National Skills Coalition hosts state network-building events in Oklahoma and Louisiana

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch, Michael Richardson,
National Skills Coalition hosts state network-building events in Oklahoma and Louisiana

As part of its ongoing efforts to build the capacity of state partners in their network, National Skills Coalition hosted and cohosted convenings in Oklahoma and Louisiana this month through the Work-Based Learning Academy and the Louisiana Skills Policy Academy.

In Oklahoma – one of five states in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy – team members spearheaded the state’s first-ever Work-Based Learning Summit in Oklahoma City on June 17. Co-hosted by NSC, Oklahoma Works, the Oklahoma City Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, and Oklahoma Human Resources State Council, the summit was attended by 200 stakeholders from throughout the state representing business, educators, community-based organizations, and more. A series of ‘lunch and learns’ throughout different areas of the state earlier in the year preceded this culminating event. Attendees were able to learn from peers in Oklahoma who are leading the way in work-based learning as well as other Work-Based Learning Academy team members and coaches from across the country who were featured on panels. For more information, please see the agenda. Sessions focused on the benefits of work-based learning, how industry partnerships play a pivotal role in implementing and scaling programs, and how to diversify the talent pipeline and the industries these programs are found in.

After the Summit, the Work-Based Learning Academy gathered for an afternoon and morning of meetings to mark a year of progress in the Academy. The Academy was launched in June 2018 with teams from five states: Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington. At the year mark, team members gathered to share successes and challenges from the past year and to brainstorm how to move forward most effectively to continue to achieve policy goals. A forthcoming publication will highlight the many team wins – from passing legislation to increasing awareness and more – as well as provide lessons learned that other state partners should find useful in their own work to advance work-based learning polices.

In Louisiana, the Louisiana Skills Policy Academy held a State Skills Policy Convening on June 7 in New Orleans. This day-long meeting consisted of a mix of presentations and discussions on state-level skills policy issues in Louisiana that drew on the expertise of NSC’s Louisiana partners, the Louisiana Budget Project, and peer learning with longstanding NSC partners from the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative and the Moore Community House Women in Construction Program. The Louisiana Skills Policy Academy is an 18-month initiative aimed at educating job training organizations and other key stakeholders throughout Louisiana on key federal and state workforce development policies and advocacy strategies.

Posted In: Louisiana, Oklahoma
Inconsistent analysis in recent CEA report highlights need to invest in – and collect data on success of – workforce and education programs vital to workers and businesses

Earlier this week, the White House Council on Economic Advisers (CEA) released a report on the effectiveness of job training programs, calling for further investments in a new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship system at the expense of investments in a broad spectrum of other workforce programs. The report offers inconsistent analysis of workforce programs, dismisses shortcomings of studies on which it relies and conflates goals and outcomes of a diverse set of workforce programs when drawing conclusions about effectiveness.

Despite these shortcomings, it does make two important points. 

  • Workforce programs in the U.S. are drastically underfunded when compared to investments made by other industrialized countries. A yearly $80 billion investment is needed  to reach even the median level of other international peers; and
  • Despite the overwhelming availability of data on skills training programs and their effectiveness, a national strategy is needed to make this data digestible for policy makers and understandable for participants and businesses.

The report was released a week after the administration’s Advisory Board on Workforce Policy held its most recent meeting. That advisory board – comprised of business and labor leaders, educators, and governors – is tasked with identifying policy recommendations to help develop a skilled workforce to fill open jobs. The CEA report is unlikely to be the early stages of a new workforce platform for the administration, as it reiterates previous White House recommendations instead of offering new proposals. It may, however, influence the conclusions of the advisory board in their recommendations that could inform future agency priorities.

Understanding the shortcomings in the report

The report’s incorrect conclusions about the impact of job training are simply inaccurate. There are millions of US workers who have earned credentials and degrees through community colleges, community-based organizations, labor-management partnerships, and other providers who have leveraged these credentials into family-supporting jobs.

Several mistakes in the report lead to this incorrect conclusion.

  • Inconsistent Analysis: The CEA Report is inconsistent in its analysis of literature on the effectiveness of job training programs. It praises the strong positive outcomes that non-random evaluations have found for registered apprenticeship programs but dismisses the same type of methodology when it comes to positive results for other training programs.

For other training programs, the CEA Report finds only randomized controlled trial evaluations to be reliable, citing a 33-year-old study of evaluation methodology, while acknowledging in a footnote that statistical techniques have improved substantially since that time.

Non-random net impact evaluations of workforce training programs using statistical techniques to control for differences between participants and a similar group have frequently found substantial positive impacts on employment and earnings. 

  • Ignoring inherent weakness in most randomized controlled trial evaluations: Moreover, as the CEA Report notes but largely ignores, there is a weakness common in most randomized controlled trial evaluations.  Individuals not randomly selected to take part may well receive the same type of service funded through another program. 

The “gold standard” evaluation of the Workforce Investment Act, the predecessor to WIOA, conducted by Mathematica, did not preclude individuals who were not offered WIA-funded training from receiving training financed by a different source. In fact, 22 percent of the control group completed a vocational credential funded through  other means, while just a slightly higher 27 percent of the study group completed a vocational credential. As a result, in contrast to the claim of the CEA Report, the study did not reach a conclusion one way or the other about the effectiveness of training. “Because differences across groups in rates of enrollment in training were small, our study produced inconclusive evidence on the impact of training.” (p. xxxiii) 

  • Conflation of diverse workforce services: Employment and training programs often combine a range of services from career counseling, to job search assistance, to basic education, to occupational training. Many critiques of training have not differentiated the impact of these services or their intended outcomes and instead referred to them as workforce training. In its critique of workforce training the CEA Report cites MDRC’s Hamilton and Scrivener (2012) report on welfare-to-work programs as evidence. But of the 12 local programs covered in the Hamilton and Scrivener report, none provided additional skills training to the participants. They instead provided other types of workforce services.

Workforce education and training is effective at meeting worker and business need

Skills training is overwhelming popular with both likely 2020 voters and leaders of small and mid-size companies. It’s also an effective strategy to help workers increase wages and find employment. Numerous studies have found training to positively impact employment and earnings. Just two examples -

Congress also took important steps to address necessary modernization in workforce programs in the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of WIOA in 2014. The reauthorization strengthened alignment across education, training, and human services programs and provided modest increases in funding for core programs to help rebuild our nation’s skills investments.

Data on WIOA continues the trend found under its predecessor - that individuals in training have higher employment rates and median earnings than individuals receiving fewer services. And continued technical assistance from the Department of Labor and Education, along with meaningful investments in a program starved for resources, will empower states and local areas across the country to continue to make the important progress enabled by bipartisan passage of WIOA.

The CEA Report is correct when it states, “[t]he large number of [training] programs and the heterogeneity in the types of programs make it difficult to establish a single general conclusion, but rather suggests that some programs are effective whereas others are failing to live up to their hoped-for potential.” These programs are not monolithic; they serve different populations, with different services, to achieve different purposes, and their degree of success can vary from one local provider to another. It is impossible to draw a single conclusion about their effectiveness.

NSC will continue to work with the administration and Congress to make necessary investments in those effective workforce education and training programs to empower local areas to serve workers, meet business demand, and adequately evaluate the impact of federal, state, and local investment in skills programs.

CA Future of Work event aims to serve incumbent workers in a changing economy

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
CA Future of Work event aims to serve incumbent workers in a changing economy

National Skills Coalition recently travelled to Silicon Valley to build bridges between those driving technological innovations associated with the “Future of Work” and current workforce policy debates in Washington, DC about how to respond to these disruptions.  With the recent announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom about a new state Future of Work Commission, NSC wanted to learn how the state’s emerging discussions around Future of Work could inform the Coalition’s efforts to advocate for polices that will help workers and local companies prosper through these structural shifts in the labor market.

On June 12, 2019, NSC joined with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Autodesk Foundation to co-host a roundtable discussion with 40 representatives from leading technology companies – Apple,  Autodesk and Salesforce – as well as community colleges, organized labor, community organizations , philanthropy, and the “futures” community.  These included leaders from the Skills for California Network who recently released an agenda of workforce and education policies that could better secure a strong economic future for all Californians.  Van Ton Quinlivan—NSC Board member, Institute for the Future fellow and former Vice Chancellor of the CA community college system—was instrumental in bringing together such a diverse group to discuss a set of actionable policies that could reskill millions of incumbent workers for a changing, tech-infused economy.

U.S. workers and companies face an unprecedented acceleration of workplace technologies, with broad implications for the “future of work” in America. By most estimates, at least 60% of today’s jobs will be impacted by digitalization, automation, and/or artificial intelligence. That means over 90 million working Americans may have to acquire new skills just to stay in their jobs, let alone to advance in their industries. An additional 10-20% of jobs are likely to be eliminated and replaced with new types of higher-skilled positions, requiring broad-based income and reskilling support for millions of impacted workers as they develop new careers.

While many conversations have focused on abstract solutions to address this impending shift, far less attention has been paid to actionable steps necessary to address the future of work…today.

Attendees discussed several key policy recommendations to best serve incumbent workers—particularly those most vulnerable to technological changes—to prepare for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the future of work:

  1. Update and scale education and workforce policies to support more rapid assessment and retraining of current workers at risk of technological impact.
  2. Increase both public and private investments in employee upskilling and target those investments at workers most vulnerable to tech displacement.
  3. Expand sector partnerships and technical assistance for local businesses to help them and their employees inclusively adopt new technologies.
  4. Launch a new comprehensive national workforce re-employment system that supports all unemployed workers, regardless of the source of their displacement.
  5. Align public and private workforce and labor market data to support better decision-making and equity across workers in this uncharted era.

In addition, Institute for the Future staff presented new innovations in the areas of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies that could impact the types of scalable training that could be made available to a range of current workers and future job-seekers who will need to continually raise their skills to keep ahead of the technological curve.  IFTF staff also shared current thinking on the ethics of current technology deployment and the tech industry’s role in evaluating – and preventing – bias  exacerbated by new technology in the workplace.

Participants agreed that there was great opportunity to continue working together to shape some of these policy discussions both in Washington and in Sacramento.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to continuing to engage with businesses, worker representatives, and training providers to advance a set of actionable, winnable polices to help today’s workers and local businesses benefit from the technology changes that are already restructuring the U.S. economy.

Posted In: Future of Work

Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

  ·   By Katie Brown
Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

Today, Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, in the House. This bipartisan legislation is identical to S.839, the Senate version of the JOBS Act, introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) earlier this year. House introduction of this bill underlines the mounting support for extending federal financial aid to short-term education and training programs of high-quality—a policy change that 86% of voters are in favor of. National Skills Coalition applauds the efforts of House and Senate sponsors of this bill and looks forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure its inclusion in a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization bill.

More on the JOBS Act, from our blog post recognizing the Senate introduction back in March:

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding
Multiple DOL announcements to expand Industry Recognized Apprenticeships with proposed regulations and grant announcements

Earlier this week, the administration took several next steps to expand their industry recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs), providing important guidance to states and practitioners implementing the new process.  

On June 24th and 25th, the Department of Labor (DOL) 

These announcements offer insight inside administration actions– the regulations offer new details into SREs and IRAP programs, but still need additional work to be operationalized, such as ensuring a role for small businesses in the process, requiring SREs collect and report on vital performance measures, and distinguishing the activities programs will be tasked with as compared to that of the SRE/oversight entity.  

At the same time, many of the systems awarded funds this week to implement the new program, represent forward thinking, effective community and technical colleges systems that lead their peers in establishing alignment between higher education and workforce programs. 

The new funding availability offers safeguards to ensure funding continues to go to good programs – applicants are required to show an “apprenticeship partnership” comprised of education and businesses and other workforce and education stakeholders in a local area. Applications also must include a plan for using funds to provide support services to program participants to ensure their success – often the biggest financial lift for entities attempting to expand programs to workers with the most need for these supports.  

Background on Industry Recognized Apprenticeship 

Since a 2017 Executive Order intended to create this new IRAP system, DOL convened a Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, comprised of Governors, leaders from businesses and business associations, representatives of education providers and education associations, Labor leaders, and other interested stakeholders. The Task Force’s work culminated in a report to the President in May of 2018, that set forward several recommendations to expand apprenticeship, including aligning apprenticeship with educational opportunities, marketing opportunities to workers and providing business engagement assistance particularly in industries in which apprenticeship is not well utilized, and repeated a call for disinvestment in other workforce training strategies.  

Following the report from the task force, DOL released the first iteration of a Training and Employment Notice (TEN) that described the role of what the agency now calls Standards Recognition Entities (SREs), third party entities like business associations who will serve in an oversight role and recognize industry-recognized apprenticeship programs as meeting standards necessary to address business demand for skilled workers. The TEN released this week would update this 2018 TEN.  

In November of 2018, DOL solicited comments on the information it would collect from SREs, releasing a draft of the form an SRE would need to submit to DOL in order to be recognized for the SRE designation. NSC submitted a set of comments individually and in partnership with other national organizations, recommending DOL collect information that would empower small and mid-size companies to fully participate in the IRAP system, urging DOL to require SREs to release and disaggregate outcomes data and recognizing the importance of local, industry-led partnerships and career pathways to success of both business and workers in implementing a new work-based learning system.  

Over the past six months, Secretary Acosta has spoken optimistically about progress towards rolling out the new system, but this week’s series of announcements were the first tangible step of 2019.  

IRAP Proposed Regulations 

Published on June 25th in the Federal Register, DOL is soliciting comments due August 23rd on their proposed amendments to 29 CFR 29, the portion of the Code of Federal Regulations that currently governs registered apprenticeship programs. The proposed regs would largely leave existing regs untouched, except for adding provisions around IRAP.   

The proposed regulations explicitly recognize that industry recognized programs under would not automatically qualify for the priority status registered programs enjoy in other workforce and education programs, such as automatic eligibility for a state Eligible Training Provider List under WIOA or application of Davis-Bacon provisions as applied to programs registered under the National Apprenticeship Act. 

Standards Recognition Entities (SRE) 

The proposed regs detail who can become an SRE, including business associations, local agencies, educational institutions, community-based organizations, unions, labor management partnerships or a consortium of those entities. To qualify, entities must show expertise in an industry necessary to evaluate training, structure and curricula of programs and capacity to assess program quality, defined as ensuring programs meet the definition of industry recognized programs offered below. Programs would be recognized for five years.   

In the proposed regs, DOL recognizes that there may be hundreds of SREs across occupations, industries and regions and solicits comments on the best way to encourage diverse set of entities to seek recognition as SREs.  

Consistent with task force recommendations, and those from labor unions in the construction industry, DOL proposes limiting SREs from recognizing military or construction apprenticeships. DOL bases this restriction on the concentration of apprentices within these areas – 48% of registered programs are in the construction industry and 32% are military apprenticeships. DOL proposes sunsetting this restriction, such as in five years, as industry recognized programs grow and this representation across the two apprenticeship systems evens out across industries.  

Once recognized by DOL, these entities are tasked with reporting on completion of program participants and recognizing programs in a timely manner. SREs would be required to publicly release data on each program it recognizes:  

  1. Contact information for entity running the program 

  1. Number of apprentices enrolled 

  1. Completion rate  

  1. Median length of a program 

  1. Post-apprenticeship employment rate.  

The regulations solicit comment on the importance of DOL requiring SREs to collect, and make publicly available, additional data about recognized programs. Earlier guidance from DOL suggested intended alignment between data collection SREs would be tasked with and WIOA performance measures, but the proposed data collection in the draft regs would not rise to the standards of WIOA or those recommended in the past by NSC and our partners.  

DOL solicits comments on whether additional data, such as that on participants’ post-program earnings, should be released to enable DOL to evaluate program success and the most efficient approach by which SREs can collect this data and share with DOL.  

The regulations largely focus on the role of SREs, leaving the oversight of program structure and delivery to an SRE to evaluate. In some ways this furthers DOL’s goal of removing the federal government from oversight of a program, but it also creates a certain level of confusion over the role an SRE would play when compared with the entity running an industry-recognized program. For example, an SRE would be tasked with doing outreach to participants to ensure EEO opportunities for all workers in programs the SRE recognizes. In practice, however, it’s difficult to see the incentive for or ability of an oversight or accrediting entity in recruitment on behalf of a business or education provider, who would presumably have the connections in a community to reach a broader set of participants.  

DOL does recognize entities that help businesses or local areas implement or run programs may serve as SREs and requires SREs to submit information that this technical assistance role will not influence their role as an SRE, and solicits comments on how to best implement this firewall.  

Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs 

They proposed rule does, however, define the types of programs an SRE can recognize. To be eligible for recognition, a program must include:  

  1. Training for a job that “require[s] specialized knowledge and experience.DOL is soliciting comments on whether it should set a competency baseline for programs that meet this standard, and if the phrase, “progressively advancing” is an adequate definition of the types of skills someone would develop under industry recognized programs.  

  1. Structured work experience coupled with classroom or training related instruction necessary to earn industry-recognized credentials. DOL solicits comments on the effectiveness of SREs’ establishment of competency-based standards will provide enough guidance to industry-recognized programs to ensure programs have value.  

  1. An employment relationship during which an apprentice is paid at least minimum wage 

  1. Apprentice access to earning credit for training, where possible. And 

  1. structured mentorship opportunities.  

The proposed regs explicitly requires SREs to ensure programs adhere to all safety and equal employment laws, but require no specific action towards these goals, unlike higher standards required of registered programs under 29 CFR 29.  

The regulations also empower industry-recognized programs to access a streamlined process for applying as a registered program, however DOL recognizes the intention of the new program is to expand work-based learning opportunities to new programs and not to create a duplicative system.  

Funding Availability 

As discussed above, applications for the newly announced funding, Apprenticeships: Closing the Skills Gap grant program, are due September 24th 

DOL anticipates funding up to 30 partnerships up to $6 million. Applicants will be required to show participation of an “apprenticeship partnership,” with representatives from businesses, education providers and option partners such as joint labor-management partnerships, community organizations, workforce boards, community organizations and other education providers. This funding opportunity is consistent with the grants awarded this week under the Sector Strategies to Expand Apprenticeship grants, and includes an added recognition of the role a robust partnership can play in ensuring effective program expansion and development, consistent with NSC recommendations. Applicants are also required to include a description of support services – such as childcare and transportation – for which funds will be used and “convincingly demonstrate how these services will support apprentices in successfully remaining in and completing” programs, also consistent with NSC recommendations.  

Congressional Progress 

Just last week, the House passed a Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 funding bill that would limit the $200 million for apprenticeship to registered programs, voting down an amendment offered by Rep. French Hill (R-AK) to allow DOL to spend this funding to expand IRAPs.  

The Senate has not yet released a draft of their bill, but funding levels are unlikely to match those in the House version. Democrats will likely push for language that restricts funding to registered programs, consistent with that in previous appropriations bills.  

After initial momentum around a bipartisan apprenticeship bill last Congress, members have both been focused on other education and workforce priorities – like reauthorizing the Higher Education Act – and have been unable to reach further bipartisan consensus around a comprehensive package. Several smaller bills, including NSC priorities of supporting local, industry-driven sector partnerships and investing in work-based learning and support services as a component of an infrastructure package, have been introduced this Congress, though, and are markers for next steps in Congressional activity.  

NSC will submit comments on the regulations and will share a template of these comments for partners to personalize to your work in the coming weeks.  

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education