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UPDATE: Florida and California become 15th and 16th states to call on Congress to adopt a job-driven Community College Compact as part of HEA reauthorization

UPDATE: As of September 18th, Michael P. Brawer, CEO and Executive Director of the Association of Florida Colleges, has also signed onto the Community College Compact. Read the updated letter here. Elroy Ortiz Oakley has sent in a separate letter on behalf of California Community Colleges, sharing the same higher education policy priorities.

To date, sixteen total states have urged Congress to adopt the four policies contained in the Community College Compact, including: AR, CA, CT, FL, IA, KY, LA, MO, MS, NV, NH, NY, OR, VA, WA, and WV.

September 5th-- Sarah Armstrong Tucker, Chancellor of West Virginia Community and Technical College System, has joined the ranks of thirteen other state-wide systems to support the suite of post-secondary education bills.

August 27th-- Brian Millner, President and CEO of the Missouri Community College Association, has signed onto the Community College Compact, urging federal policymakers to make higher education policy more responsive to the needs of today’s students, in recognition of the support shown by Missouri's thirteen independent community colleges. For more information about the Compact click here.

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Florida

NSC’s new report explores the imperative of racial equity in workforce development

  ·   By Molly Bashay
NSC’s new report explores the imperative of racial equity in workforce development

In a new report, "The Roadmap for Racial Equity: An imperative for workforce adovcates," National Skills Coalition explores the racial and ethnic disparities in educational attainment andaccess; systemic barriers to equitable workforce training and quality employment; and why advancing equity is an economic and moral imperative.  

The ethnic and racial diversity of the residents of the United States of America is one of the country’s unique strengths; however, Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native, and certain Asian American workers face wide racial inequities in educational attainment, employment, and income. Immigrants, the majority of whom are people of color, face similar inequities in their educational and employment opportunities. The United States has fueled these disparities through decades of intentional, structurally racist policies, including those that have shaped postsecondary education and training.

Disparities have wide-ranging effects beyond workforce development 

There are huge implications of these disparities for people, businesses, and our economy. Every person and every worker in the country deserves a fair shot at achieving economic stability and success. This is the right aspiration, especially for a country that professes the ideals of liberty and justice for all.

As for businesses, the U.S. workforce finds itself at a crucial inflection point. Jobs requiring skills training beyond the high school level, but not a four-year degreemake up the largest part of the labor market in the United States and in each of the fifty states and are the backbone of the American economy.iYet too few workers can access the skills, training, and education necessary for thesein-demand jobs, resulting in skills mismatch that leaves opportunity on the table. 

Racial equity is an economic and moral imperative 

Additional workforce policies are needed now to counter decades of intentional, structurally racist policies and advance racial equity in educational attainment, employment, and income. As long as these disparities exist, the country is undercutting its own economic competitiveness.   

Racial workforce diversity is a key driver of America’s economic growth,as it is one of the most important predictors of business sales revenue, customer numbers, and profitability.ii Racial and gender diversity in the workforce was a major contributor to U.S. economic growth in the latter half of the 20th century. If education and training produced more equitable results for workers of color, the country could not only address the skills mismatch, but our workers, businesses, and economy would improve. 

Now is the time to adjust workforce policies and craft new ones to correct racial disparities in educational attainment, employment, and income. By 2030, people of color will make up more than half of the national workforce. By 2044, most U.S. residents will be people of color.

Workforce development is not the sole answer, but a crucial part of the solution 

Finally, the report acknowledges that workforce training and education is a crucial component, but not the sole answer, to addressing the vast employment, income, and wealth inequities between people of color and White Americans in the U.S. 

Rather, workforce training and education are crucial tactics in addressing employment, income, and wealth disparities that preclude too many Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Native, and certain Asian American workers from economic and family security. It is our hope that our recommendations for advancing racial equity within state and federal workforce policies align with and supplement broader efforts in both the public and private sectors to achieve racial and economic equity.  

To advance racial equity through workforce policies, National Skills Coalition recommends that states and localities: 

  • adopt racial equity goals and develop plans and systems to support them;  

  • remove barriers to correctional education and training; 

  • endorse racially equitable postsecondary policy by expanding career pathways and stackable credentials of value, job-driven and need-based financial aid, and tuition equity for immigrants; and  

  • decouple work requirements and education and training restrictions from public assistance programs, just to name a few. 

Learn more about NSC’s findings and recommendationin the full report. 

This research was funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. National Skills Coalition thanks them for their support but acknowledges that the findings and conclusions presented in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the foundation. 

States should participate in SWIS to obtain out-of-state wage data

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff
States should participate in SWIS to obtain out-of-state wage data

In a new report, National Skills Coalition urges states to participate in the State Wage Interchange System (SWIS), as it can aide states in satisfying Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements, and help states better understand whether former participants in workforce training and education programs are finding good jobs. SWIS is a data sharing tool jointly managed by the Department of Education and the Department of Labor that allows states to exchange employment and earnings data—wage data, for short-- with other states for reporting, research, and evaluation of WIOA and one-stop partner programs.

WIOA requires states to use unemployment insurance quarterly wage records to measure the performance of WIOA’s six core programs: Title I programs for youth, adults, and dislocated workers; Title II for adult education; Title III for Wagner-Peyser; and Title IV for vocational rehabilitation. However, states can have a difficult time getting employment and wage information about people who work in another state because they’ve moved after their program or commute to another state for work. SWIS solves this problem by enabling certain state agencies to exchange wage data with each other.

States can use wage data from SWIS to conduct research, reporting, and evaluation of eligible programs. However, what wage data states get depends on the program requesting it. Specifically, states can get wage data from other states about individual participants in WIOA’s six core programs, as well as some other state and local programs administered by DOL or ED, including secondary and postsecondary career and technical education. States can also get data about individuals to assess the performance of training providers on the eligible training provider list (although they can only share aggregate data with these providers). For other one-stop partner programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) employment and training, state agencies can get aggregate data that combines information about participants.

While SWIS, as designed, is immensely useful to states, it only works if states voluntarily participate. If a state chooses not to participate, other states cannot receive employment information about their former participants or students working in that state. This could create huge gaps in the information available to other states. It could be particularly problematic for states with large percentages of their populations working in another state – for example Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. In order to ensure that SWIS is optimally effective, every state should do their part and sign on. Advocates can play an important role by urging their state to do so.

To learn more about SWIS, read NSC’s new paper.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

The CEA Training Report: Very Wide of the Mark

  ·   By Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, LaFarge SJ Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown and former NSC board member Harry J Holzer
The CEA Training Report: Very Wide of the Mark

By: Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, LaFarge SJ Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown and former NSC board member Harry J Holzer

Georgetown University, August, 13 2019-- The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has issued a report that claims to assess the available evidence on government employment and training programs, and to offer policy implications based on this assessment.[1]

But the document is highly flawed. It clearly misrepresents basic facts about federal job training programs in the US, and it misinterprets research evidence; it appears more driven by ideological and political agendas rather than what is best for US workers. In short, it is very wide of the mark as an evaluation of federal training in the US.

For instance, on the fundamental question of how much the US spends on workforce development: Figure 2 of the CEA report implies that federal spending on workforce development has been rising over time. But it does so without adjusting for inflation – an astounding feature in a report written by economists. In the text, it acknowledges “real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) spending in 2018 is nearly unchanged from the 2014 levels;” but it fails to note dramatic declines in such funding over the past four decades (by almost two-thirds), while the US labor force has roughly grown in size by half.[2] It quietly acknowledges that the nearly $19B of federal funding for such programs, constituting less than one-tenth of one percent of US GDP, is a paltry sum in comparison to spending in most European Union countries on “active labor market policy” (which often falls in the range of .5 to 1 percent of GDP, above the numbers it cites), while not acknowledging how low such spending is for an American economy with 160 million workers.[3]

When reviewing evaluation evidence, the report cites a range of studies using widely respected methodologies that show more or less positive results for programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its earlier incarnations, with many (including mine) showing positive impacts.[4] Yet the CEA concludes that “Government job training programs (with the exception of apprenticeships) appear to be largely ineffective” (p. 23), in a leap of logic that clearly runs counter to the much more mixed evidence the report provides.

When discussing the most important recent study with negative findings on training – by Fortson et al. in 2017 – the CEA report fails to highlight the evidence that intensive workforce services have positive impacts on worker earnings (of 7-20 percent, depending on the source). These results strongly imply that such services are cost-effective – while federal funding for them remains extremely modest.[5]

And, when discussing the lack of positive training impacts in the Fortson study, the CEA report omits important caveats highlighted in the study itself – like the fact that relatively few workers in the “treatment” group actually received training while many in the “control” group received it with funding from other sources – that render the lack of estimated training impacts very hard to interpret and “inconclusive,” as indicated by the authors. The CEA also ignores other well-known and rigorous studies showing impressive training impacts for adult or dislocated workers.[6]

But the most egregious aspect of the CEA report is that it completely fails to acknowledge a growing evaluation literature on highly effective “sector-based” or “career pathway” programs that show large and lasting impacts on disadvantaged worker earnings. These mostly local (though now spreading) programs – like Per Scholas, Project QUEST, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, the Jewish Vocational Services-Boston, and Year Up – have generated large, statistically significant earnings impacts in several randomized controlled evaluation studies.[7] It’s worth noting that these programs all make substantial investments in the skills of their participants, and work closely with employers to ensure those skills are relevant in the labor market. These results offer a strong counterpoint to the somewhat disappointing results for training in the WIOA study. Though they are not explicitly “government” programs, they have received financial support from a range of state and federal (as well as private) sources.[8]    

Given the very clear successes of these programs, a sensible policy discussion would focus on how to replicate and scale the best sector-based efforts at community colleges or other training providers with available or new federal and state funding. Instead, the CEA completely ignores this strong body of evidence on programs that work, while presenting misleading facts on federal job training funding over time and a skewed portrait of evidence on its impacts. Furthermore, the CEA report makes no evidence-informed recommendations for future policy directions in workforce development.

This report should not be taken seriously as the basis for any discussion of federal funding for workforce policy in the future.

[1] Government Employment and Training Programs: Assessing the Evidence on their Performance. The Council of Economic Advisers, Executive Office of the President, June 2019.

[2]CETA Training Programs – Do They Work for Adults? Congressional Budget Office, 1982.

[3] Such policies include training, job placement assistance, and subsidized work experience. See Chad Brown and Caroline Freund. Active Labor Market Policies: Lessons for the US. Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2019.

[4] Frederik Andersson et al. “Does Federally-Funded Job Training Work? Nonexperimental Estimates of WIA Training Impacts Using Longitudinal Data on Workers and Firms.” NBER Working Paper, 2013; and Carolyn Heinrich et al. “New Estimates of Public Employment and Training Program Net Impacts: A Nonexperimental Evaluation of the Workforce Investment Act Program.” IZA Discussion Paper, 2009. Across studies, the estimates of training impacts on earnings per quarter are in the range of $320–$887 per quarter for participants, which indicates fairly strong agreement given the varying study samples and methodologies Estimated effects of training on the probability of employment are also positive and statistically significant across a majority of studies. These estimates of employment increases range from about 5 to 29 percentage points (measured monthly or quarterly), with some differences observed between women and men, and by specific training type and time following program entry. 

[5] See Kenneth Fortson et al. Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers: 30-Month Impacts Findings on the WIA Adults and Dislocated Worker Programs. Mathematica Policy Research, 2017. As the CEA notes, “Wagner-Peyser” funding for such services at over 3000 job centers across the US is under $.7B now and has changed little in recent years despite their clear cost-effectiveness. Providing intensive services increased earnings over the follow-up period by $3,300 to $7,100 (7 to 20 percent) per customer depending on the data source. The benefit-cost analyses demonstrate that providing intensive services is cost-effective from the perspectives of customers, taxpayers, and society as a whole (Fortson et al., 2017).

[6] For instance, see Louis Jacobson et al. “The Impact of Community College Retraining on Older Workers: Can We Teach Old Dogs New Tricks? Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2005.

[7] See Anne Roder and Mark Elliott, Nine-Year Gains: Quest’s Ongoing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation, 2018; David Fein and Jill Hamadyck, Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year-Up Program, US Department of HHS, 2018; and Sheila Maguire et al. Tuning Into Local Labor Markets, PPV, 2010. To take one example, The Year Up experimental evaluation found that young adults in the treatment group saw a 53% increase in initial earnings, which remained strong over time, with 40% earnings gains two years out.

[8] Public funding sources for these programs have included WIOA (and its predecessor), federal Social Innovation Funds, and state funding for community colleges.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, SNAP Employment and Training

Applications for Supportive Services Academy now open

  ·   By Michael Richardson,
Applications for Supportive Services Academy now open

National Skills Coalition is launching a Supportive Services Academy to assist state teams in advancing state policies that expand access to supportive services so that people with lower incomes can complete education and training programs. Applications for participation are currently being accepted and are due November 1, 2019.

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. However, they are often underutilized by states or not used in alignment with postsecondary and workforce training efforts.

NSC’s Supportive Services Academy will focus on helping state teams advance policies that expand access to education and training supportive services in the following areas:

  • State policy agendas for increasing access to childcare for people participating in education, training, and/or work-based learning.
  • Career pathways programs that include career navigation and supports for childcare and transportation, financed with state higher education funding, TANF and/or SNAP E&T funding.
  • State-established support funds to provide supportive services such as coaching, service coordination, childcare, transportation, and other assistance to people with low incomes as they prepare for and succeed in work-based learning.
  • Policies that expand access to SNAP for students participating in postsecondary education.
  • Establishment and/or expansion of skills-focused SNAP E&T and/or TANF programs.
  • Any other policy area that helps students and workers to address the non-tuition costs of training so that they can secure in-demand skills and postsecondary credentials. Academy teams have the flexibility to develop and promote specific policy proposals that expand access to supportive services and work in the unique context of their individual state.

Supportive Services Academy teams will be required to apply a racial equity lens to their work advancing policies in these areas. Supportive services can advance racial equity by providing more resources to workers and students of color who, due to systemic racism, usually have greater financial needs.

Priority in team selection will be given to SkillSPAN partners. The Academy will officially launch in December 2019 and run until December 2020. To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships