Congress introduces bipartisan BUILDS Act to support an infrastructure workforce

  ·   By Katie Spiker
Congress introduces bipartisan BUILDS Act to support an infrastructure workforce

New legislation introduced this week by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI 10), Bonamici (D-OR 1), Thompson (R-PA 15), and Langevin (D-RI 2), the Building U.S. Infrastructure By leveraging Demand for Skills Act — or BUILDS Act — takes an important first step towards investing in skills and supports workers need to meet business demand in infrastructure industries. The BUILDS Act would provide grants to help train workers and support services — like childcare, pre-employment training, transportation, and career counseling — to help workers succeed in work-based learning programs.

There is no better time than Infrastructure Week to highlight the critical updates to our nation’s infrastructure that are needed to ensure public safety. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D+ grade, and we have more than 56,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient; an estimated 188 million trips are taken across these structurally deficient bridges each day.

There is growing bipartisan support for an infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked out of a recent White House meeting with an apparent agreement with President Trump to do something “big and bold” on infrastructure – to the tune of $2 trillion.

Businesses in infrastructure are already facing intense labor shortages. A report from the Departments of Education and Labor project 68 percent more job openings in infrastructure over the next five years than students training to fill them. According to the report, we’ll need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022 just to keep pace with hiring needs — a number that doesn’t even factor the millions of new jobs a potential $2 trillion infrastructure investment would create.

Investing in local partnerships between businesses, human services providers, and workforce and education systems will allow us to expand work-based learning programs so that workers have the skills to fill these new infrastructure jobs.

The BUILDS Act would support implementation grants of up to $2.5 million over three years – and renewal grants of up to $1.5 million - to partnerships comprised of multiple employers in a target industry, education or training providers, labor organizations, local workforce boards, and other stakeholders where appropriate. Partnerships would be required to carry out business engagement activities that support the development of short- and long-term talent pipelines, including:

  • Assistance in navigating the registration process for registered apprenticeship;
  • Connecting businesses and education providers for development of classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job learning;
  • Serving as employers of record for participants in work-based learning programs for a transitional period;
  • Training managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to work-based learning participants; and
  • Helping businesses recruit individuals for work-based learning, particularly individuals being served in the workforce system or by other human service agencies.


Partnerships would also provide support services to ensure participant success in work based learning. These services would be divided between three stages:

  • Pre-employment: prior to a work-based learning participant entering employment, the members of the partnership would provide support and training necessary to ensure the worker was prepared to enter a work-based learning or apprenticeship program. At this stage, the partnership may provide skills training, work attire and tools necessary for the work site, wrap around services such as childcare and transportation and job placement assistance;
  • Early employment: During the first six months of the participant’s connection to the employer, the partnership would provide continued support to ease the transition for both the worker and the business. For example, a partnership could serve as an employer of record for a transitional period and provide subsidized wages from grant funds, as well as provide continuing case management and support services, mentoring, and training necessary to ensure the participant’s continued connection to the program; and
  • Continuing employment: after the participant is on-boarded to the company, the grant recipient would provide at least 6 months of continuing support necessary to ensure participants are able to succeed in work-based learning programs.

 

Polling this year found 64 percent of small and mid-sized business owners say increased government funding for support services to help people finish skills training programs will help their business. 81 percent of likely 2020 voters also agree that we should increase government funding for support services to help people complete skills training programs.

Investing in our nation’s infrastructure is critical. But so is investing in the workers to fill those infrastructure jobs. NSC applauds Senators Kaine and Portman and Representatives Mitchell, Bonamici, Thompson, and Langevin for working together to do both.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure Workforce through Work-Based Learning

  ·   By Katie Spiker
Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure Workforce through Work-Based Learning

It’s National Infrastructure Week! This is an opportunity to not only take stock of the state of infrastructure in our country today, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to take the necessary steps to train the workforce that will build our future.

Our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D+ grade based on the system’s capacity – or more accurately, lack thereof – condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. We have more than 56,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient. ASCE estimates that there are 188 million trips across these structurally deficient bridges each day.

The good news is that there is growing bipartisan support for an infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked out of a recent White House meeting with an apparent agreement with President Trump to do something “big and bold” on infrastructure – to the tune of $2 trillion.

Investing in infrastructure at this scale would not only strengthen our economic competitiveness and enhance public safety, but it would also create millions of new jobs for those who are looking for work, underemployed, or seeking higher wages.

Taking full advantage of this potential job creation, however, requires investing in our human capital to create a diverse pipeline of workers that are trained with the skills necessary to access and succeed in these infrastructure jobs.

Businesses in infrastructure are already facing intense labor shortages due to impending retirements, lack of diversity in the workforce, and overall skill shortages. According to a report by the Departments of Education and Labor, there are 68 percent more projected job openings in infrastructure over the next five years than there are students training for these jobs.

The report points out that we need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022 just to keep pace with current and projected hiring needs – a number that would only get larger given the millions of new jobs that a potential $2 trillion new infrastructure investment would create.

Work-based learning and apprenticeship programs with robust support services – like pre-employment training to develop entry-level skills, childcare and transportation to ensure success during the first few months of employment – are a “win-win” solution to this problem.

For infrastructure companies in desperate need of new workers, these programs immediately place motivated hires on site. For youth and adults in need of skills training, work-based learning offers an on-ramp to a career pathway that includes a paying job from the start, and structured on-the-job learning enables workers to efficiently develop the skills needed to be productive.

Many businesses, particularly small and mid-sized business, lack the resources to develop and implement these training strategies internally. Many of them aren't familiar with external stakeholders, such as community colleges, who provide classroom training that complements on-the-job learning or the community-based organizations who can offer retention supports.

That’s why we need to invest in local partnerships – between businesses, human services providers, and workforce and education systems – to expand work-based learning programs so that workers have the skills to fill these new infrastructure jobs.

Partnerships like this exist in infrastructure industries across the country. Take, Kentucky, for example, where there’s a partnership between Jacobs, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), and KentuckianaWorks, the local workforce development board. Through their partnership, KentuckianaWorks connects workers to training opportunities to help fill current and future openings with Jacobs and MSD. 

In Iowa, the United Way of Central Iowa runs a workforce partnership that includes several employers in transportation, distribution and logistics, community partners, and the local community college. This partnership not only provides training for incarcerated men and women at two correctional facilities in the area, but it also offers supports like interview clothing, bus passes, and job search advice to help workers succeed in employment after reentry.

What’s needed now is sustainable federal investment to replicate the innovation happening on a small scale now.

The BUILDS Act would provide grants – to help train workers – and support services, like childcare, pre-employment training, transportation, and career counseling, to help workers succeed in work-based learning programs.

Both voters and business leaders agree with the goals of this legislation. 64 percent of small and mid-sized business owners say increased government funding for support services to help people finish skills training programs will help their business. 81 percent of likely 2020 voters also agree that we should increase government funding for support services to help people complete skills training programs.

Investing in our nation’s infrastructure is critical. But so is investing in the workers to fill those infrastructure jobs. Lawmakers should work together to do both.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

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 order to satisfy Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting requirements, and better understand whether former participants and students of workforce training and education programs are finding jobs and earning good wages, states should participate in the new State Wage Interchange System (SWIS). 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. It may be used for WIOA and one-stop partner program mandated reporting, as well as for research and evaluation. We urge all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands to sign the SWIS agreement and take full advantage of this new tool.

WIOA requires states to use unemployment insurance quarterly wage records to measure the preformance of WIOA’s six core programs: Title I programs for youth, adults, and dislocated workers; adult education; Wagner-Peyser; and 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 may use SWIS for measuring and reporting the performance of WIOA core programs, WIOA Eligible Training Providers, and one-stop partner programs to meet the requirements of a federal or state law or regulation.  One-stop partner programs include secondary and postsecondary career and technical education, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). SWIS also enables state agencies to use the wage data for research and evaluation of WIOA’s core programs and one-stop partners if every state who shares wage data for the research or evaluation project consents.

SWIS 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. WDQC will soon be releasing a brief providing more information about SWIS and how states can participate.

If you represent a state agency and your state wants to sign onto SWIS, please reach out to WDQC staff, who can share more information about how your state can participate.

Posted In: Workforce Data Quality Campaign
House subcommittee takes important first step toward meeting commitment to U.S. businesses and workers

 Earlier this week, the House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Subcommittee released – and advanced to the full committee – their draft Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) spending bill, which would increase funding for workforce and education programs to or slightly above authorized funding levels.

This increase would represent the first time appropriators met their commitment to workers and businesses under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and fully funded a program that helps workers get the skills businesses need for 21st century jobs. This important investment would support vital workforce and education programs that have sustained consistent underinvestment for decades.

During the mark-up, Chairwoman of the full Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey (D-NY), focused on the importance of investing in workforce development and education that matches workers with skills necessary to fill open jobs and both Republicans and Democrats touched on the importance of these programs.

These increases are in large part consistent with the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce’s letter to House appropriators on FY2020 funding levels, on which National Skills Coalition joined more than 30 other national organizations to urge appropriators to adequately invest in workforce and education programming.

These increases are also overwhelmingly popular with likely 2020 voters – 93% of whom support investments in skills – and small and mid-size business owners – 79% of whom support new, public investment in skills.

Tell you members of Congress today – it’s time to meet the commitment made to businesses and workers and adequately fund workforce and education programs.

Department of Labor

The draft bill would increase funding for DOL by $1.2 billion, $709 million of which would fund programs under the Employment and Training Administration. It would fund Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Formula State Grants for Youth and Adults at slightly higher than authorized levels, and would increase funding across Adult, Dislocated Worker and Youth funding of more than $400 million. This increase would be the first time Congress funds state grants at authorized levels since WIOA passed with overwhelming support in 2014. Since 2001, WIOA Title I state formula grants have been cut by nearly 40%, so this increased to authorized levels is an important recognition of the important role the workforce system plays in meeting business demand and worker need.

The bill would add $2million to funding, up to $8 million, for Workforce Data Quality Initiative Grants and $90 million to apprenticeship funding, increasing it to $250 million for FY2020. The bill included increased funding for national programs under WIOA, including a $10 million increase for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker programs and an increase of nearly $30 million, to $127 million, for YouthBuild.

The draft also included several of Democrats’ policy priorities. It would create a new $150 million national grant program, using Dislocated Worker National Grant funds, to support workforce development provided at community and technical colleges and would allocate $25 million of funding from the Reentry Program to support intermediaries helping returning citizens develop in-demand skills. From the $250 million for apprenticeship, the bill would allocate 20 percent of funds to local and national organizations to help expand programming and 50 percent of funding to states, consistent with the way DOL has spent this appropriation in previous years.

Department of Education

The Subcommittee draft would increase funding for the Department of Education by $4.4 billion, up to $75 billion. It includes a $37.4 million increase to Perkins Career and Technical Education state grants, funding them at $1.3 billion. Congress passed – with overwhelming support – a new CTE bill last year, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and this proposed increased comes after bipartisan support for increased investments in CTE in the FY2019 appropriations package. CTE programs have been cut by nearly 30 percent since 2001, and this proposed increase would help reverse the trend of disinvestment.

The bill would also increase Adult Education and Family Literacy Act State Grants by $22.6 million to $664,555,000. Adult Education funding has been cut by nearly 20 percent since 2001, and these increases would be vital to scaling services to more than 36 million Americans with low basic skills, including 24 million who are currently in the workforce.

The max Pell award would be increased by $150 dollars, bringing the total for the 2020-2021 school year to $5,285.

What’s Next

The House is moving forward with mark ups for appropriations bills, using top line numbers set by House Democrats earlier this spring in absence of a bicameral budget resolution, and the full appropriations committee is expected to hear the L-HHS bill, and announce each subcommittee’s official 302(b) allocation, as early as next week.

Senate Appropriators have suggested the Senate will not move forward on individual appropriations bills until the Senate and House are able to agree to a budget deal that will raise budget caps – and avoid sequestration – imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA).

Leadership is continuing to work towards a two-year budget agreement to cover FY2020 and 2021, the final two years to which BCA will apply. This agreement could be – as it has been in years past – coupled with an agreement to raise the debt ceiling, for which the Department of Treasure announced earlier this week it will exhaust extraordinary measures to avoid reaching in late Summer. Linking budget and debt ceiling negotiations may make it easier for members of both parties to support a slight increase in funding above FY2019 levels, but final funding is unlikely to be as high as the numbers proposed in the House bill this week.

Tell your policy makers today – it’s time to meet your commitment to workers and businesses. Invest in workforce and education today!

Also this week, Secretary Acosta testified in front of the House Education & Labor (Ed & Labor) Committee on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) priorities for FY2020. In his testimony, the Secretary recognized multiple times that the U.S. has underinvested in middle-skill jobs – and pathways that don’t include a four-year degree.

NSC and our partners in the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce will continue to advocate for critical investments in workforce and education and Congress continues the FY2020 appropriations process.

 

  FY 2020 – Authorized Levels Current Levels - FY 2019 FY2020 House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Change FY 2019-House L-HHS bill
Department of Labor
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I – State Formula Grants N/A $2,789,832,000 $2,967,360,000 N/A
WIOA Adult $899,987,000 $845,556,000  $900,000,000 $54,444,000
WIOA Dislocated Worker $1,436,137,000* $1,040,860,000 $1,103,360,000 $62,500,000
WIOA Youth $963,837,000 $903,416,000 $964,000,000 $60,584,000
Wagner-Peyser/Employment Service Grants N/A   $663,052,000 $680,000,000   $16,948,000
Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants N/A $6,000,000 $8,000,000 $2,000,000
Apprenticeship Grants N/A $160,000,000 $250,000,000 $90,000,000
DW N/AtioN/Al Reserve N/A $220,859,000 $370,859,000 $150,000,000
N/Ative American Programs $54,137,000 $54,500,000 $55,000,000 $500,000
Ex-Offender Activities N/A $93,079,000 $100,000,000 $6,921,000
Migrant and SeasoN/Al Farmworkers $96,211,000 $88,896,000 $98,896,000 $10,000,000
Youth Build $91,087,000 $89,534,000 $127,500,000 $37,966,000
Senior Community Service Employment Program N/A $400,000,000 $463,800,000 $63,800,000
JobCorps $1,983,236,000 $1,718,655,000 $1,868,655,000 $150,000,000
Trade Adjustment Assistance $450,000,000 $450,000,000 $450,000,000 N/A
Department of Education
Career and Technical Education State Grants N/A $1,262,598,000 $1,300,000,000 $37,400,000
Adult Education and Family Literacy State Grants $678,640,000 $641,955,000 $664,555,000 $22,600,000
Posted In: Federal Funding, Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce

What immigrant advocates need to know about the new Perkins Act

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
What immigrant advocates need to know about the new Perkins Act

This is a joint blog post by members of the Immigration and Federal Skills Policy workgroup, a set of national organizations that meet monthly in Washington, DC, to address workforce development and adult education policy issues pertaining to immigrants. National Skills Coalition, National Immigration Forum, Migration Policy Institute and the National Immigration Law Center are co-conveners of the workgroup.

Skills advocates have an upcoming opportunity to ensure that their states’ postsecondary Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs are responsive to immigrant constituents. 

Last year, Congress reauthorized landmark legislation governing CTE programs. The 2018 law is called the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, and is colloquially known as Perkins V.

As states begin to gear up for the planning process required by the new law, skills advocates have a chance to speak up for effective policies and strategies that can serve immigrant adults and other CTE learners. These strategies can be incorporated into the Perkins state plans that are required to be submitted to the federal government in spring 2020.

(Want to know how your state can combine its Perkins and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act planning processes? Check out this recent guide from National Skills Coalition and Advance CTE.)

Key points to keep in mind for advocacy

  • Perkins is not just about high school students. Fully 40 percent of Perkins funding nationwide supports postsecondary programs. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average age of CTE students in postsecondary programs is 26.3 years old.* State Perkins plans should specifically describe on-ramps for adult learners into CTE programs, to make clear that not all postsecondary participants would be coming directly from high school. Having well-designed on-ramps is especially important for immigrants, who are often working adults eager to access upskilling opportunities. States can capitalize on the fact that the new Perkins law adopts the definition of career pathways already used by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to help construct CTE pathways that provide multiple entry and exit points for individuals.

  • People of color are especially likely to be served by Perkins-funded programs. Approximately 13.2 percent of postsecondary CTE students are African American and 21.2 percent are Hispanic. These numbers are higher than their representation in the overall US adult population (12.3 percent African American and 18.1 percent Hispanic). While the reasons behind this over-representation are complex, the bottom line is that Perkins-funded programs should be thinking specifically about how to serve students of color, including those who are immigrants. (The nonprofit National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity has a wealth of resources to assist in this process.)

  • Perkins funding goes to institutions rather than individuals. Unlike WIOA, Perkins funding is not linked to individual jobseekers in the form of a training voucher or a seat in an English language class. Rather, Perkins serves individuals, including immigrants, through its support of the institutions they attend. While Perkins-funded programs are required to collect some data on the students they serve, the “special populations” category does not include nativity. Therefore, there is no direct measure of how many immigrants are served by Perkins-funded programs. However, English learners (ELs) are included in special populations reporting, and about 87 percent of all ELs nationwide are immigrants.

  • Creative use of Perkins funding can help improve opportunities for immigrants and US-born students alike.  Some localities have used even modest amounts of Perkins funding to improve program offerings and services to immigrants and English learners. Often, these efforts can support US-born students at the same time. For example:

    • The Socorro Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, blends Perkins and WIOA resources to support innovative Integrated Education and Training programs in seven occupations. Given the local community’s demographics, the program serves primarily Latino participants, including immigrants and English learners.
    • Westchester Community College in New York has used Perkins funding to develop curriculum for a noncredit healthcare program, which is part of the college’s career pathway to several credit-bearing healthcare programs. Given the college’s location in the suburban New York City area, these programs serve a diverse range of students, including immigrants as well as those born in the United States.
    • Miami Dade College in Florida has used Perkins funding to support a navigator position – a type of advisor who can help immigrant adults who come to the US with a credential from their home country, and want to brush up on their skills in a community college program. Participants come from a wide range of backgrounds, including Cuban and Haitian immigrants among many others.

  • Perkins funding can also help skilled immigrants strengthen the CTE teacher workforce. The CTE field is experiencing dramatic shortages of teachers in almost all subjects, even as the demand for programs is expanding and student populations become more diverse. The Perkins Act requires states to indicate in their plans how local districts and other partners will recruit and prepare teachers and other CTE staff, including equipping them to work with special populations. Immigrants who have degrees and experience from abroad are an untapped resource that is uniquely well-equipped to help states meet the demand for CTE teachers with relevant industry experience and the capacity to work with a diverse range of learners. In addition, Perkins does provide a potential way to support such non-traditional teacher pipelines: funding for creative local teacher training initiatives through its Innovation and Modernization grant program.
 

Need a Perkins Act 101?

If you are new to the CTE world, it may be helpful to get a more general overview of how this legislation works. Perkins funds CTE services, previously known as vocational education. CTE programs exist at the secondary (high school) and postsecondary (typically community college) level.

A total of $1.2 billion in Perkins funding is distributed by the US Department of Education each year. Unlike WIOA and other workforce funding, this money does not fund specific“slots” for individual students. Rather, it goes to school districts, higher education institutions, and other entities to support costs such as laboratories and classroom equipment, training materials, and curriculum development.

Some Perkins-funded classes are part of “programs of study” that include up to two years of study at the high school level followed by up to two years of postsecondary study.

Get data about your state’s Perkins-funded programs from the Perkins Data Explorer. Find background information on CTE from National Skills Coalition, Advance CTE, and ACTE.

 

*Data analysis courtesy of CLASP.


Posted In: Immigration, Career and Technical Education