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Focus on skill building, not work requirements

  ·   By Melissa Johnson
Focus on skill building, not work requirements

On Monday February 12, President Trump introduced his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019. Though a mixed bag for workforce programs, the proposal notably calls for the establishment or expansion of work requirements in federal housing aid and food assistance programs. This comes on the heels of a federal invitation to states to apply for waivers to implement work requirements for Medicaid health insurance. Waiver requests by Kentucky and Indiana have already been approved.

National Skills Coalition opposes these outdated and ineffective proposals to establish or expand work requirements in public benefit programs. Work requirements have not been effective at connecting people to family-supporting jobs or lifting them out of poverty. They can actually be counterproductive, since they encourage workers to take low-wage jobs rather than building skills and credentials that can help them compete in today’s economy. There’s also no evidence that work requirements help meet employers’ need for skilled workers. And they can create red tape for community colleges and training organizations that need flexibility to train people for jobs in our rapidly changing economy.

Rather than imposing work requirements on people with few financial resources – and putting them at risk of losing food, health care, and housing which make training more possible – federal and state policymakers should focus on strengthening workers’ access to education and training aligned with the needs of local and regional employers. In this way, workers can build the skills they need to earn family-sustaining incomes and businesses can hire workers with the right skills.

This message was recently echoed at NSC’s legislative briefing on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T), held in conjunction with the 2018 Skills Summit. The briefing illustrated NSC’s SNAP E&T Reauthorization Recommendations through the stories of professionals who work with SNAP recipients every day. Leaders from JVS Boston, Portland Community College, and Seattle Jobs Initiative spoke about the need to focus on training clients for in-demand jobs. Spending administrative time and resources tracking compliance with a weekly work requirement would detract from that goal, they said.

NSC also convened its Safety Net and Skills Policy National Advisory Panel for the first time ever at the 2018 Skills Summit. Over the coming year, the advisory panel will help guide NSC’s work on the intersection of the safety net and skills policy and connecting public assistance recipients to skills and training opportunities. Recently, this work has included a series of federal policy recommendations in the Skills for Good Jobs agenda, TANF and SNAP E&T reauthorization recommendations, along with state-level policy and practice materials. The panel will help NSC promote voluntary, job-driven skill-building as a key element of public benefit programs.

NSC looks forward to enriching the conversation about how federal and state policies can accelerate the transition from poverty to earning family-supporting wages. We believe ensuring that workers and industries have the skills they need to compete is a key component of this transition. Our National Advisory Panel will help us advance the discussion about using public benefit programs as tools to help workers obtain these skills.

Posted In: SNAP Employment and Training

White House budget promotes some workforce priorities, but includes drastic cuts to key programs

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba, Katie Spiker, and Katie Brown
White House budget promotes some workforce priorities, but includes drastic cuts to key programs

On February 12th, the Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Presidential Budget Request, providing a mixed bag of funding increases and cuts across a range of federal workforce, education, and human services programs.

The annual budget request comes at an unusual moment in the Washington calendar, with Congress still trying to finalize spending levels for FY 2018. Congress last week passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that would raise defense and non-defense budget caps for the next two years by nearly $300 billion, including increases to non-defense spending caps of $63 billion for FY 2018 and $68 billion by 2019. Last week’s agreement also authorized a stopgap Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded through March 23rd as lawmakers work to complete FY 2018 spending decisions under the increased caps.

Because the President’s budget released today was developed before last week’s budget deal, it does not include funding at levels that are consistent with the new caps; instead, the Administration is touting broad cuts to non-defense programs – a total of $3 trillion over ten years – as a highlight of the FY’19 budget. While Congress is unlikely to adopt the President’s recommendations in their current form, today’s budget does put additional pressure on appropriators to consider at least nominal reductions in funding to discretionary programs under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, despite strong bipartisan support for these critical programs.

The budget request does include some good proposals around workforce and education, including a recommendation to expand Pell grants to short-term programs and additional funds for apprenticeship. The White House also released an addendum to their previously prepared budget request, in response to last week’s Congressional budget agreement, in which the administration appears to recommend spending an addition $1.3 billion in FY 2019 non-defense discretionary funds on WIOA formula grants – effectively overriding the $1 billion proposed cuts in the original budget request.

The budget request and addendum continue an inconsistent narrative from the administration on the importance of workforce and education programs. The proposed cuts aren’t surprising given an administration focus on eliminating federal workforce and education programs, and yet the President has touted the importance of job training as recently as his State of the Union a few weeks ago and proposed a renewed focus on expanding apprenticeship in his infrastructure principles released just this morning.

NSC continues to advocate for adequate investment in key workforce and education programs and the consistent inconsistency from the administration only reinforces the importance of weighing in with your policy makers to ensure they understand how vital workforce and education programs are to your communities, your work, and the President’s priorities.

Department of Labor. Overall, the President’s budget calls for $9.4 billion in funding for DOL, a cut of 21 percent relative to current funding levels. While recognizing the millions of workers in need of training and openings with U.S. businesses, the budget frames these cuts in the context of an effort to “consolidate and reorganize Federal workforce development programs.”

 The request calls for cuts of approximately $1.08 billion across the three state formula grants under Title I of WIOA. The formula funding levels in the request represent about a 40 percent cut, which NSC and Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce have detailed would a devastating impact on local areas provision of WIOA funded services. These cuts are exacerbated by other cuts proposed in the request – the administration would eliminate the Indian and Native Americans national grant program, the Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP), the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker program, and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants. The administration would direct the Secretary of Labor to set aside 1.5 percent of WIOA adult formula funds to support Indian and Native American programs and justifies the elimination of SCSEP because adults served under that program could be eligible for programming funded by WIOA adult formula dollars.

The administration requested a nearly 40 percent cut to the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service under WIOA Title III, and proposes refocusing Job Corps programs on older youth.

Despite their overall reduction in requests for workforce funding, the administration continued their focus on apprenticeship requesting $200 million for expansion of the new “Industry-Recognized” apprenticeship program created by the President’s Executive Order last summer, specifically to health care, information technology, and advanced manufacturing jobs.

The budget request includes full funding at authorized levels ($450,000,000) for the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Training program, proposing a legislative adjustment that would “refocus” TAA training on apprenticeship and work-based learning strategies.

The budget request also includes $130 million in funding for Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA), consistent with an extension of the program included as part of the February 9th bipartisan budget agreement.

Department of Education. Under the President’s proposed budget, The Department of Education is funded at $59.9 billion—which equals an $8 billion or 12% overall reduction from the 2018 annualized Continuing Resolution (CR) level. This request includes the cancellation of $1.6 billion in unobligated balances in the Pell Grant program, although the FY’19 addendum would not include this rescission.

Higher Education Act:

Pell Grants – Under the President’s budget, discretionary funding for Pell grants is maintained at a level of $22.5 billion. Combined with mandatory funding, the maximum award for FY’19 stands at $5,920 per-student, per-year. While the budget contains no financial changes to the Pell grant program, it does propose expanding Pell eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs that provide students with a credential, certification or license in an in-demand field. This suggested policy change is in line with the Higher Education Act reauthorization principles released by the White house late last year.

NSC has consistently advocated for the extension of Pell eligibility to short-term programs that are proven to be rigorous and of high-quality. This priority is reflected in our Skills For Good Jobs Agenda  and is embodied in Congress by the JOBS Act—bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Although the President’s budget does not contain specific policy guidelines, NSC is encouraged by the push to make postsecondary education more accessible for all students.

Federal Work Study – The budget contains a significant 75% cut to the Federal Work Study (FWS) program. The request justifies this substantial decrease by proposing to dramatically reform the FWS to support workforce and career-oriented training opportunities for low-income undergraduate students rather than “subsidizing employment as a means of financial aid.” This provision is consistent with the reforms made to the FWS program in the House proposed PROSPER Act, which would reauthorize the Higher Education Act if signed into law. The PROSPER Act, however, contained a $6 million increase for the program.

Adult Education: Notably, the President’s budget proposes a 15% cut to adult education state grants which are authorized under WIOA Title II—a number that is consistent with last year’s suggested cuts. These grants help provide foundational skills and English literacy instruction to over 1.5 million individuals. If enacted, these cuts would be detrimental to individuals in need of foundational skills to succeed in our 21st century workforce.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): In stark contrast to the President’s 2018 budget request which proposed a 15% cut to CTE state grants, his 2019 proposal contains level funding ($1.1 billion) for CTE—and refers to this funding as an important component of the President’s job creation agenda.

The budget proposes a range of program eliminations under the Education Department, most notable the elimination of the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) which support low-income postsecondary students, and the cancellation of the State Longitudinal Data Systems grants that support state investments in educational data alignment.

Department of Health and Human Services

The Administration’s budget proposal for Health and Human Services proposes legislative changes to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program that would result in cuts to the current block grant program of about ten percent relative to current levels (from $16.3 to $15.1 billion) and would eliminate the TANF contingency fund, resulting in combined cuts of about $10 billion between 2019-2023. However, the budget also includes some proposals that may help to support better connections to education and training, including a proposed requirement that states spend at least 30 percent of combined federal and state funds on work, education, and training activities; work supports, including child care; and assessment/service provision for TANF eligible families. The budget also proposes to replace the current caseload reduction credit with an “employment credit” that rewards states for placing individuals in work; eliminating the separate two-parent work participation rate; and allowing states to count individuals who do not meet the monthly work participation requirements to count for partial credit towards a state’s overall requirements. It is unclear whether Congress will seriously consider changes to TANF this year, but this language does appear to be consistent with a broader Administration focus on expanding work requirements for low-income individuals on public assistance.

Department of Agriculture

Unlike last year, the President’s budget does not include proposals to shift a significant percentage of overall costs for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) onto states. However, the budget does propose some legislative changes to SNAP, including restricting state waivers for time restrictions on Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWDs) to counties with at least ten percent unemployment; eliminating the “15 percent” exemption that allows states to exempt certain ABAWDs from time limits; and a proposal to convert part of the SNAP allotment from electronic benefits into USDA “Food Packages.” The budget would cut overall funding for SNAP by more than $200 billion over the next ten years if all proposed changes were enacted.

National Skills Coalition strongly opposes the cuts to workforce, education, and human services programs proposed in the FY 2019 Presidential Budget Request. At a time when U.S. businesses continually cite to the need for skilled workers to compete in a global economy – and when millions of workers need training to reach these skill levels and get and keep family-supporting jobs – we must invest in vital workforce, education and human services programs. Disinvestment harms our local communities, businesses and workers. NSC calls on Congress to reject the President’s proposals and continue our bipartisan commitment to investment in skills. 



FY 2019 – Authorized Levels

Current Levels – FY 2017 Omnibus

FY 2019 Presidential Budget Request

Change from Current – 2019 Budget Request

Department of Labor

Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants





WIOA Adult





WIOA Dislocated Worker






WIOA Youth





Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants






Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants





Apprenticeship Grants





DW National Reserve





Native American Programs





Ex-Offender Activities





Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers










Senior Community Service Employment Program


$433, 535,000


-$433, 535, 000

Trade Adjustment Assistance





Department of Education

Career and Technical Education State Grants





Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants






Federal Work Study





*Actual outlays for TAA for 2017 were $391,419,000. The program is authorized for up to $450,000,000 and the 2019 Presidential Budget Request includes funding up to the authorized level.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, SNAP Employment and Training, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Higher Education Access, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce

Senators Hassan, Kaine, Shaheen & Reed introduce the Gateway to Careers Act

  ·   By Katie Brown
Senators Hassan, Kaine, Shaheen & Reed introduce the Gateway to Careers Act

On February 8th, Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), along with Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—legislation aimed at supporting career pathways for nontraditional students through dedicated federal grant funding. The grants, administered by the U.S Department of Education in consultation with the U.S Department of Labor would be awarded on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

Today, 80% of jobs in the U.S require some form of postsecondary education and training, yet many Americans are unable to enter the higher education system due to a lack of direct support services, including basic skills instruction, transportation and childcare, and comprehensive career counseling. This opportunity gap often leaves individuals without the skills they need to succeed in today’s labor market. In response to this, educational institutions along with industry partners have been working to establish career pathways — 21st-centurylearning models that combine support services with academic instruction. Despite their value, there is currently no dedicated federal funding for these pathways.

The Gateway to Careers Act would help bridge this gap by:

  • Authorizing 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.
    • Defining the allowable uses of the grant funding allocated to these eligible institutions, which include:

      • Creating or expanding dual-enrollment opportunities for secondary students or disconnected youth;
      • Implementing 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 has long supported investing in postsecondary career pathways to ensure that all students have the chance to succeed in today’s labor market and have highlighted them as part of our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda. We applaud Senators Hassan, Kaine, Shaheen and Reed 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

Representatives Mitchell and Ryan introduce BUILDS Act

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
Representatives Mitchell and Ryan introduce BUILDS Act

On February 6th, Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), introduced bipartisan legislation, the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act (HR4942), that would support grants to industry partnerships in transportation, construction, energy, and other infrastructure industries. The grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and other federal agencies, would allow local partnerships to develop work-based learning programming to develop a diverse pipeline of skilled workers. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Senate version of BUILDS in 2017. 

Last summer the administration released a set of  infrastructure principles  that included a goal of training one million new apprentices over two years. The President included a call for infrastructure investments in his State of the Union earlier this year, however, without reiterating the link between that investment and developing a pipeline or workers. 

BUILDS Act would set aside funding from a Congressional infrastructure package for workforce development. Funding would be used to train workers needed to help businesses in targeted industries grow and maintain the workforce necessary to keep up with demand, while also ensuring that a diverse range of workers could access the training and credentials needed to find sustainable, family-supporting jobs in these fields. Find more details about the BUILDS Act here

Even before new investments, businesses in infrastructure face intense labor shortages because of impending retirements, a lack of diversity in the workforce, and overall skill shortages in growth industries. According to a report by the Departments of Education and Labor, there are 68 percent more projected job openings in infrastructure jobs over the next five years than there are students training for these jobs and According to a member survey conducted by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, its members poised to lose out on close to $200 million in revenues this year due to unfilled technical jobs.

National Skills Coalition applauds Representatives Mitchell and Ryan for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working to working to advance the BUILDS Act as part of broader efforts to enhance our nation’s infrastructure. 

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Federal Funding

NSC announces call for applications for new Work-Based Learning Academy

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch
NSC announces call for applications for new Work-Based Learning Academy

National Skills Coalition with be launching a Work-Based Learning Academy to support up to five state teams in developing state policy proposals and advocacy strategies to expand work-based learning to low-income communities.

Work-based learning is an issue of increasing interest among state policy leaders. 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.

NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy will focus on helping state teams develop and advance state-level policies in the following areas:

  • State grant programs to fund work-based learning intermediaries or opportunities to modify existing state sector partnership grant programs to help partnerships become work-based learning intermediaries
  • State policy guidance to help local workforce development boards use WIOA out-of-school youth funds to support intermediaries that can broker work-based learning opportunities and services for out-of-school youth
  • State-established support fund to provide support services such as case management, child care, transportation, and other assistance to low-income people to prepare for and succeed in work-based learning and other policy mechanisms for aligning child care, transportation, and apprenticeship training funds
  • State-level financial incentives to help employers establish new apprenticeship programs and hire apprentices from low-income communities
  • Tuition waivers for apprentices’ postsecondary classroom instruction and a requirement that such instruction articulate with certificates and degrees

Applications for participation are now being accepted and are due by March 1, 2018. The Academy will officially launch in May and run until June of 2019. To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

NSC will also be hosting a webinar on our recently released Work-Based Learning Toolkit. In addition to an overview of the toolkit and a federal policy update, this webinar will feature Pat Steele of Central Iowa Works and Anne Kilzer of the Minnesota Workforce Council on apprenticeship initiatives in their states. The webinar will occur on February 20th at 1:00pm EST. Register for the webinar here.

Posted In: Work-Based Learning