presented two workshops and participated in a Best Practices Café.

NSC’s presentations included:

  • Effective Skills Equity Policies to Support Latino Adult Learners and Workers (view slides). This presentation explored five different state policies that can help Latino youth and adults, including those with barriers to employment, to succeed in middle-skill training and jobs.
  • Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Policies and Latino-Serving Organizations (view slides). This presentation highlighted opportunities for nonprofit community-based organizations to advocate for effective work-based learning policies that can provide access to well-paying jobs for Latino youth and adults.

NSC’s Work-Based Learning Policy 50-State Scan was a popular take-home for attendees. Other publications shared with attendees included NSC’s new 2-page fact sheet on Latinos and work-based policy, and recent fact sheet on Dreamers and Middle-Skill Jobs.

Business Voices Speak Out on Upskilling

At the plenary session that began the UnidosUS Forum, upskilling was a major focus. Three business leaders participated in a panel moderated by Dr. Margaret “Peggy” McLeod, who serves as Deputy Vice President, Education and Workforce Development for UnidosUS.

“With 14,000 restaurants and 850,000 workers, we can have a real impact on the education gap that exists in this country,” explained Lisa Schumacher of McDonald’s. “There are business benefits and an ROI to us in making this investment.” McDonald’s offers a range of educational benefits to workers via its Archways to Opportunity program, including free individual educational advising services, available in English and Spanish.

Schumacher noted that while turnover rates in the fast-food industry are generally high, they were much lower among individuals who participated in upskilling opportunities. A full 89% of employees who had participated in McDonald’s English Under the Arches program were still with the same employer a year later, and 79% were retained for at least three years.

Also participating in the panel was Elly Dickerman of Charter Communications. “We’ve transformed into a 90,000 employee, Fortune 100 company,” she told conference attendees, “ready to invest in talent and upskill our workforce.”

For example, Dickerman said, Charter offers a Broadband Technician Apprenticeship Program for military veterans that currently has 1,000 participants across five states. “It’s a 2-1/2 year program in which apprentices start as a Field Technician 1 and become a Field Technician 5 by the time they graduate,” she explained.

Panelist Linda Rodriguez of JPMorgan Chase described her company’s evolving investments through its New Skills at Work initiative. To date, the initiative has pledged $75 million for career and technical education, and $17 million for Summer Youth Employment (SYE).  “Kids rely on those SYE jobs” for their crucial first workforce opportunity, she explained. “They may not have a neighbor who can offer them that all-important first job.”

Employers Taking The Lead

The business case for upskilling was also a topic in one of the breakout sessions, which focused on the Skills and Opportunity for a New American Workforce program. The program is a partnership among community colleges in three cities – Miami, Houston, and New York – and the grocery store chains of Whole Foods, Publix, and Kroger. It is overseen by the National Immigration Forum and funded by Walmart.

Session participants heard from National Immigration Forum staff as well as representatives of Westchester (NY) Community College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. Among the program outcomes shared by presenters: Between 11 percent and 20 percent of participants (depending on the geographic site) have been promoted, and 79 percent are on track to be promoted. More than 90 percent of workers report that they are more confident on the job, and 89 percent say they have improved interactions with customers. Finally, 88 percent of managers report increased store productivity due to employee participation in the program.

A Congressional Voice for Skills

Wrapping up the UnidosUS Workforce Development Forum was a keynote speech by Representative Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat who represents Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District, including part of Las Vegas.

Kihuen began his speech with a nod to the hospitality workers serving Forum attendees, and a little of his own family’s story, including his father’s history as a farmworker and his mother’s work as a cleaner.

Kihuen emphasized the value of Pell Grants and federal work-study programs, saying that he had personally benefitted from both. He praised the role of high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs in providing on-ramps to good jobs for youth and adults. Finally, he offered a strong endorsement of the DREAM Act, reminding attendees of the bipartisan support it enjoys. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration

On September 13th, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released, “Adult Training and Education: Results from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2016.” The report details the value credentials such as certificates, licenses and certifications have in the job market, with data supporting the importance of expanding pathways to middle-skill careers, like access to Pell grants for short-term programs and work-based learning.

Nearly fifty three percent of all jobs are middle skill jobs – those that require these certificates, licenses and certifications but not a four-year degree – and yet only forty three percent of all workers are trained at that level. The NCES report offers insight into the importance of supporting access to these non-degree postsecondary certificates for workers to develop the middle-skills businesses need.

The report is based on surveys of adults ages 16-65, as part of the 2016 National Household Education Surveys Program, and this section of the survey was intended to evaluate the prevalence and value of certificates, licenses and certifications in today’s workforce. Results show that twenty seven percent of workers hold these non-degree credentials and twenty one percent have participated in work-based learning.

Responses to the survey indicated the value recipients place on their credentials. More than eighty percent felt they were useful in getting a job, keeping a job and remaining marketable in their field. This finding is consistent with NSC’s support of the Jumpstarting Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, a bipartisan bill introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) which would expand access to Pell grants for participants in short-term, industry certified job training programs – programs that would lead to the credentials respondents valued. The NCES report is further support for the importance of these short-term programs to workers for the development of the skills businesses need.

The survey found similar results for participants in training programs that provided on-the-job work experience – about 2/3 of respondents found this work experience improved their ability to get a job and their work skills.  NSC has developed several policy proposals to expand access to work-based learning and apprenticeship, including through support for industry and sector partnerships that convene and work with local partners necessary to start and run successful work-based learning programs. Senators Kaine and Portman have also introduced the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act, which would provide grants to industry and sector partnerships to expand access to work-based learning opportunities in infrastructure industries.

NSC urges Congress to support the JOBS Act and BUILDS Act to expand access to the kinds of credentials, certificates and licenses vital to workers’ success in middle-skill jobs. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Maine Governor May Reject WIOA Title I Funds

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba
Maine Governor May Reject WIOA Title I Funds

According to a report in this morning’s Bangor Daily News, Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) may try to refuse up to $8 million in federal formula funds under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in response to a decision by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to reject his request to consolidate the state’s three regional workforce development boards into a single statewide board.

It is unclear what options would be available to local boards and other stakeholders in the event that LePage follows through on his threats, but it is likely that any disruptions in funding would impact the ability of Maine’s workers and businesses to obtain the skills and credentials they need to compete in today’s economy. In addition to impacting direct services for adults, dislocated workers, and youth under Title I, the loss of funds would have almost certainly impact the delivery of adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and other employment and training services that are coordinated through the one-stop system.

National Skills Coalition urges Governor LePage to reconsider this decision, and ensure that these vital activities and programs can continue to receive federal funds while his administration works toward a resolution that works for Maine’s employers and jobseekers.