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#SkillsSummit2019 had more to say to a larger audience

  ·   By Jessica Cardott
#SkillsSummit2019 had more to say to a larger audience

(Main photo: Louisiana delegation meets with Sen. Bill Cassidy on Capitol Hill)

This was a big year for the Skills Summit, NSC’s annual fly-in event open to skills advocates from across the country. The event included two days of federal skills policy updates from experts in the field, a rundown of the Skills for Good Jobs Agenda, a menu of policy recommendations developed by workforce practitioners on the ground, and culminated in the year’s largest advocacy day ever for skills policy on Capitol Hill. Photos of the event can be found here.

Forward-looking content

Ninety-three percent of likely voters support more investment in skills and technical training, according to brand new public opinion research conducted for NSC just one week before the Summit. The poll also showed broad support for each of the policies outlined in our 2019 Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. These compelling topline findings inspired one of our most dynamic plenaries – a conversation about what voters want to hear from presidential candidates about skills, education, and our economy. The conversation about this new data was moderated by Adam Harris from The Atlantic and included perspectives from the Progressive Policy Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, ALG Research, and NSC Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh. 

NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen facilitated a conversation on the future of work and the uneven prospects facing different workers. This conversation was the first in a series of discussions on the future of work and included national leaders from the AARP, AFL-CIO, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

You watch both of these plenaries on our Youtube page and sign up for more information about our Future of Work Series here.

NSC’s Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), hosted a set of conversations at the Skills Summit so as to seamlessly integrate data issues into the higher education and workforce policy and advocacy conversation, and to bring data producers together with data users. This included an invitation-only WDQC preconference, where state data experts discussed issues of importance in data communities, such as methods of identifying credentials of value, measuring skills gaps, and national sources of wage and employment data.

Bipartisanship today

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-D) and Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA-R) talk about their support for skills.

Members of Congress showed their support for skills throughout the event. Representatives Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) took the stage on February 6th to talk about their bipartisan efforts on skills policy and why it works. Together, they led the recent Perkins Act reauthorization which was signed into law at the end of 2018. The two federal legislators plan to continue to reach across the aisle this year on a bipartisan reauthorization plan for the Higher Education Act.

The PARTNERS Act was re-introduced the same day. It’s a bill that would support partnerships between businesses and other workforce stakeholders to enable small and medium sized employers to develop and expand (and allow workers to succeed in) apprenticeships and work-based learning programs. This is a priority in NSC’s Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. NSC held an apprenticeship briefing on Capitol Hill on the last day of the Skills Summit which featured a number of members of Congress who came to share their support for the bill – including Senator Baldwin (D-WI), Representatives Bonamici (D-OR), Guthrie (R-KY), and Davis (D-CA).

The biggest Summit ever!

Nearly 500 advocates from 38 states joined us at this year’s Skills Summit. Among those 316 folks joined NSC at the Summit for the first time. This tremendous attendance and enthusiasm at the Skills Summit reflects the growth of our coalition. NSC is inspired by the growth of our dynamic coalition and looks forward to working with new partners as we work to advance skills policy at the state and national level.

Recognition and thanks

Each year, NSC recognizes members of the Coalition that have gone the extra mile to use their time and talent to move the needle on skills policy.

Skills Champion: Girard Melancon, Baton Rouge Community College

The Skills Champion award is annually given to a Coalition member whose exceptional organizing and advocacy efforts have moved the skills agenda forward in Washington, D.C. over the past year. This member embodies the Coalition’s mission to seek an America that grows its economy by investing in its people, so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.

Data Driver: Kate Akers, Kentucky Center for Statistics

The data driver award is given to the state data expert who best enhances the collection and use of data to drive policy in their home state, and across the country.

Taking Care of Business: Breezy Straton, Douglas County Economic Development Authority

This award recognizes a member of the Coalition for their outstanding efforts in mobilizing business partners to advocate for improved federal skills policy.

This convening wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Siemens Foundation, and Walmart, to which we’d like to extend sincere thanks.

See you next year!

Join us next year on February 3-5, 2020 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington DC!

Newly announced American Workforce Policy Advisory Board an opportunity to highlight need for investment in what works for workers and businesses

Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, and Senior Advisor to the President, Ivanka Trump, announced the members of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board (Board) today, including governors, CEOs, representatives of community and technical colleges and four-year institutions, and industry associations.

NSC applauds the administration’s focus on workforce development, skills, and postsecondary pathways that meet the needs of businesses and workers. Much of this administration’s workforce focus has been limited to investments businesses can make in workers, however, while calling for detrimental cuts to workforce and education programming. The Board’s work is an opportunity to call for vital – and desperately needed – public investment that can scale innovative practices happening on the ground and better connect workers with the skills businesses need.  

Called for in a June 2018 Executive Order (EO), the board will work with the interagency Council for the American Worker (Council), also established in the EO, and appointees have a tenure through July of 2020. Members are tasked with sharing recommendations with the Council on expanding access to workforce and education programs necessary to connect them with job openings, including around a national awareness campaign about training opportunities, improvements to data systems, and strategies to increase private sector investments in workers and students.

These topline directives are consistent with NSC’s 2019 Skills for Good Jobs Agenda, which identifies key steps federal policymakers can take this year to ensure that all workers and all industries have the skills to compete and prosper:

  • Transform our nation’s postsecondary education system into an engine for economic opportunity and growth
  • Expand work-based learning opportunities for all businesses and all workers
  • Take a skills-based approach to poverty reduction
  • Ensure all of America’s workers – including DREAMers – can help drive economic growth.

Missing from the directives of the Board, however, is the foundation of NSC’s agenda: a call for Congress to not just talk about workers as America’s greatest asset – invest in them.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, U.S. investments in skills now lag behind virtually all other developed economies, and Congress has made it worse by slashing funds for state job training grants by 40 percent since 2001. We can’t compete in a global economy if we aren’t willing to make the necessary investments in our workers and businesses.

In the coming weeks, President Trump will release his proposed budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, and NSC calls on the administration to prioritize investment in workforce development, education and human services programs that can help meet the objective of the Council and the Board – improving opportunities for workers to develop the skills businesses need and that lead to stronger economic impact for people in communities across our country.

The members of the Board are below:

  • Jay Box, President, Kentucky Community and Technical College System
  • Walter Bumphus, President & CEO, American Association of Community Colleges
  • Jim Clark, President & CEO, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
  • Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
  • Tom Donohue, CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Juanita Duggan, President & CEO, National Federation for Independent Business
  • Elizabeth Goettl, President & CEO, Cristo Rey Network
  • Marillyn Hewson, Chairman, President, & CEO, Lockheed Martin
  • Eric Holcomb, Governor, Indiana
  • Barbara Humpton, CEO, Siemens USA
  • Al Kelly, CEO, Visa
  • Vi Lyles, Mayor, Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Bill McDermott, CEO, SAP America
  • Sean McGarvey, President, North America’s Building and Trades Unions
  • Doug McMillon, President & CEO, Walmart
  • Craig Menear, Chairman, President, & CEO, Home Depot
  • Michael Piwowar, Executive Director, Milken Institute
  • Scott Pulsipher, President, Western Governors University
  • Kim Reynolds, Governor, Iowa
  • Ginni Rometty, Chairman, President, & CEO, IBM
  • Scott Sanders, Executive Director, National Association of State Workforce Agencies
  • Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., President & CEO, Society for Human Resource Management
  • Jay Timmons, President & CEO, National Association of Manufacturers
  • Sheree Utash, President, WSU Tech 
  • Marianne Wanamaker, Professor, University of Tennessee


Upskilling adults with disabilities through better systems alignment: A new brief highlights Texas model

American businesses are facing the tightest labor market in decades. At the same time, seven out of ten Americans with disabilities are working or want to work, but they are not always well-served by workforce and education systems. Skills advocates can address both sides of this equation by improving alignment among workforce and education systems so that people with disabilities can upskill for in-demand jobs.

A new brief from NSC showcases one community that has embarked on this type of alignment process. Stakeholders in the workforce development, adult education, and vocational rehabilitation systems in the Rural Capital region of Texas have been collaborating since 2016.

Upskilling adult learners with disabilities: How collaboration among adult education, vocational rehabilitation, and workforce development partners can strengthen systems also provides recommendations for state and federal policymakers who want to support the upskilling of jobseekers with disabilities through better systems alignment.

When systems work better, people with disabilities can upskill more easily

Imagine an adult learner who is eager to earn his high school equivalency and find employment, but whose severe dyslexia has never been properly diagnosed or treated. If his adult education instructor is well-connected to her counterparts in the vocational rehabilitation (VR) system, he may be referred for formal diagnostic testing and become eligible for additional supports.

Similarly, consider a jobseeker with a hearing impairment who has been working with a VR counselor and is frustrated that she can’t find a laboratory-technician training program that will also allow her to brush up on her math skills. If her VR counselor is well-connected to workforce and education partners, she may be referred to an Integrated Education and Training program that fits the bill – and allows her to find rapid employment in this in-demand field.

Businesses benefit when public systems work more smoothly together

Many small and mid-sized businesses depend on the workforce and adult education systems to upskill workers for in-demand jobs. Many such occupations are middle-skill jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but not a four-year degree. The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) includes mechanisms that encourage local workforce providers to collaborate with peer agencies to provide services such as Integrated Education and Training that can prepare workers for middle-skill jobs.

How Texas is tackling this challenge

The nine-county Rural Capital area surrounds the city of Austin, and encompasses a broad range of suburban, exurban, and rural communities. Rural Capital stakeholders have spent more than three years working to strengthen connections among local workforce, adult education, and VR partners. The goal: make smoother customer handoffs, provide trackable referrals, and ultimately achieve better outcomes for adult learners and workers with disabilities and the local businesses who need their talents.

Rural Capital’s activities have included: Developing a shared vision across stakeholders; providing cross-system professional development to help frontline staff learn how their counterparts approach things; creating streamlined referral protocols and data collection processes; educating stakeholders about the services and eligibility requirements of their peers; and more.

State and federal policymakers can help other communities replicate this success  

Regardless of whether states choose to locate their VR agency under the umbrella of the state labor department as Texas has done (NSC takes no position on this issue), policymakers can take action to improve alignment among these key systems.

For example, Texas Workforce Commission officials made WIOA Title II adult education leadership funds available to local partners to support systems integration. Rural Capital partners used that investment to hire an outside facilitator to guide their collaboration process. Other state policymakers should consider following Texas’ lead, making WIOA Title I or Title II leadership dollars available to support systems alignment efforts.

Other recommendations for state policymakers: Invest in technical assistance and cross-system professional development for adult education, workforce, and VR partners. Consider issuing policy guidance or using requests for proposals to encourage local providers to detail their referral processes, co-enrollment, or other forms of collaboration.

At the federal level, policymakers should consider providing guidance on the use of state leadership funds to support alignment across WIOA titles. Federal agencies should release joint guidance in advance of the Spring 2020 WIOA state planning process to further encourage state partners to collaborate. And Congress should ensure that WIOA is funded at its full authorized levels.

Check out the full policy brief to learn more about each of these recommendations.

Senator Baldwin, Reps. Bonamici, Ferguson, Davis and Guthrie reintroduce PARTNERS Act

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Senator Tammy Baldwin today introduced Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act of 2019. The bill would establish a grant program to support the creation and expansion of industry and sector partnerships to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop work-based learning programs and supports to ensure workers have access to and succeed in these programs.

Work-based learning programs can address business demand for workers and workers’ skills needs. For small- and medium-sized companies, however, there are often challenges to starting or running these programs. Businesses and communities across the country master these challenges by working together in industry or sector partnerships that bring together multiple employers in a targeted industry with the workforce, education and human service systems to aggregate skills demands across firms and identify training and employment strategies that meet those shared needs.

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.


National Skills Coalition applauds all four Representatives and the Senator for their leadership in expanding access to work-based learning and apprenticeship programs, consistent with the proposals outlined in NSC’s recent brief, Partnering Up: how industry partnerships can bring work-based learning to scale. We look forward to working with the members of Congress to advance this important legislation.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

NSC’s new SkillSPAN will increase skills & job training opportunities for thousands in 25 states over next five years

  ·   By Andrew Bradley and Brooke DeRenzis
NSC’s new SkillSPAN will increase skills & job training opportunities for thousands in 25 states over next five years

Today, National Skills Coalition launches SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network), a first-ever nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions that will bring skills and job training opportunities to thousands of people through policy changes in 25 states over the next five years.

SkillSPAN and NSC’s new Business Leaders United (BLU) state affiliate network will pass policies in the postsecondary education, workforce training, adult education, career and technical education, and safety net arenas to expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local business capacity.

We are launching this network at a critical time: skills training is a popular, bipartisan issue and many of the country’s governors ran on skills training as a critical plank in their education and economic platforms. SkillSPAN and BLU are poised to help these and other state leaders deliver on their skills training promises and address key economic challenges in their states.

SkillSPAN coalitions will include policy organizations, workforce advocates, community colleges, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, and others advocating for a shared agenda.

Ten state coalitions will join SkillSPAN in 2019, with an additional ten joining in 2020, and further growth in 2021. Fifteen states will have BLU affiliates by 2020. With an initial $3 million grant from Ballmer Group, NSC will provide grants to SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU state affiliates, along with an infrastructure to support cross-state learning and technical assistance.

Seizing an economic and political moment

Despite economic, political, and geographic differences, every state in the nation faces a common labor market challenge: jobs that require education and training beyond high school but not a bachelor’s degree make up the largest portion of the labor market; yet too few workers have access to training for these jobs, many of which pay family-supporting wages.

With unemployment at a record low and technology changing the way we work now and in the future, everyone who wants to build their skills – from people who are looking for a job to low-wage workers who want to upgrade their skills and take the next step in their career — should have the opportunity to do so. Training is important for people who want good jobs that can support their families, for businesses looking to adapt to continual industry changes, and for states whose economic growth and competitiveness depends on building a skilled and inclusive workforce.   

Across political parties and regions of the country, people have called on policy leaders to recognize this need and include skills training in education and jobs proposals. As governors and state legislators begin new terms this month, they are looking to respond.

SkillSPAN and the BLU affiliate network will provide capacity and infrastructure to seize these economic and political opportunities. In every statehouse, policymakers can support workers and businesses while strengthening the economy by investing in the skills of people – from the father who wants to train for a new career after being laid off to the young woman who wants to take on an apprenticeship instead of college debt.

As a national network, SkillSPAN will leverage the combined expertise of state coalition members and amplify their collective voices in state capitols across the nation.


Scaling what works for workers and business

SkillSPAN coalitions will advance policy changes that impact workers and businesses across a range of areas, including:

  • Protecting and increasing vital funding for successful skills training programs
  • Turning back efforts to impose work requirements in safety net programs and replacing them with polices to provide job training and supports to low‐income people, including those utilizing TANF, SNAP, and other income supports
  • Expanding apprenticeship and other forms of wage‐earning, work‐based learning, particularly for low‐income working adults and out‐of‐school youth
  • Making financial aid available to working people and creating new pathways into college programs for low‐skilled workers, along with support services
  • Helping states invest in sector partnerships so that participating companies—particularly small‐ and medium‐sized businesses— inform training and higher education efforts connected to their industry
  • Creating new opportunities for low‐wage workers with limited basic or English skills to acquire these skills in partnership with their employers, as well as local schools, community organizations, community colleges and unions
  • Expanding state data systems and publicly-available data tools so that policymakers and the public can know which programs place people in jobs and raise their incomes

Across these issues, SkillSPAN coalitions will work to ensure that policy changes advance racial equity in the workforce.

Inaugural coalitions

In 2019, coalitions in 10 states will join SkillSPAN. Despite a wide range of political and policy environments, these states share a need for comprehensive policies that secure a skilled workforce and a strong economic future for all residents. NSC has selected a nonprofit organization to lead each state coalition. The 2019 states and coalition lead organizations are:

  • California: California EDGE Coalition
  • Georgia: Georgia Budget & Policy Institute
  • Illinois: Chicago Jobs Council
  • Indiana: Indiana Institute for Working Families
  • Iowa: United Way of Central Iowa
  • Massachusetts: SkillWorks
  • Michigan: United Way for Southeast Michigan
  • North Carolina: North Carolina Justice Center
  • Tennessee: Complete Tennessee
  • Washington state

As they work to advance skills policies, SkillSPAN coalitions will leverage the voice of businesses in their states through NSC’s new BLU state affiliate network. In March 2019, National Skills Coalition will announce the members of that network in partnership with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. BLU is supported by NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and includes businesses from a range of industries who are working with local partners to train and hire residents for skilled jobs, or upskill their existing workforce, and who want policymakers to follow their lead and invest in workers’ skills. By working in partnership on shared agenda items, SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU affiliates will achieve policy wins for workers, businesses, and the economy.

Posted In: Massachusetts, Michigan, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington