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Immigrant Dreamers play crucial role in economy

  ·   By Michael Richardson,
Immigrant Dreamers play crucial role in economy

When the Trump administration announced in September 2017 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was ending, it sent a substantial jolt across the U.S. labor market. Surveys show that the overwhelming majority of DACA recipients are employed, and many play a key role in filling middle skill positions in the American economy.  Estimates suggest that ending DACA will cause a loss of $460 billion to the national GDP over the next decade.

Since its inception in 2012, the DACA program has provided nearly 800,000 young immigrants with temporary protection from deportation and 2-year renewable work permits. To obtain DACA, individuals had to meet a range of requirements, including having a high-school diploma or equivalent, or being enrolled in school.

Many DACA recipients have gone beyond these baseline educational requirements to earn middle-skill credentials. (NSC highlighted the important role of Dreamers in meeting the demand for middle-skill workers in a recent fact sheet on the topic.)

Spotlight: One Dreamer’s Story

One such individual is Ivan (pictured above), who was born in Quito, Ecuador. His parents decided early on in his life that they wanted to pursue better opportunities to provide for their family and decided to journey to the United States.  When Ivan was eleven years old he joined his mother and father in New York – his parents had moved earlier to get things settled – to begin his new life.   

Ivan attended school for a time, but left before graduation and began looking for a stable job and income. Without having authorization to work, he was only able to find odd jobs in restaurants, welding and construction. He earned very low wages, sometimes even below minimum wage. Ivan thought often about pursuing his education and even going to college, but because of his immigration status, he couldn’t apply for loans or scholarships, and wasn’t able to afford tuition on his own.  This left him discouraged and unsure about his future.

Once DACA was introduced, Ivan’s life dramatically changed for the better and he immediately began to think about the possibilities of furthering his education and a stable career. While working on his high school equivalency diploma, he heard about DACA on the news and after speaking with his professor, he saw this as an opportune time to apply and soon received DACA status. Through his odd jobs, he had developed a passion for construction work, and dreamed of someday owning a construction and home design company.  He decided that the best way to achieving his dream was to finish his high school equivalency diploma and pursue a postsecondary degree.

After finishing his secondary diploma, Ivan decided to attend La Guardia Community College in New York, where he is now working to obtain an associate of arts degree in social science and humanities. Upon graduating, he plans to transfer to the Fashion Institute of Technology for a degree in interior design and will continue to pursue his dream of owning his own company.  Because of DACA and the opportunities it allowed him in furthering his education, Ivan has been confident about what’s in store for his career. 

Now that the DACA program is ending, Ivan is not sure of what the future holds. He knows that without DACA, his work permit will eventually expire and that this will have a tremendously negative impact on his life and his education and career goals.

Ivan’s investment in pursuing his education and preparing for a career has been substantial. In a recent interview, he spoke about his own and other immigrants’ commitment to the United States, saying: “We are paying taxes and adding to this country.  We are just trying to work and be a part of this society.”

What’s Next for Dreamers Like Ivan?

As more and more young people begin to lose their DACA status, pressure is growing for Congressional action. Estimates suggest that approximately 120 individuals a day are losing status, with that number expected to increase to more than 900 beginning in March 2018.

Several bills have been introduced that would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. Foremost among them is the bipartisan DREAM Act of 2017, introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). As NSC noted when the bill was introduced last July, the bill reflects current labor-market demand by including a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers like Ivan who earn middle-skill credentials.

Congress should act quickly to address Dreamers’ situation by passing legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship that is inclusive of middle-skill credentials. Enacting the DREAM Act will not only ensure that hundreds of thousands of young people are able to contribute to their highest and best abilities, but also that American employers can continue to rely on the talented and dedicated workers who are already playing much needed roles in their companies. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education
House Republicans release tax reform bill; education and employment credits impacted

On Thursday, November 2, House Republicans released a copy of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would reform the U.S. tax code.

Several provisions in the draft legislation would impact training-related business and individual tax credits including the proposed repeals of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) business tax credit and section 127, the exclusion of employer-provided education assistance from individual income. The bill also proposes the elimination of the Life Long Learning credit, collapsing this provision into an updated version of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The proposed repeals and consolidation of these provisions would be counterproductive for businesses looking for skilled workers and for workers in need of training and jobs.

  • Work Opportunity Tax Credit: Currently, businesses can claim WOTC for hiring individuals who are members of certain target populations. The credit is claimed largely for hires who are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligible, two populations for whom training is crucial to improving employment outcomes. The House bill would repeal WOTC, eliminating the credit businesses attempt to claim for more than five million workers each year. NSC has a forthcoming brief that includes policy recommendations to expand WOTC to better serve the individuals for whom it is claimed and better address business needs.
  • Section 127: The tax bill also proposes the elimination of a provision that allows individuals to receive up to $5,250 in tuition reimbursement from their employer without this amount counting towards their taxable income for the year. Particularly for small- and medium-sized businesses, this tuition reimbursement credit serves as a recruitment tool for new workers, a way to retain and upskill existing talent and a foundation for partnerships with local community and technical colleges who provide workers’ classroom education.
  • The Lifetime Learning (LL) credit: The LL credit, an individual tax credit for up to $2,000 of tuition expenses, would also be eliminated under the House proposal. The bill proposes eliminating the LL credit and adding a fifth year of eligibility to the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Under current law, many nontraditional students – those in less than ½ time programs, non-degree programs, and qualifying job training programs – qualify for the LL credit and do not qualify for either current or the proposed expanded AOTC. Cutting the program would mean that workers who attend community and technical schools to better meet business’ skill needs would no longer have access to the tax credits that can often make this kind of upskilling possible.

The House bill and the forthcoming Senate version, expected in the next week, come after both chambers agreed to a joint budget resolution that included reconciliation instructions enabling Congress to pass tax reform with only 51 votes in the Senate, negating the impact of a Senate filibuster. Members of Congressional leadership have set a goal to pass their tax reform legislation by the end of the calendar year, but have until the end of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 – until September 30, 2018 – to do so under the current reconciliation instructions.

National Skills Coalition will continue to work with state and local partners to educate policy makers on the impact tax reform would have on workers and small- and medium-sized businesses and to oppose cuts to vital workforce education and training programs.

A number of NSC national partners have released further analysis of important components of the tax proposal, including Young Invincibles, Center on Budget Policy Priorities, and CLASP

Posted In: Tax Policies

Seattle Jobs Initiative releases guide for SNAP E&T advocates

  ·   By David Kaz, Robyn Vatter and Brooke DeRenzis
Seattle Jobs Initiative releases guide for SNAP E&T advocates

Advocates looking to help low-income people train for family-supporting jobs should check out a new guide released by Seattle Jobs Initiative. The SNAP E&T Advocates Guide provides advice on practical steps that advocates can take to help states make skills training an integral part of their SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs. Skills-based SNAP E&T programs utilize partnerships with community colleges, community-based organizations, and other funds to expand quality education, training, and support services to SNAP recipients. When used in this way, SNAP E&T can help prepare recipients for middle-skill jobs with family-supporting wages.

It’s a good time for advocates to weigh in with state leaders and agencies on SNAP E&T. As the labor market tightens, many states are looking for strategies to help people with lower skills get the training and support they need to move into the workforce or advance within their career. States can use their E&T programs – and a combination of federal, state, local, and philanthropic dollars – to provide job training for SNAP participants. Since over half of SNAP households are led by someone with no education beyond high school, expanded training opportunities are critical to help more SNAP participants move out of poverty and into living-wage careers. And the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, which administers the program, is providing resources and technical assistance to help states expand skills-based SNAP E&T programs.

A broad set of advocates, including policy organizations, antipoverty and nutrition organizations, philanthropy, community colleges, workforce development agencies, and others, can collaborate with state SNAP agencies to provide them with the impetus, information, and assistance they need to build out a skills-based E&T program. The Guide includes important tips that advocates can use to develop a successful strategy, including guidance on identifying champions, common obstacles that keep states from developing skills-based programs, and factors that impact SNAP E&T, such as time limits on benefits for able-bodied adults without dependents or programs that mandate E&T participation as a condition of receiving food assistance.

As a companion to the guide, SJI has also released a SNAP E&T Messaging Tool. The tool builds in some of the key messages on the program and why states should use it to help participants build skills demanded by today’s labor market. Advocates can customize the tool to include information specific to their state. They can also use it to introduce SNAP E&T to a variety of audiences who are generally new to the program.  The Messaging Tool was developed with feedback from National Skills Coalition’s partners working to advance skills-based SNAP E&T programs in their states.

For more information about Seattle Jobs Initiative and their SNAP E&T work, please refer to their website. For more information on how to develop a skills-based SNAP E&T policy in your state, check out NSC’s Skills-Based SNAP E&T Policy Toolkit.

Posted In: SNAP Employment and Training, Washington

On October 31st, Senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), introduced the Investing in American Workers Act; a bill that would incentivize employers to dedicate more resources to worker training.

This targeted legislation creates a tax credit to benefit employers who demonstrate a commitment to upskilling their workers. More specifically, employers who invest more capital in training in one year than they have in the previous three years would be eligible for a tax credit that equals 20 percent of their increased spending.  Notably, small businesses and tax-exempt organizations would be permitted to apply their credit to payroll taxes—maximizing the efficiency of the benefit.

To help ensure that employers are offering high-quality training to their workers, the Investing in American Workers Act specifies which providers and programs employers may utilize to qualify for the credit. These include WIOA-certified training programs, nationally or state-recognized apprenticeships, and programs sponsored by an industry or sector partnership. Additionally, completion of the training must result in the achievement of a recognized postsecondary credential; a term that would be defined by the Secretary of Labor within one year of the bill’s passage.

Investing in skilled workers is crucial to the success of the small and mid-sized businesses that keep our economy running. Incentivizing employers to capitalize on sector partnerships and other 21st-century training models is consistent with the proposals outlined in our New Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. We applaud Senators Warner, Casey, and Stabenow for their leadership and look forward to working with members of Congress to advance this important legislation.

Reps. Bonamici and Ferguson introduce bipartisan PARTNERS Act

On October 25, Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Drew Ferguson (R-GA) introduced the bipartisan Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act of 2017. The bill would support partnerships between businesses and other local workforce stakeholders to enable small- and medium-sized employers to develop and expand – and workers to succeed in – work-based learning programs.

Tell your Senators and Representative to Support the PARTNERS Act.

Work based learning, including apprenticeship, provides individuals with paid, on-the-job work training and experience.  For companies in desperate need of new workers, work-based learning immediately puts motivated hires on site. The approach has been shown to reinforce employee engagement, leading to better morale, higher retention and lower turnover. And it can help increase workplace diversity by offering a structured way for community residents to build careers with local firms. Workers, meanwhile, obtain market-driven skills and can “learn while they earn.”  

Businesses—especially small- and medium-sized businesses—often lack the infrastructure to establish apprenticeships or work-based learning programs on their own, however. Industry or sector partnerships can help reduce the burdens on businesses and by convening local stakeholders to collaboratively develop training related instruction, support services, and on-the-job training components of a work-based learning program.

Under the PARTNERS Act, industry and sector partnerships would receive grants of up to $500,000 for two years. Recipients would convene necessary partners and coordinate a set of business services to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop and run work-based learning programs. Partnerships would also coordinate worker support services to improve worker retention and success.

Business engagement activities could include:

  • Assistance navigating registration process for apprenticeship;
  • Connecting businesses with education providers to develop classroom instruction to complement on-the-job learning;
  • Development of curriculum design of the on-the-job component of a program;
  • Service as employer of record during a transitional period for participants entering work-based learning programs;
  • Providing training to managers and front-line workers to aide in their provision of mentoring or training to work-based learning participants;
  • Recruitment of individuals to participate in the work-based learning programs, particularly individuals receiving additional workforce and human services.

Support services that help keep workers on the job could include:

  • Connecting participants with adult basic education;
  • Connecting participants with pre-work-based learning training, including through pre-apprenticeship programs;
  • Providing connections to transportation and child care services;
  • Developing mentorship opportunities; and
  • Providing tools, clothing, and other required items necessary to start employment.

Representatives Bonamici and Ferguson spoke on the floor this morning about the PARTNERS Act and they are circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter on the bill. 

National Skills Coalition applauds Representatives Bonamici and Ferguson for their leadership in expanding access to work-based learning and apprenticeship programs, consistent with the proposals outlined in our New Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. We look forward to working with the members of Congress to advance this important legislation.

Posted In: Work Based Learning