Administration announces $100m in funding for America’s Promise Grants

  ·   By Katie Spiker ,
Administration announces $100m in funding for America’s Promise Grants

On April 25, the Administration announced a $100 million investment in increasing access to job-driven community college training programs through the America’s Promise Grants. Based on the America’s College Promise plan the Administration announced in 2015, the program will use H-1B funds to award competitive grants to sector partnerships between community colleges, employers, and workforce developments boards developing innovative training programs leading to middle-skill jobs.

Partnerships under the America’s Promise grants will be required to pilot and scale tuition-free programs that increase opportunities for all Americans, especially unemployed, underemployed, and low-income workers. The program is intended to catalyze more communities to create and expand employer-led partnerships and job training programs leading to jobs in growing sectors such as technology, manufacturing and health care.

Recipients of the funds will also be required to track and measure participants’ credential attainment and employment outcomes to evidence the programs’ impact on supporting employers’ needs.

This announcement builds on the Administration’s job-driven action plan, through which the White House and Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce put together a checklist for administrative action to guide workforce investment that included increased employer engagement, increased data usage to strengthen training programs, and building regional partnerships between key workforce stakeholders – all elements of the America’s Promise Grants.

Increased investments in community college and industry partnerships are an important part of National Skills Coalition’s 2016 legislative agenda, and Senator Franken (D-MN) and Representative Duckworth (D-IL) have introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act, which would support industry driven career and technical education. Read more on our 2016 agenda here.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Job-Driven Investments

DOL requests information on industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
DOL requests information on industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship

On February 25, Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA) released a Request For Information (RFI) for contracts to fund 8-10 industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship. These contracts will build on DOL’s Sectors of Excellence in Apprenticeship (SEAs) Initiative and last year’s $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants, both launched to further the President’s goal of doubling the number of apprentices in the US by 2019. DOL, through SEAs, has identified priority industries in which it will be targeting expansion – Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Transportation, Construction, Insurance and Financial Services, and Cybersecurity.

Under the RFI, an “intermediary” is an industry association, labor-management partnership organization, workforce intermediary, consortium of employers, state-wide community college system or consortium of community colleges. Recipient intermediaries would be required to:  

  • conduct outreach to their target sector,
  • assist employers in developing programming sufficient to meet standards required for registration,
  • promote innovation and inclusive practices – such as promoting diversity, alignment with post-secondary credentials, expanding competency-based apprenticeship, and aligning Career and Technical Education with the Registered Apprenticeship system, particularly for youth,
  • develop and support a full-time employee dedicated to expanding apprenticeship within an industry,
  • develop materials to support an apprenticeship program, and – if necessary –
  • provide financial support up to $75,000 per employer to expand or create new apprenticeship programs.


Funding for the contracts will come from a new $90 million Congressional investment in expanding apprenticeship for Fiscal Year 2016.

DOL is asking respondents to submit responses by Friday, March 11, describing the respondent’s capacity for acting as an intermediary and successfully performing the activity detailed above. Contracts should be awarded in the summer of 2016.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships

Building skills in the retail sector

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
Building skills in the retail sector

A year-long pilot project is underway to help retail workers with limited English proficiency to improve their language skills. Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce (pdf) is a joint initiative of Miami Dade College, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, and the National Immigration Forum. It is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation.

Nationally, nearly half (48%) of all immigrant workers have limited English proficiency. The retail sector in particular has high numbers of immigrant workers: Data from the Migration Policy Institute indicate that 14% of workers employed in the “Retail Trade” industry category are foreign-born. Immigrants represent an even higher percentage of those employed in service occupations overall, at nearly 1 in 4 workers.

A Three-City Pilot

The pilot initiative is designed to help retail workers in three cities -- Houston, Miami, and New York -- to improve their English language skills, thus opening up opportunities for career advancement and fostering long-term economic success. As data from the international Survey of Adult Skills has recently affirmed, there is a strong link between improved English skills and higher wages in the United States. 

An estimated 750 participants will be served during the project’s first year. The majority are expected to be front-line workers such as cashiers and stock clerks – occupations where limited English proficient employees are most prevalent, and where improved language skills can have a rapid and positive effect. The program will be free to participants courtesy of the Walmart Foundation’s support.

Best Practices in Contextualized English & Employer Engagement

Drawing on best practices in adult education, the project will integrate contextualized English language instruction with other skills needed in the retail workplace, such as active listening and spontaneous conversation. In addition to helping workers to enhance their fluency with retail-specific vocabulary, the skill-building classes will enable workers to improve their communication with colleagues, increase customer satisfaction, and improve safety on the job. 

Multiple employers are expected to be engaged in the development and delivery of classes, which will blend worksite and online participation. Initial businesses include Kroger and Publix grocery stores, as well as employer partners of the National Immigration Forum’s existing New American Workforce program.

Wider Implications?

The project’s development is expected to be closely watched by stakeholders in the workforce development, adult education and immigrant integration fields. Several of its primary features reflect themes found in major federal legislation and policies such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

In particular, the project’s emphasis on employer engagement and on job-driven English language and skill-building reflect new WIOA outcome measures and the legislation’s emphasis on tighter connections between adult education and workforce services.  

About the Project Partners

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education is a national network based at Westchester Community College in suburban New York City. Among CCCIE’s 2015 activities was the release of a study on how today’s New Americans are being served by community colleges.

Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse college in the United States. With eight campuses, a major outreach center and more than 165,000 students from across the world, the College offers over 300 programs of study and vocational, associate, and baccalaureate degrees. MDC’s President Eduardo J. Padrón expressed strong support for this project, noting that he himself is an immigrant. 

The National Immigration Forum is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington DC. The Forum’s New American Workforce program works with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process so they become full participants in the workplace, community and economy.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s support of this project is part of its $100 million Opportunity initiative to increase the economic mobility of entry-level workers across the country. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Florida
Building programs and initiatives to develop a skilled and educated workforce - a Q & A with Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Capital Workforce Partners in Hartford, Connecticut.

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how you came to focus on workforce development?

My career in the workforce development system began early.   I received my master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Connecticut. During that time, I also worked full time as a corrections officer. Once I graduated, I took a position in workforce development and got caught up in the workforce world.  My time as a correctional officer was a great start to my career in workforce development.  I wanted to be supportive and instrumental in providing opportunities and choices to people, so they won’t have to go down the criminal route in order to provide for themselves and their families.  I believe I provide those same opportunities now in the workforce development arena.

With over three decades of workforce development experiences, how does the field look different now than when you first started your career?

In the mid-late 70s, the Federal Government put money directly into the community via community based organizations to do most of the trainings. The notion of building workforce systems and engaging employers in the development of programs didn’t come into play until the 80s and 90s, when the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) really helped acknowledge their importance.  Systems built around Labor Market Information (LMI), customer choice, employer engagement and comprehensive service integration became the norm.

I have really been a part of an evolution in workforce development. We now have national associations that are really involved in building larger systems to help job seekers and employers. Not only are they involved in building the systems but also sharing best practices. Also, in the early times of workforce development there were no private industry councils. Today we continue to build and uplift private sector engagement which is continued through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

How has your partnership with NSC helped to advance your work in Connecticut, and how has your work helped to inform and progress NSC’s efforts?

I got started with NSC years ago. It started with the Campaign for Working Connecticut and Alice Pritchard asked for interested stake holders to think about the work on the ground and how we could give it a national voice. I saw how NSC connected the work that was being done on the ground and uplifted it to a national platform.  NSC has been number 1 on many critical issues, such as creating pathways for middle skill jobs. It was an advocacy strategy that spearhead the need for sectors and a forward thinking dialogue around the skills agenda which was very important for Connecticut.

As a member of NSC’s Leadership Council, what encouraged you to engage with NSC at such a meaningful level, and why should others consider doing so?

I benefited greatly from the many sessions and briefings that NSC made available. Most beneficial for me are the “What’s going on in Congress” briefings hosted at the Skills Summit. It helped me understand the National direction that NSC was going to take and what my role was in helping accomplish that goal.  I welcomed the opportunity to be on the Leadership Council because as a practitioner, I would say the same things that NSC was saying. National Skills Coalition is a representation of my thoughts, there is synergy between NSC and my own platform.

Since joining Capital Workforce Partners in 2001, what do you feel has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

There are so many that resonate. Since I’ve been a part of the workforce development world for so long, I’ve always devoted myself to making sure that resources and services are made available for a better tomorrow – and that our systems are better than yesterday.

As a workforce development board, we have used 100% WIA youth funds for serving out-of-school youth. We have been trying to use those resources to teach skills that can lead to middle-skill jobs. We’ve been building pathways for out of school youth, through the Opportunity Youth Initiative with The Aspen Institute.

Our work to add more One-Stop Centers - and to have those centers be responsive to the needs of job seekers - is another meaningful accomplishment.  We are also using technology as a tool to maximize limited staff resources and to enhance the skills for job seekers. We are really making sure that we use technology to connect and enhance the skills that make our people more marketable. We continue to evolve and meet the needs of businesses and job seekers.

In the workforce world we spend a lot of time tracking job seekers but not so much the employers.  I am currently creating opportunities for larger employer engagement.  These models will then pave the way to a more recognized relationship we need to have with the business community.

Finally, I’m proud of work to build sector-based, employer-lead partnerships in manufacturing and healthcare - particularly around building workplace education and pathways for front-line employees to move up the career ladder. 

Posted In: Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships, Connecticut
Latest edition of

NSC State Policy Director Bryan Wilson’s article, “Closing Skill Gaps” is included in the Council of State Governments’ new 2015 edition of The Book of the States. The Council of State Governments (CSG) is the nation’s only governmental organization serving all three branches of state government. Published annually since 1935, CSG’s The Book of the States is a reference guide to state governments and policies.

“Closing Skill Gaps” provides state policymakers and others with a brief, introductory overview of state strategies to close skill gaps and meet employer skill needs. The article discusses how each state has multiple programs that help individuals prepare for middle-skill jobs. Most of these programs operate outside the traditional K-12-to-university pipeline. Too often these programs operate in silos rather than as part of a broad workforce development system, even though they serve many of the same individuals. When the programs do not work together, they are less effective in closing skill gaps.

Some states have coordinated middle-skill programs around common strategies. Key strategies are sector partnerships, career pathways, job-driven investments, and cross-agency data and measurement. These strategies align programs with employer skill needs and are incorporated in the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—the main federal law providing a workforce development framework for states.

As we look to the future, there is great opportunity for states to move workforce development systems forward using proven strategies to close skill gaps.

The entire article may be found here.  

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Data and Credentials