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NSC announces Work-Based Learning Academy state teams

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch,
NSC announces Work-Based Learning Academy state teams

National Skills Coalition is pleased to announce the five state teams that have been selected to participate in our 2018-2019 Work-Based Learning Academy: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington. Through the Academy, state teams will advance state policies to expand work-based learning opportunities for low-income communities. Teams will work together with faculty advisors and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

Work-based learning helps workers build new skills while earning a paycheck. Through work-based learning models like apprenticeship, the skills that workers build can translate into higher wages and industry-recognized credentials. Work-based learning is an issue of increasing interest among state policy leaders, spurred by federal investment, attention to apprenticeship by the previous and current Presidential administrations, and state-level technical assistance projects. While some states have adopted policies to support apprenticeship, few have policies aimed at expanding work-based learning opportunities for low-income adults and out-of-school youth. Expanding work-based learning to these communities would allow low-wage workers to advance to good jobs and help employers train a skilled workforce.

Some state teams will work on state programs to support work-based learning intermediaries. Intermediaries can help employers establish apprenticeship and work-based learning programs; they also serve as the connection point between business, education and training programs, and workers to streamline services and increase capacity to serve more people. Other teams will focus on state polices to provide support services, like childcare, transportation, and career navigation, to help people succeed in work-based learning.

The selected five state teams are:

  • Connecticut 
    • Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Education and Workforce Partnership
    • Connecticut Department of Labor
    • Capital Workforce Partners
    • Connecticut State Colleges and University System
    • Connecticut Technical Education and Career System


  • Illinois
    • Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
    • Associated Builders and Contractors
    • Young Invincibles
    • Chicago Jobs Council
    • Harold Washington College


  • Indiana
    • Indiana Institute for Working Families
    • Indiana Department of Workforce Development
    • REAL Services Inc.
    • United Way of Howard County
    • Indiana Family and Social Services Administration


  • Oklahoma
    • Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development
    • Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
    • Dell
    • Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce
    • Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies


  • Washington
    • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
    • Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
    • Construction Center of Excellence

Teams will be partnered with faculty advisors who are experienced in their field of interest. The Academy’s faculty advisors are:

  • Earl Buford, Partner4Work
  • Susan Crane, SkillUp Washington
  • Mark Kessenich, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership
  • Pat Steele, Central Iowa Works
  • Matt Williams, Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative

The Work-Based Learning Academy will begin with a kick-off event in Milwaukee, WI on June 5-6, which will include a site visit at Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership. The Academy will run from June 2018 – June 2019. If you are interested in learning more about the Academy or NSC’s work on work-based learning in the states, please contact state network manager Rachel Hirsch at rachelh@nationalskillscoalition.org.

Posted In: Work-Based Learning, Washington, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut

Workforce Data Quality Campaign invited to OECD in Paris

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Workforce Data Quality Campaign invited to OECD in Paris

On April 5 and 6 in Paris, France, WDQC Director Bryan Wilson participated in an “Expert Workshop on Strengthening the Governance of Skills Systems,” held by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).  OECD is an international organization consisting of 35-member countries.  OECD asked Bryan to speak on “integrated information systems for skills,” and fully supported his participation.

OECD’s mission is, “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” OECD conducts research, develops policy recommendations, and sometimes facilitates agreements between governments. One of OECD’s four areas of focus is skills, ensuring that, “people of all ages can develop the skills to work productively and satisfyingly in the jobs of tomorrow.”

The OECD Center for Skills has worked recently to advance skill strategies in more than ten countries. Through this experience, the Center has learned how nations struggle to develop a systemic approach to skill policies. Four main challenges are: poor coordination among government agencies and levels of government, lack of collaboration with stakeholders, inefficient financing mechanisms, and lack of effective data and information systems. OECD is now proceeding to identify good policy practices to address these four challenges.

The purpose of the Expert Workshop was to provide feedback to OECD regarding their draft document outlining good policy practices in these four “dimensions”.  Being aware of WDQC’s work, they invited Bryan to speak as one of two external experts on good practices around workforce data and information systems. In all, the meeting was attended by 10 external experts, 22 OECD staff, and a representative of the European Commission. 

Many of the draft document’s points about workforce data and information systems would be familiar to an American audience: the need for accessible data for decision-making, the usefulness of longitudinal information systems, the need for cross-program data and data that crosses levels of government, and information on skill supply and demand.  The document suggested that mechanisms to support information systems include: bodies for coordinating workforce information across agencies, results-based management and accountability, and regular evaluations and transparent reporting of results.

In his comments at the Workshop, Bryan appreciated that OECD included integrated workforce data and information systems as one of four “dimensions” to systemic skills policies. He offered some suggestions for additions to the draft document.

Information systems should enable better decision-making among three primary sets of actors: policymakers, institutions or providers, and consumers.  As briefly mentioned in the document, to create integrated information systems, governments should establish longitudinal data systems that collect administrative records on program participants, administrative records on employment and earnings, link the records together, and are capable of aggregating information on individuals over time. A robust system must be based on individual unit data.

Governments should establish data tools that take data from longitudinal information systems and present the information in ways that are actionable by policymakers, institutions, and consumers. There should be dashboards designed for policymakers that show the key characteristics (such as costs and participant demographics) and educational and labor market outcomes of programs, using consistent methods and metrics to make the results easier to understand and to facilitate coordination across programs.

There should be transparent reports for consumers that show key characteristics and outcomes of programs of study at local institutions or providers, again, using consistent methods and metrics so that information is comparable, and consumers can make more informed decisions. There should be institutional feedback reports that similarly provide information on characteristics and outcomes of institutions and their programs of study, so that they may make more informed decisions about program improvement. Finally, there should be supply and demand reports that compare the number of newly trained workers per year to the number of job openings per year by field of study and level of education or training.

To implement these things require addressing certain challenges (a somewhat different list than in the draft document):

  • Creating administrative record-based information systems that are inclusive of all types of providers of skills training and the different types of credentials they produce, and comprehensive records of employment and earnings;  
  • The use of consistent metrics, horizontally and vertically across programs;
  • Getting policy-makers to use the information to inform their investments in skills training and other decisions; and
  • Wide and effective dissemination of consumer information.

As OECD’s project continues, Bryan offered to connect OECD staff to examples of good practices from American states.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Gov. of Iowa calls for expansion of Pell grants to short term certificates

  ·   By Nicky Lauricella Coolberth
Gov. of Iowa calls for expansion of Pell grants to short term certificates

Today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds called for the expansion of Pell grants to cover more short-term certificates in high-demand fields saying, “Iowans are eager for life-changing opportunities and employers want to hire them for good jobs that require postsecondary education or training, but less than a B.A.”   

NSC CEO Andy Van Kleunen joined Governor Reynolds along with leaders from Iowa community colleges, employers, and students for a press conference this morning. Andy praised Iowa’s Innovative GAP Tuition program, calling it a model for other states and the nation because it picks up where federal financial aid leaves off and enables students to attend short-term community college programs that lead to in-demand credentials. 

Andy also acknowledged Iowa’s Skills2Compete Coalition led by Central Iowa Works, United Way of Central Iowa and Kirkwood Community College for championing workforce and education programs (like GAP) that are responsive to the needs of today’s students and industries.

“Washington really needs to catch up to Iowa," Andy said. "Congress could extend Pell grants to people taking short-term programs by modernizing the Higher Education Act or by simply passing bipartisan Senate legislation – the JOBS Act – that would end Pell’s bias against students taking short term training."

To watch the press conference, click here. And read Andy's remarks here.

Andy also appeared on WHO’s News Radio 1040 in Des Moines this morning and spoke with host Jeff Angelo about how expanding Pell to short term programs would help the trades and growing industries in Iowa and across the country. You can listen to his radio interview here – by tuning in at the 19 minute mark.

The importance of expanding Pell to people seeking short term certificates was covered in outlets across Iowa, including Radio Iowa, North Iowa Today, Sioux City Journal, Southwest Iowa News, and St. Joseph News Press

Click here to see a joint press release from NSC and the Governor’s office.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Iowa
House Farm Bill undermines proposed SNAP E&T increase with expanded, ineffective work requirements

Correction: The original post included incorrect information regarding time limits for individuals subject to work requirements and changes to WIOA state plan and partnership options; the post has been updated to address these errors.

The House Agriculture Committee yesterday released draft legislation – the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) - to reauthorize a range of federal agriculture and nutrition programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). The bill would expand funding for the SNAP Employment & Training (E&T) program, but undermines this investment with sweeping changes to SNAP eligibility that would likely result in millions of Americans losing access to basic food assistance.

The Good – Increased Investments in Employment and Training. The Farm Bill was last reauthorized in 2014 following a lengthy and difficult debate, with the original House version also calling for draconian eligibility changes that were ultimately rejected. The final 2014 legislation include a number of policy changes to strengthen and improve SNAP E&T, including restoring state Employment and Training Program grants to $90 million (from a cut to $79 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012); establishing new performance reporting requirements for SNAP E&T recipients; and investing $200 million in pilot grants to help ten states expand and improve their SNAP E&T programs.

The draft bill would build on some these important improvements in SNAP E&T, significantly increasing the state administrative grant program from the current $90 million for FY 2019, to $250 million in FY 2020, to $1 billion for FY 2021 and subsequent fiscal years. The minimum allocation for states would be increased from $50,000 to $100,000. The bill would eliminate grants that allocate $20 million per year to states that provide guaranteed access to employment and training services for individuals at risk of losing SNAP eligibility (often referred to as “pledge” states), and would replace this language with a new reservation of not more than $150 million per year that would be set aside for eligible training providers identified under section 122 of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).The bill would also maintain the current “50-50” program that allows states and service providers to be reimbursed for certain costs of operating SNAP E&T programs. These proposed increases to SNAP E&T funding reflect growing bipartisan consensus on the value of investments in training and education to reduce poverty and help low-income individuals succeed in today’s labor market.

The bill would also amend current language relating to employment or training activities that can be used to satisfy eligibility requirements to include subsidized employment, apprenticeship, and unpaid or volunteer work, although the last category of activity is limited to six months out of any twelve-month period.

The Bad – Harsh and Unrealistic Work Requirements.While these changes represent an important step forward, the draft bill would significantly undermine any gains by expanding the number of SNAP recipients who would be subject to harsh new work requirements.

The House bill would expand hourly work requirements to a broader population of SNAP participants, would eliminate the current three-month grace period, and would effectively eliminate state flexibility to operate SNAP E&T programs on a voluntary basis – a key element of successful E&T programs across the country – instead mandating that all non-exempt participants engage in work or a training program in order to retain eligibility.

This is a major change from current law, which does not generally impose specific hourly requirements on SNAP participants, except for individuals known as Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs), who are individuals between the ages of 18-49 who do not have dependents, and who are not disabled.

ABAWDs are currently limited to three months of benefits in any 36-month period in which they do not participate in at least 80 hours of work or other qualifying activities. The House bill would expand hourly work requirements to a broader population of SNAP participants, and wouleffectively eliminatestate flexibility to operate SNAP E&T programs on a voluntary basis – a key element of successful E&T programs across the country – and instead mandates that all non-exempt participants engage in work or a training program in order to retain eligibility. It also proposes stringent penalties for non-compliance with work requirements: a first violation would result in the loss of SNAP eligibility for twelve months, and a second violation would result in the loss of eligibility for 36 months.

The bill proposes to provide some protections for individuals by requiring a new mandatory level of service for all individuals who are subject to the expanded work requirements, including required case management services with individualized service plans. In some ways, this would be an improvement over current law, under which ABAWDs are not automatically guaranteed employment and training services, but there would be significant concerns about the capacity of states to provide meaningful levels of service. It is estimated that these new work requirements could impact up to seven million individuals per year, which will likely create significant capacity challenges for states seeking to create sufficient work or training opportunities for impacted participants; the most recent data for the federally-funded workforce system indicates that Title I-funded programs only served 6.8 million participants in Program Year 2015, meaning this expansion of work requirements could effectively double required service levels through the American Job Center network and other system partners. In addition, the new rules would require substantial new administrative capacity at the state and local level to help monitor and track individual participation in qualifying activities, making these programs far more cumbersome and costly for stakeholders to run.

While H.R. 2 does authorize a two-year transition period for states, and does provide some welcome resources for SNAP E&T, it is unrealistic to expect states to develop and implement high-quality workforce programming for this many individuals, particularly given the long-term decline in funding for WIOA training and adult education programs over the past two decades.

The Unknown – Where This Bill is Headed. The draft bill was introduced on a largely partisan basis, and it is not expected that Agriculture Committee Democrats will support the bill when the committee “marks up” the legislation, which may happen the week of April 16th. While the lack of Democratic support would likely not prevent committee passage, there is some question whether the House would be able to pass the legislation in its current form: House minority leader Nancy Pelosi is urging members of her caucus to strongly oppose the bill if it comes up for a floor vote, and the conservative House Freedom Caucus has not yet indicated whether they will support the bill. Senate Agriculture Committee members have also indicated that they are less likely to pursue major changes in any farm bill they might introduce later this year, and it is almost certain that Senate Democrats would reject legislation that expanded work requirements for SNAP, making it difficult to advance legislation that would attract the 60 votes necessary in that chamber.

Further complicating the conversation, the Trump Administration has signaled their interest in pushing forward with potential regulatory changes that may lead to harsher work requirements across a range of public assistance programs, including SNAP: the White House issued an Executive Order earlier this week calling on federal agencies to review programs under their jurisdiction to identify opportunities to expand work requirements, and the US Department of Agriculture in February requested comments on potential changes to state waivers to current ABAWD time limits.

National Skills Coalition opposes the proposed legislation as currently drafted, and urges the committee to reject the proposed changes to SNAP eligibility and instead use this reauthorization process to build on the successes of the 2014 improvements to SNAP E&T. In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs will require some form of postsecondary education and training – and as many as half of all long-term SNAP participants have less than a high school diploma – it is more important than ever to make sure that all workers and businesses have access to the skills and credentials that are needed to sustain economic growth. National Skills Coalition released recommendations in November 2017 that the committee could consider as they seek to build employment opportunities through the Farm Bill; and we look forward to working with committee members to revise the bill to better reflect the needs of today’s labor market.

Posted In: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, SNAP Employment and Training
Trump releases executive order calling for work requirements, elimination of workforce programs

Last night, President Trump signed an Executive Order calling for new work requirements across a broad range of means-tested public assistance programs, and further calling for the consolidation or elimination of federal workforce development programs.

The order criticizes federal public assistance programs, suggesting that they “trap” individuals in poverty, and requires the Secretaries of the Treasury, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education to undertake a review process over the next 90 days to a) review all current regulations and guidance relating to waivers or exemptions to work requirements in programs under their jurisdiction; b) review all public assistance programs that do not require work as a condition of eligibility, and determine whether a work requirement could be imposed; and c) review all public assistance programs that do require work as a condition of eligibility and determine whether enforcement of those requirements is consistent with a set of “economic mobility” principles set forth in the order. Upon completion of the review, the agencies must submit recommendations to the Office of Management and Budget for regulatory and policy changes to programs that will strengthen work requirements; agencies must then take steps to implement those proposed changes within 90 days of submitting the recommendations.

The order also states that “the Federal Government” should review current federally funded workforce development programs and, where more than one agency administers a program or programs that are “similar in scope or population served,” those programs should be consolidated under the agency that is ‘best equipped to fulfill the expectations” of the program. In addition, “ineffective” programs should be eliminated.

The White House has already taken several steps to encourage work requirements in public assistance programs, including urging states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, and requesting public comments on potential regulatory changes under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would reduce state flexibility around work requirements for certain SNAP recipients. The President has also included recommendations for funding cuts and program changes to public assistance programs in his budget proposals for both Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 and FY 2019, as well as steep cuts to federal workforce programs, although Congress largely ignored those recommendations, and in fact increased funding for key workforce programs in the recent FY 2018 omnibus appropriations package.

Congressional Republicans have also been aggressively promoting the imposition of work requirements across a means-tested federal programs: the House Ways and Means Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow that is widely expected to lay out the case for stronger work requirements under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and the House Agriculture Committee is expected to release a Farm Bill reauthorization legislation as early as this week that calls for much more stringent work requirements on SNAP participants.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes these efforts to expand work requirements, which have demonstrated little impact in increasing employment or reducing poverty, but have led to reduced access to critical income supports for millions of low-income workers and their families. We also strongly oppose efforts to eliminate or consolidate federal workforce programs that have helped U.S. businesses and workers obtain the skills and credentials needed to succeed in today’s economy. In the coming weeks, we will be highlighting opportunities for state and local advocates to weigh in against ineffective work requirements, and encouraging policymakers to focus instead on strengthening access to education and training to move more low-income workers into well-paying jobs and out of poverty.

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