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More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education

  ·   By Bryan Wilson
More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education

More Progress is Needed in Data Systems for Career and Technical Education 

National Skills Coalition’s Workforce Data Quality Campaign has partnered with Advance Career Technical Education (CTE) and other organizations to produce the new report, The State of Career Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness. Among the report’s key findings are that more states should use administrative records to measure outcomes for students and link records across secondary, postsecondary, and workforce sectors. States can address these shortcomings as they begin developing their State Plans for Perkins and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) that will be due to federal agencies in 2020.

The report is based on data from a 50-state survey that was issued to State Career and Technical Education (CTE) Directors in fall 2018. A total of 51 State Directors completed the survey, representing 48 states, two territories, and the District of Columbia.

While progress is being made, too many states continue to rely on outdated or unreliable methods, particularly surveys, for collecting data on career readiness and learner outcomes. Student surveys suffer from problems of validity and reliability, while also being expensive. At the postsecondary level, 33 percent of State Directors report using student surveys to measure post-program employment and 31 percent to measure further education or training for postsecondary program completers.

A more reliable and valid method for measuring post-program outcomes is to link student records with other administrative records held by state agencies and the National Student Clearinghouse. Forty-five percent of State Directors report collecting post-program employment data through an agreement with their state Department of Labor or another related agency. Forty-one percent identify learners who continue their postsecondary education or training through a partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse.

The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (commonly referred to as Perkins V) includes provisions that can help states address these challenges. In Perkins V, Congress consciously worked to better align Perkins with WIOA and other acts. Congress aligned the planning cycle for Perkins with the planning cycle for WIOA, so that both state plans will be due to federal agencies about a year from now. In addition, states may submit a combined plan that includes both Perkins and WIOA. Perkins also calls for states to align the collection of data with the collection of data for other federal and state programs. Workforce agencies have over twenty years of experience in using administrative data and data linking across sectors for WIOA and its predecessor act.

As states begin to develop their four-year State Perkins and WIOA Plans there is an opportunity to work together to identify how their state will use administrative records and data linking to measure outcomes and align data collection.

The State of Career and Technical Education: Improving Data Quality and Effectiveness was developed through the New Skills for Youth initiative, a partnership of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE and Education Strategy Group, generously funded by JPMorgan Chase & Co, and was developed in partnership with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, a project of the National Skills Coalition, and the Data Quality Campaign.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

SkillSPAN coalitions in GA, NC, and TN to boost training opportunities in the South

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
SkillSPAN coalitions in GA, NC, and TN to boost training opportunities in the South

National Skills Coalition is deepening its efforts to bring skills training opportunities to more people in the South by providing increased support to its three southern SkillSPAN partners. NSC’s SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network) is the first-ever nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions working to advance state skills training policies. Coalitions from ten states joined SkillSPAN in 2019.

Coalitions led by Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, North Carolina Justice Center, and Complete Tennessee are among SkillSPAN’s inaugural coalitions and currently represent the network’s presence in the South. With generous support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, NSC will provide increased financial and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of these coalitions. With this additional support, SkillSPAN leaders in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee will be able to bring new partners to the table to create policy changes that expand economic opportunity for workers and their families and advance racial equity in the workforce.

Each of these SkillSPAN leaders will build on work they’re doing as part of NSC’s Southern Skills Policy Initiative.  NSC launched this initiative last June to help partners in Southern states put forward state policies to support skills training:

  Georgia Budget and Policy Institute is working to expand financial aid so that more people who face financial barriers to postsecondary training, including workers of color, can earn middle-skill credentials.
  North Carolina Justice Center is working to develop better apprenticeship pathways for workers of color and other underrepresented workers.
  Complete Tennessee is working to leverage federal and state programs to support more adults as they pursue postsecondary training that leads to a career.

These policy changes are critical to building a stronger economy in these states and throughout the South. While most of the jobs in the South are middle-skill jobs, policymakers in Southern states have not created enough opportunities to help workers train for these jobs. In a recent report with the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis, we provided a skills policy roadmap for Southern states. We also underscored the need for a skilled and thriving economy to be an inclusive economy.  With more than four in ten Southerners being people of color, education and training policies that advance racial equity in the workforce will make the South’s workers, businesses, and the economy better off. We’re excited to provide additional support to our SkillSPAN partners in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to build a stronger Southern economy by creating more skills training opportunities for their state’s workers.

Posted In: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee

DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

DOL Announces 7th Round of Data Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) invites State Workforce Agencies to apply for a seventh round of Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grants. State agencies can use these grants to create or enhance longitudinal data systems, which match data about individuals from different sources over time, enabling them to produce better information about education and training programs.

The WDQI grant program is a competitive grant program created in 2010, to help states develop or improve their state workforce longitudinal data systems (which contain information about workforce training programs and employment services). By providing information about whether completers are finding employment and earning good wages, these systems enable states to report on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) programs. They also allow states to conduct research that can guide workforce program improvement and help businesses fill skilled positions. States can use WDQI grants to supplement grants provided through the Department of Education’s Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) grants program, which also supports the linkage and use of data to promote better education and training outcomes for the nation’s students and workers.

A seventh round of WDQI grants comes despite President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget eliminating funding for the program. Congress’s budget rejected cuts to WDQI grants, in favor of level funding from FY 2018. National Skills Coalition (NSC), through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce (CIAW), has called on the administration to ensure level funding for SLDS and WDQI grants in FY 2020, so that states can demonstrate how WIOA strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways, are helping employers to meet their skilled workforce needs. Furthermore, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), has and will continue to advocate for funding of grants that enable states to provide information about education and workforce programs to stakeholders.  

In round seven of the WDQI grants, ETA plans to award a total of $11.5 million dollars to eight states. This funding includes five grants of up to $1 million each for states to use over a three-year period. State Workforce Agencies may use these funds to develop or improve workforce longitudinal data systems, connect workforce data with education data, and provide user-friendly information to help students make informed decisions about their education and training options. In addition, ETA plans to award three grants of up to $2.18 million for states to use over a three-year period. States who receive these grants may use the funds to integrate operational databases, such as a state’s case management, performance reporting and/or fiscal reporting systems, with their longitudinal data bases.

The deadline for applications is April 24, 2019 at 4:00 PM. Round six WDQI grantee states are not eligible to apply.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Strengthening career pathways for working students: Gateway to Careers Act will help students overcome barriers to postsecondary education

In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of postsecondary education and training, yet students, especially nontraditional students, often face barriers to higher education due to a lack of vital support services—including basic skills instruction, transportation and childcare and comprehensive career counseling.

To help meet the needs of these students, community and technical colleges along with their industry partners have been working to establish and strengthen career pathways—21st century learning models that combine support services with academic instruction. NSC has long supported investing in postsecondary career pathways and have highlighted them as part of our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. Additionally, 10 state higher education systems have endorsed increasing federal funding for career pathways and recent polling shows that 81 percent of Americans are in favor of government funding for support services that will help students finish skills training programs.

Despite the value of career pathways, there is a lack of targeted federal funding to help sustain and strengthen them. As a solution, Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2018 that makes grant funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership with industry stakeholders, community-based organizations and other entities to better serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

More specifically, the Gateway to Careers Act would authorize a new grant program in the Higher Education Act entitled the “Career Pathways Grant Program,” for distribution to eligible career pathway partnerships. As defined by the legislation, career pathway partnerships can consist of:

  • An educational institution, including a two-year public institution of higher education, an area career and technical education school that provides postsecondary level instruction or a consortium of these entities;
  • One or more workforce development partner, including a local board, an industry association, and/or a community-based organization;
  • A Secondary or Adult Education Partner—such as a local education agency, an eligible provider as defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), or a career and technical education agency as defined by The Perkins Act.


Career pathway partnerships would be able to use this grant funding for:

  • Creating or expanding dual-enrollment opportunities for secondary students or disconnected youth;
  • Implementing evidence-based strategies that help adult and other nontraditional students access skills and recognized postsecondary credentials;
  • Providing direct support services such as childcare, transportation, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, assistance in obtaining health insurance, and assistance in obtaining federal nutrition and/or housing benefits;
  • Allocating emergency grants to help students who are facing financial hardships;
  • Offering career pathways navigation and case management services;
  • Other activities identified by eligible institutions as necessary to support the development of implementation of career pathway programs.


Additionally, partnerships receiving grant funding would responsible for reporting their program outcomes to the Secretary of Education on a yearly basis.

NSC applauds Senators Hassan, Young, Kaine, and Gardner for making career pathways a priority and encourage Congress to consider the inclusion of the Gateway to Careers Act in any Higher Education reauthorization bill.

Posted In: Higher Education Access

Dream and Promise Act sends clear message: middle skills are a pathway to citizenship

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
Dream and Promise Act sends clear message: middle skills are a pathway to citizenship

New legislation recognizes importance of middle-skill pathways and immigrant workforce to our growing economy

Legislation recently introduced in Congress marks a significant step toward recognizing the role that immigrant workers play in the US economy, and the vital importance of middle-skill jobs. The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would provide a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, and ensure a stable future for adult immigrants who have been living and working under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The bill would also allow more immigrants to access federal student financial aid.

The new bill reflects National Skills Coalition’s longstanding advocacy for a middle-skills pathway for immigrant Dreamers and sends an important message: the American economy depends on working people and immigrants with middle-skill credentials, not just those with college degrees. This provision has broad-based support; in February, nearly 500 NSC members representing education, workforce, business, and other stakeholders came to Washington to advocate for the proposal in Congress as part of our Skills for Good Jobs 2019 agenda.

The broader American public also embraces the idea of having a variety of pathways to good jobs: A recent NSC poll shows overwhelming support for investments in skills, with more than 80 percent of voters endorsing policies that allow workers to pursue technical training, apprenticeships, shorter-term credentials, and other skill-building opportunities.

Because immigrants comprise approximately 1 in 6 American workers, or roughly 28 million adults in the US labor force, it is important for federal skills policies to address their specific assets and barriers. The Dream and Promise Act would address barriers faced by a key subset of immigrant workers, totaling an estimated 2.7 million people.

More about the legislation

The Dream and Promise Act of 2019 was announced at a March 12 press conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) along with lead sponsors Representatives Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). More than 200 Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill.

The legislation, formally known as H.R. 6, would provide a way for two groups of immigrants to obtain permanent legal status and eventual US citizenship: Those who currently have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children, known as Dreamers. Neither group is generally eligible for permanent status under current immigration laws, unless they meet existing criteria for adjustment of status. There are currently 2.3 million Dreamers in the U.S. (which includes Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients) and 300,000 people with TPS status.

How do middle skill credentials fit into the bill?

The requirements for Dreamers to attain permanent legal status under this bill are different from the requirements for TPS holders, primarily because the TPS holders are more likely to be adults who have been in the labor force for more than a decade.

Under the proposed legislation, Dreamers would need to meet a host of requirements at each stage of this process:

  • Step 1: Apply for an initial conditional permanent resident status. Dreamers would need to show that they have earned a high school diploma or equivalent; or attained a recognized postsecondary credential as defined in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA); or be currently enrolled in an education program that will allow them to earn a high school diploma or equivalent, certificate or credential from an area career and technical education (CTE) secondary school, or a recognized postsecondary credential.
  • Step 2: Apply for removal of the “conditional” part of their status to move into full legal permanent resident (LPR) status. Dreamers would need to demonstrate that they had achieved one of three milestones related to educational attainment, work experience, or military service. For the educational attainment track, Dreamers would need to show that they had earned a degree from a postsecondary institution (including vocational and proprietary schools), or completed 2 years towards a bachelor’s degree, or earned a certificate or credential from an area postsecondary CTE school.
  • Step 3: Follow already-established legal pathways to adjust from LPR status to full US citizenship.

As noted above, the middle skills pathway included in Step 2 reflects a longstanding NSC policy recommendation. Earlier versions of the DREAM Act, which has been introduced in Congress repeatedly over the past two decades, also included the pathway.

How would the bill support upskilling?

The legislation would allow Dreamers with conditional permanent resident status to become eligible for federal student financial aid. Currently, a person must have full LPR status in order to access such aid. In addition, the bill would repeal a 1996 provision that punishes states for allowing undocumented individuals to pay in-state tuition rates. More than 20 states have implemented such “tuition equity” policies.

Finally, the legislation would authorize US Citizenship and Immigration Services to implement a competitive grant program for nonprofits that can aid individuals in meeting the requirements of the bill. Organizations would be permitted to use funding for English language classes, preparation for high school equivalency exams, and other purposes. The legislation does not specify a dollar amount for these grants, but would authorize funding for a 10-year period following passage of the legislation.

Next steps in Congress: What advocates can do

The newly introduced legislation is expected to proceed through regular order in Congress. That means that the committee overseeing the bill – the House Judiciary Committee – will schedule a markup later this spring.

It is anticipated that the full House of Representatives will vote on the bill later this year, though its prospects in the Senate are very uncertain. Skills advocates can use this time to educate their Members of Congress about the demand for middle skill workers in each state and the role that Dreamers and TPS holders can play in meeting that demand.

Posted In: Immigration, Career and Technical Education