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New coalitions from 10 states will join NSC's SkillSPAN, expanding network reach to advocate for skills training across 20 states

National Skills Coalition has selected coalitions from ten states to join SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network) in 2020 – doubling the number of coalitions in the network since its launch last year. SkillSPAN is a nationwide network of state coalitions expanding access to skills training for thousands of people through state policy changes. With a total of twenty state coalitions in the network, SkillSPAN is poised to promote policies that support all workers’ career aspirations, boost local businesses, and help states build strong, inclusive economies.

Convened by a lead organization, SkillSPAN coalitions include policy and research organizations, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, community colleges, workforce boards, state and local agencies, and others advocating for a shared skills agenda. As a nationwide network, SkillSPAN leverages the combined expertise of state coalition members and amplifies their collective voices in state capitols across the nation.

The 2020 SkillSPAN network and coalition leads

Alabama: Central Six Development Council
California: California EDGE Coalition
Colorado: Colorado Center on Law and Policy
Connecticut: United Way of Connecticut & Capital Workforce Partners
Georgia: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Illinois: Chicago Jobs Council
Indiana: Indiana Institute for Working Families
Iowa: United Way of Central Iowa
Louisiana: Louisiana Budget Project
Maryland: Jobs Opportunities Task Force
Massachusetts: SkillWorks & The Workforce Solutions Group
Michigan: United Way of Southeast Michigan
New York: New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals
North Carolina:
 North Carolina Justice Center
Ohio: Ohio Workforce Coalition
Oregon: Portland Community College
Tennessee: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
Texas: United Ways of Texas
Washington state
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership & Building Industry Group Skilled Trade Employment Programs (WRTP/BIG STEP)

Jobs that require skills training beyond high school but not a four-year degree are the backbone of the American economy. Many people want to upgrade their skills but can’t access or afford the training they need to step into a better career. And while there are lots of innovative training programs, there simply aren’t enough to meet the needs of thousands of workers and businesses as our economy changes.

That’s where SkillSPAN comes in. Coalitions in our network are advocating for public policies that can support and scale effective training programs while also removing systemic barriers to skills training. They are advocating for greater investments in skills training so that more workers and businesses can succeed in the modern economy. And they are utilizing resources like NSC’s Roadmap for Racial Equity to advocate for state-specific policy solutions that ensure that everyone has a fair shot at achieving economic success.

Take two examples from last year: the Illinois SkillSPAN coalition successfully advocated for changes to a state safety net policy in order to expand high-quality career pathways for people who want skills training while also shoring up food security. Meanwhile, SkillSPAN partners in Georgia succeeded in extending the state’s largest scholarship program to students who have been out of high school for up to ten years – making community college more affordable for thousands more young adults. In both cases, SkillSPAN partners showed why policy changes were necessary to create more equitable training opportunities and a more inclusive workforce.

In 2020, the twenty SkillSPAN coalitions will focus on skills training policies across a range of issues, including apprenticeship, postsecondary education, upskilling, and supportive services. To support this work, NSC will provide grants to SkillSPAN coalitions, along with regular opportunities for cross-state learning and assistance with policy development and analysis, coalition-building, and strategic communication.

NSC will also offer more intensive, time-limited capacity-building opportunities to select SkillSPAN coalition members. In 2020, four SkillSPAN coalition leads will participate in our Supportive Services Academy so that people with lower incomes have supports like transportation and childcare as they pursue skills training. Meanwhile, leaders of California’s community-based organizations are participating in a California Advocacy and Policy Academy to use their practical experience to shape and advocate for meaningful skills training polices as members of a state network.

In many states, SkillSPAN coalitions will also work with Business Leaders United (BLU) state affiliates to leverage business voices in their advocacy. BLU — supported by NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions – includes businesses who are working with local partners to train, hire, and upskill workers and who want policymakers to follow their lead and invest in workers’ skills.

With plans to expand beyond twenty states in coming years, SkillSPAN will increase skills and job training opportunities for thousands of American workers, businesses, and communities across the nation. If you would like to connect with SkillSPAN partners in your state or across the country, please reach out!

Posted In: SkillSPAN
California Advocacy & Policy Academy will collaborate with 20 organizations to inform state skills training policies

National Skills Coalition (NSC) is excited to announce the twenty organizations and representatives selected for our first California Advocacy and Policy Academy (CAPA) cohort. CAPA is the first policy academy in the state focused on providing a platform for community-based organizational leaders to engage in state-level workforce development policy discussions. CAPA is a two-year initiative made possible through support from The James Irvine Foundation, Tipping Point Community, and Ballmer Group. Applications for our second cohort will be available Fall 2020.

About CAPA

Community-based organizations (CBOs) 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 leveland 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. 

Throughout the year, members in CAPA will participate in a series of workshops designed 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. 

Members of CAPA will also have the opportunity to share their expertise with state peers, apply lessons learned throughout the academy, and participate in state capitol visits to inform policy decisions as it relates to skills training and education.

Applicants were selected to participate in CAPA based on their commitment to:

  • Expanding high-quality, industry-based job training and/or support services across California 

  • Working towards a more equitable economy  

  • Removing systemic barriers and creating more opportunities for people who have been structurally disconnected from economic opportunity

With that, here are the twenty names and organizations in our first CAPA cohort:

  • Daniela Alvarenga, Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, Pomona 

  • Kimberly Alvarenga, California Domestic Workers Coalition, San Francisco 

  • Cynthia Centeno Garcia, San Diego Workforce Partnership, San Diego 

  • Lisa Countryman-Quiroz, Jewish Vocational Services (Northern California), San Francisco  

  • Corinne Eldridge, California Long-Term Education Center, Los Angeles  

  • Ilaf Esuf, California Competes, Oakland 

  • Adine Forman, Hospitality Training Academy, Los Angeles 

  • Stacy Hollingsworth, Apprenti California, Statewide  

  • Pao Houa Lee, The Fresno Center, Fresno 

  • Joceline Jimenez, Orange County United Way, Irvine  

  • Stephanie McNally, Canal Alliance, San Rafael 

  • Maria Moreno, ROC The Bay, Oakland 

  • Peter Ortiz, Year Up, Oakland 

  • Timer Paida, Nile Sisters Development, San Diego 

  • Gitanjali Rawat, Upwardly Global, San Francisco  

  • Brianna Robinson, Opportunity Junction, Antioch 

  • Aleah Rosario, Foundation for California Community Colleges, Sacramento 

  • Adria Salvatore, Association of Woodworking and Furnishing Suppliers, Anaheim 

  • Randi Wolfe, Early Care and Education Pathways to Success, Inland Empire 

  • Carlos A. Yanes, Downtown Community Job Center, Los Angeles 

The first cohort of CAPA will run from February 2020 – November 2020. If you are interested in learning more about NSC’s work in California, visit and sign up on the Skills for CA website and email State Network Manager, Devon Miner at devonm@nationalskillscoailition.org  



Posted In: State Initiatives and Academies, California

Supportive Services Academy welcomes five states for 2020

  ·   By Michael Richardson,
Supportive Services Academy welcomes five states for 2020

National Skills Coalition is pleased to announce the five state teams that have been selected to participate in our 2019-2020 Supportive Services Academy: Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oregon.

Through the Academy, state teams will advance state policies to expand access to supportive services so that people with lower incomes can complete education and training programs. Teams will work together along with ongoing support from NSC and will have opportunities to learn from subject matter experts and practitioner experts and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

The cost of participating in skills training goes beyond tuition or costs of a training course and includes non-tuition costs like transportation, childcare, books and supplies, equipment, etc. For too many people with low incomes – particularly people balancing the costs of training with family expenses —those costs present huge obstacles to accessing and completing a postsecondary training program.

Federal human services programs – e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – can provide these critical supportive services. Both SNAP E&T and TANF can provide education and training to recipients of SNAP food assistance and TANF cash assistance respectively. CCDBG can help provide critical assistance to help cover the costs of childcare for people participating in education, training, and/or work-based learning.

However, these programs are often underutilized by states or not used in alignment with postsecondary and workforce training efforts. In some cases, state funds may be needed to supplement federal funding to meet the needs of students participating in education and training.

Supportive Services Academy Teams will focus on topics such as braiding federal, state, and private funds to provide support for students in career pathways programs and other skills training; policies that enable greater community college student access to SNAP, childcare, and emergency funds; and establishing state-funded support services funds for students and workers participating in education and training.

The selected five state teams are:

  • Illinois
    • Chicago Jobs Council*
    • Women Employed
    • Young Invincibles
    • Safer Foundation

  • Louisiana
    • Louisiana Budget Project*
    • Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services
    • Louisiana Community & Technical College System
    • Louisiana Association for Business and Indusry

  • Mississippi
    • Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative*
    • Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative
    • Mississippi State Conference of the NAACP
    • Foundation for the Mid-South
    • Women’s Foundation of Mississippi
    • Dependable Source Corp Center for Community & Workforce Development
    • Mississippi Apprenticeship Program, MS Community College Board
    • MI-BEST, MS Community College Board
    • Moore Community House Women in Construction

  • Ohio
    • Ohio Workforce Coalition*
    • Towards Employment
    • Great Lakes Community Action Partnership
    • Policy Matters Ohio
    • The Literacy Cooperative
    • Ohio Department of Job & Family Services
    • Ohio Workforce Area 7

  • Oregon
    • Portland Community College*
    • Department of Human Services
    • Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon

*Denotes lead organization

The Academy will run from December 2019 – December 2020. If you are interested in learning more about the Academy or NSC’s work on supportive services in the states, please contact State Network Manager Michael Richardson at michaelr@nationalskillscoalition.org

Posted In: State Initiatives and Academies
Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations provide moderate – but important - boost to workforce and education programs

On December 20th, the President signed two omnibus Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 spending bills that included moderate increases in funding for most workforce and education programs. The package also includes spending priorities that direct the Department of Labor (DOL) to use funding to support community college capacity to deliver workforce programming and to better connect the public workforce system, educators, and employers in local industry partnerships.

Earlier this year, Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal that increased nondefense discretionary funding from 2019 levels by $24.5 billion for FY2020 and then another $5 billion increase in non-defense for 2021.

The final spending levels for DOL and Department of Education were lower than those proposed by the House L-HHS bill, passed on a party line vote prior to the two-year budget deal, and slightly higher than the draft Senate L-HHS bill released earlier this fall.

National Skills Coalition and partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce released a new brief earlier this year on the imperative for investing in the U.S. workforce and advocated through out the year for vital increases in workforce training and education programs. Final levels are consistent with calls for greater investment, but still fall far short of what the U.S. needs to ensure workers can access and succeed in programs that prepare them for good jobs that meet business’ needs in a global 21st century economy.

NSC applauds Congress for passing a final spending deal that funds the government through September 30, 2020 and that includes increases in funding for vital workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

Programs under the Department of Labor received a two percent increase for FY2020. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I State grant funding increased by $30 million and Title III Wagner Peyser grant funding increased by $5 million. The agreement increases JobCorps funding by $25 million and funding for apprenticeship grants up to $175 million, $15 million above FY2019 levels.

In accompanying text, language directs DOL to restrict this apprenticeship funding to registered apprenticeship programs and includes a mention that industry or sector partnerships are an important strategy to expand apprenticeship, consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act.

The agreement includes a $50 million increase for Dislocated Worker National Reserve (DWNR). Report language directs the DOL to spend $10 million of this increase on a grant program for youth, supporting partnerships between youth serving organizations and workforce development boards. It also includes new $40 million for “Strengthening Community College Training Grants,” also included in the House L-HHS bill, which would provide grants of $1 million to $5 million to community colleges or partnerships between community colleges and other training providers to improve capacity to deliver workforce programming. This proposal is consistent with the Gateway to Careers Act, introduced earlier this year by Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO).

The bill level funds the Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants and includes slight increases for most of the WIOA National programs.

While any significant changes are unlikely in the next year, WIOA is up for reauthorization in 2020 and report language to the funding package offers insight in to policy maker priorities in those conversations. The report directs DOL to evaluate resilience training and trauma-informed practices for WIOA youth programming and submit a report by June. DOL is also instructed to submit a report on how states are using 10 percent reserved funds under DWNR funding as part of the department’s FY2021 budget justification.

Department of Education

Funding for programs under the Department of Education (Ed) increased 2.5 percent over FY2019 levels in the final package. This includes a $20 million increase for Career and Technical Education state grants and $15 million for Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants. The final agreement also includes an increase of the maximum Pell award to $6,345, $150 over 2019-2020 levels.

Throughout the final agreement and explanatory text, there are several recognitions of the role postsecondary education has to prepare students for and link programs to workforce needs. The bill includes new funding for $10 million for career pathway grants that connect secondary students with postsecondary education linked to job opportunities. Explanatory text also directs the Department of Education to allocate flexible funding to support higher funding levels and additional grants made to pay for support services for students and instructs Ed to request application for TRIO grants by end of 2019. While not attached to specific funding, explanatory text also includes a new provision that describes the importance of programs offered at Institutions of Higher Education that lead to industry recognized credentials in in-demand fields and are aligned with workforce needs.

  FY 2020 - Authorized Levels  Current Levels - FY 2019 FY2020 Funding Levels FY2020 funding levels compared to Current Levels
Department of Labor        
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title 1 - State Forumla Grants   $2,789,832,000 $2,819,832,000 $30,000,000
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000 $854,649,000 $9,093,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,052,053,00 $11,193,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $913,130,000 $9,714,000
Wagner-Peyser / Employment Service Grants NA $663,052,000 $668,000,000 $5,000,000
Workforce Data Quality Inititative Grants NA $6,000,000 $6,000,000  
Apprenticeship Grants NA $160,000,000 $175,000,000 $15,000,000
DW National Reserve NA $220,859,000 $270,859,00 $50,000,000
Native American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $500,000
Ex-offender Activities NA $93,079,000 $98,079,000 $5,000,000
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $91,896,000 $3,000,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $94,534,000 $5,000,000
Senior Community Service Employment Programs NA $400,000,000 $405,000,000 $5,000,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,743,655,000 $25,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000  
Department of Education         
Career and Technical Education State Grants NA $1,262,598,000 $1,282,598,000 $20,000,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $656,955,000 $15,000,000

*Combined State Grants and National Reserve Funding

Posted In: Federal Funding

Skills 2020: Iowa ground game & the future of work

  ·   By Rachel Unruh,
Skills 2020: Iowa ground game & the future of work

The 2020 election cycle is a crucial opportunity to raise the visibility of the overwhelming public support for skills training. And National Skills Coalition is leading the field in making sure candidates and the press understand voter views on skills training as well as the policies that can support a competitive workforce – policies developed and vetted by our diverse national coalition of business, labor, colleges, community organizations, advocates, and public officials based on what’s working in their communities.

With first in nation status, Iowa’s February 3rd caucuses transform the state into the epicenter of candidate activity and media attention during December and January. That’s why the NSC team is on the ground in the state making sure that skills are in the spotlight. 

On December 13th, NSC’s press secretary Ayobami Olugbemiga joined local, national, and international press in Des Moines for a tour of the Iowa Caucus Consortium’s media filing center - home base for the media during the February caucuses. Ayobami met with reporters and previewed polling that NSC will roll out in January that explores skills training as a voting issue for caucus goers.

On December 17th, NSC sponsored the Iowa Caucus Consortium’s community forum on the future of work in Des Moines. CEO Andy Van Kleunen talked about the need to harness digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence - which will impact 60% of today’s jobs – by developing a comprehensive skills policy response. He highlighted NSC polling which found that 87% of Iowa voters support a comprehensive policy that would provide skills retraining at no cost to any worker who loses their job due to automation.

Andy was joined by Tej Dhawan, Chief Data Officer at Principal Financial; Christina Trombley, Executive Director of Online Programming at Drake University; and Mary Bontrager, Executive Vice President of Talent Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Watch video of the event here

The NSC team will be back in Iowa in January for an Iowa Caucus Consortium CEO forum sponsored by NSC’s Business Leaders United. NSC’s Voices for Skills campaign is sponsoring the Consortium’s candidate forums leading up to the caucuses (watch candidates talk about skills training at these forums at our Voices for Skills Facebook page). And our team will be on the ground during the caucuses making sure the media understand voter views on skills training.

But we won’t be stopping in Iowa. NSC will continue to raise the visibility of skills training throughout the primaries and through the general election. Want to get involved in our educational ground game over the next year or just stay up to date on what candidates are saying about skills? Visit www.voicesforskills.org and sign up to be a voice for skills and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted In: Future of Work, Iowa