California discusses data developments

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
California discusses data developments

On June 10, the California Edge Coalition held a briefing for the Legislative Workforce Policy Group on, “Data to Serve Policy, Programs, and People: Reinventing California’s Education and workforce Data Systems.”  Presenters were Bryan Wilson, State Policy Director, National Skills Coalition (NSC); Dan Rounds, Deputy Director, California Workforce Development Board (CWDB); Kathy Booth, Senior Research Associate, WestEd; and Tessa de Roy, Executive Director, California College Guidance Initiative (CCGI).  Participants included legislative staff and agency officials.

As explained by Edge, states across the nation are developing data systems to answer critical policy questions, implement effective practices, and improve student and participant outcomes. California, however, lags behind most states in developing a data system that can serve these needs. The purpose of the briefing was to spur discussion and action on the next steps California should take.

Bryan discussed California’s progress compared to other states based on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign’s, Mastering the Blueprint. California, unlike most states, does not have a state longitudinal data system or a standing body to coordinate data sharing among agencies. National Skills Coalition is assisting California as part of the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP).  SWEAP is helping California develop a dashboard, pathway evaluator, and supply and demand report in order to provide policymakers with cross program information they can use to better align programs with each other and with employer skill needs.

Dan explained that CWDB is leading a multi-stakeholder process to identify a data system that will meet the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s call for a cross-program data system that will support service delivery and reporting. Kathy talked about Launchboard. Sponsored by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, Launchboard supplies institutions with aggregate information on the progress of career technical education students through their institutions and into the labor market. WestEd is also working on a public-facing pathway evaluator for SWEAP that will enable policymakers and others to view the information. Finally, Tessa spoke of CCGI’s development of an electronic transcript infrastructure and related information that assists K-12 students’ college and career planning and the college admission process. 

Participants at the briefing acknowledged that despite progress California has a substantial way to go to have a data system in place that can meet the needs of policymakers, administrators, and consumers. They expressed encouragement for the efforts underway and interest in supportive legislation as the efforts move forward.  

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, California

The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

  ·   By Silvia Vallejo
The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

NSC Board Member, Alma Salazar is the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

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

I've been working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. Within this role I oversee education and workforce development programs and also direct the Chamber’s higher education and workforce development policy priorities. My path into workforce development came about serendipitously. While employed at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, I was responsible for overseeing regional implementation of the Federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.  The National School-to-Work Act was the response to the Nation at Risk report which detailed business leaders’ concern that when students graduated from high school and/or college they lacked the necessary skills to compete in the workforce. We looked to partnerships between businesses and education as a way to improve the skills they were lacking. We found opportunities for students to learn beyond the four walls of the classroom.  By giving them access to critical work-based learning opportunities such as internships, job shadowing and apprenticeships we helped students bring learning to life. I found my niche in making employer partnerships work and making sure that, as essential stakeholders, business has a strong voice in workforce development policy creation.

When did you first get involved with NSC and why?

I became involved with NSC after attending the 2011 Skills Summit. That allowed me to become aware of NSCs in-depth policy expertise and to meet other incredible thought-leaders across the country who shared my passion for providing opportunities for individuals to compete and prosper.   After the summit, I made an effort to forge a good relationship with the staff and to participate in as many events as I could. I've been involved and a huge fan ever since. 

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

NSC has been an invaluable resource and has provided many of us with the in-depth policy analysis needed to engage policy makers in thoughtful conversations about WIOA Reauthorization and implementation and has helped guide California’s workforce development policy priorities. The policy content NSC has published has truly helped the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and other regional chambers of commerce throughout the country engage meaningfully in these policy discussions.

Can you tell us a little about your efforts with SWEAP in California?

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) provides California the unprecedented opportunity to connect cross program data to better align education and workforce development programs to labor market demand.  It’s important that we have broad stakeholder support, including the business community, to move this initiative forward.  The Chamber is committed to engaging our business leaders and other chambers of commerce throughout the state to champion these efforts and see them through to fruition.

You’ve been appointed to the California Workforce Investment Board by Governor Jerry Brown. What is the most pressing issue/biggest challenge in that role?

My most immediate priority is making sure that we are working with and supporting the regions in the implementation of WIOA.  If done well, WIOA implementation can be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way workforce development systems work together to create career pathways for underserved populations to achieve economic mobility while helping businesses have the workforce they need to grow and prosper.  

In your position at the LA Chamber of Commerce, what do you think has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

I am incredibly proud to work for a business organization that cares deeply about the underserved and works daily to ensure that individuals have equal access to a quality education and high level job training — resulting in a thriving local economy.  

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Sector Partnerships, California

NSC holds 2015 SWEAP state forum

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
NSC holds 2015 SWEAP state forum

On November 16 and 17 in Chicago, the National Skills Coalition held the 2015 State Forum of the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP).  SWEAP is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with one another and with employer skill needs. Attending the forum were teams of officials from the four states receiving SWEAP direct technical assistance: California, Mississippi, Ohio, and Rhode Island.   

The 2015 Forum, organized by Bryan Wilson, NSC State Policy Director and Director of SWEAP, provided a deep dive into the development of data tools. The Forum focused on peer learning and advice from national experts. Keith Ewald from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services demonstrated the Ohio Workforce Success Measures Dashboard that shows the performance results of major workforce and education programs at state and sub-state levels using metrics similar to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act common measures. 

Mimmo Parisi, Director of The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University, demonstrated how their LifeTracks system can function as a pathway evaluator identifying outcomes associated with participation in multiple programs.  Jill Leufgen of the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges presented California’s LaunchBoard, showing patterns of participation in community colleges and the associated labor market outcomes.

Guests from Florida and Colorado, Duane Whitfield and Lauren Victor, explained their state’s approaches to analyzing the supply, demand, and gaps for skilled and educated workers. Kevin Hollenbeck from the Upjohn Institute talked about measuring and reporting program net impacts on employment and earnings, and the return on investment for taxpayers—metrics that can be used as part of state dashboards.  Derek Redelman from USA Funds and Whitney Smith from JPMorgan Chase, Global Philanthropy, funders of SWEAP, spoke about why they are committed to improving the data available to policymakers.

The four SWEAP states will take lessons learned from the Forum as they continue to develop the three types of data tools. In 2016, as the tools are developed, SWEAP will further engage state policymakers. The purpose of SWEAP is not to develop data for data’s sake, but to provide information policymakers can use to better align workforce and education programs with the labor market and enable more individuals to attain postsecondary credentials and higher levels of employment.  As SWEAP continues, NSC will share the lessons learned with other states through webinars and reports. 

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, California, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Ohio

SWEAP launches projects in Mississippi and Rhode Island

SWEAP launches projects in Mississippi and Rhode Island

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) held launch meetings in Jackson, Mississippi and Providence, Rhode Island in August. SWEAP, an initiative of the National Skills Coalition (NSC), supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and USA Funds, is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with one another and with employer skill needs.

In Jackson, Andy Van Kleunen, NSC CEO and Bryan Wilson, NSC State Policy Director and Director of SWEAP, met with workforce and education leaders from the Office of the Governor, the State Workforce Investment Board, the Department of Employment Security, the Community College Board, and the State Data Clearinghouse. The meeting was hosted by Jay Moon, President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and Chair of the State Workforce Investment Board. Andy and Bryan talked with the Mississippi leaders about the SWEAP suite of data tools (dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports) and how these tools can provide state policy makers with information to guide the development of state policies. The goals of SWEAP Mississippi are to integrate and align education and workforce programs, improve workforce participation rates and reduce the skill gap for middle-skill jobs.

Also in Mississippi, in Starkville, Dr. Mimmo Parisi, Director of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) hosted Bryan in meetings with NSPARC staff. NSPARC serves as Mississippi’s data clearinghouse and provides state-of-the-art data linking and analytics. NSPARC will provide data services for SWEAP in Mississippi.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Andy and Bryan talked about SWEAP with leaders from the Governor’s Workforce Board, the Office of the Commissioner for Post-Secondary Education, the Department of Labor and Training including the Workforce Investment Office and the Labor Market Information Division, the Department of Education including Adult Basic Education, and the Community College of Rhode Island. Andy and Bryan met with Rhode Island’s SWEAP steering group and talked before approximately 30 individuals attending the Career Pathways Advisory Committee (CPAC) of the Governor’s Workforce Board. The CPAC includes representatives of state agencies, local providers, and other stakeholders who are helping to design career pathway programs in Rhode Island.

The goals of the Rhode Island SWEAP Initiative are to: improve the state’s ability to collect and use data; advance better data-driven decision making, including identifying and evaluating career pathways for gaps and relevance; and inform the Governor’s Real Jobs Rhode Island initiative and the development of the State Plan for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

In addition to Mississippi and Rhode Island, SWEAP is providing technical assistance in California and Ohio. Over 150 individuals have attended the initial round of in-state meetings. The assistance will continue until the end of 2016, and will also include the sharing of lessons learned among the four states, and with others as well. 

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Rhode Island, Mississippi

Prioritizing business engagement in Rhode Island: A Q&A with Rick Brooks

  ·   By Yuri Chang
Prioritizing business engagement in Rhode Island: A Q&A with Rick Brooks

Rick Brooks, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board, speaks with NSC about the state’s efforts to engage businesses in workforce development efforts, and how NSC and WDQC help track the impact of their investment.

Tell us a little about your professional background. What brought you to your position of Executive Director of the Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board?

I came to the Governor’s Workforce Board with 30 years of experience doing education, advocacy, and organizing to improve the lives of working people here inRhode Island. I was as a labor educator at the Institute for Labor Studies, where I developed and oversaw a number of programs ranging from workplace adult education, workplace rights, union leadership, and job training. In the early 1990’s, we developed an occupational skills training program for preparing unemployed and under-employed Rhode Islanders for jobs at the publically-financed hotel and convention center that was being built.

I then went on to serve as the director of the state’s largest healthcare workers union, and in that capacity I was responsible for labor relations, health policy, leadership development, and communications. I also continued my work in workforce development by partnering with the two largest healthcare systems in the Rhode Island to create the “Stepping Up” program. Stepping Up is a career ladder program for healthcare workers in entry-level positions as well as for people who are not yet working in healthcare but want to get into those jobs.

About four years ago, I decided to commit myself to public service. I wanted to make an impact by working on policy and planning as well as funding and oversight to improve workforce development. The Governor’s Workforce Board provides exciting opportunities to collaborate with so many partners who are doing great things throughout the state. We provide guidance and coordination to make sure that workers are getting trained in skills that businesses are looking for.

The Governor’s Workforce Board aims to develop policies and programs that increase the education and skill levels of workers, and address the workforce needs of employers. What are some challenges you face in your role as Executive Director, and what has been your proudest accomplishment?

The biggest challenge in workforce development is that the system is very complicated. Workforce development activities are funded by numerous sources, and the way services are delivered is so diverse that the system can be fragmented and unwieldy for policymakers, businesses, and job-seekers to access or understand. Businesses often lack confidence that education and training providers have the ability to prepare workers for jobs that they’re looking to fill, and conversely education and training providers run into difficulty getting quality information on the types and numbers of workers businesses need.

That being said, I feel good about our efforts to overcome these hurdles. One of the top priorities of the Governor’s Workforce Board is to develop employer partnerships and engage Rhode Island businesses and we have taken a number of steps to achieve this. We formed an employer advisory group to reach out broadly to businesses and make sure that we’re hearing from as many businesses as possible about how the workforce system could better meet their needs, and to also let businesses know what services are available. We’ve extended our online outreach through surveys, newsletters, and social media. We’ve made changes to our grant making to make it more responsive and user-friendly. 

Most importantly, we want to connect business and education, and we’re building that into just about everything we do. We have robust industry partnerships that represent the major industries inRhode Island, some of which we’ve supported for close to 10 years. We support these partnerships because we want them to be the voice of businesses in each sector and convey their particular workforce needs. Businesses have been partnering with schools, community-based organizations, and other parts of the workforce education and training system to create career pathways. We also created a new grant initiative called the Workforce Innovation Grant. The core elements of these grants are: partnerships between business and education providers, experiential learning, an emphasis on work-readiness, and an alignment with career pathways. This represents the board’s best thinking on the priorities of workforce development. Most recently, under the leadership of Governor Gina M. Raimondo, the GWB is supporting the Governor’s new Real Jobs RI initiative to further expand the scale and impact of demand-driven workforce training programs.

Prior to joining the Governor’s Workforce Board, you served as the executive director of United Nurses and Allied Professionals, where you founded and guided a health care career pathways program for frontline workers. What lessons did you take away from this experience and how does it inform your work at the board?

The secret to the success of Stepping Up is that it brought in multiple employers, labor management partnerships, community-based organizations, and training providers. By creating a career pathway, Stepping Up enabled workers to move up and also enabled workers who were not employed in the industry to get their first job. The program was client-centric in that it recognized the educational, social, and emotional needs of its participants, but it was also designed to meet the needs of health care employers.

More than anything, the takeaway from that experience is that successful workforce development needs to fully engage businesses so that the program at every level is responsive to businesses’ needs. The businesses were involved in helping to recruit clients or set the standards for recruitment. They helped develop and refine the curriculum, and provided guest speakers, work site tours, internships, and ultimately job placements. The more businesses are invested upfront and are closely connected to the pre-employment training, the more confidence and commitment they’ll have in the program and the more likely they’ll be to hire the program graduates. They’re not sitting back at a distance waiting to see what you produce. They are involved with producing the trainees.

You’ve been involved with National Skills Coalition, Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), and the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP). How have these connections advanced your work in Rhode Island?

As I mentioned before, the workforce system is complicated. With multiple funding streams and different eligibility and reporting requirements, it can be quite challenging for policymakers and people in the system to fully understand the impact of investment. Working with WDQC and SWEAP will be very helpful for us to develop better data systems. We currently have a lot of data but we don’t necessarily have the most useful analysis. Under SWEAP, we will be creating data dashboards to track key outcomes; we will improve our ability to quantify workforce supply and demand needs; and we will develop tools to help us evaluate our career pathways efforts in Rhode Island. It’s about being able to analyze, interpret, and act upon the data that we have. We’re relying on working with WDQC and SWEAP to help us better understand the needs, define the appropriate targets, and determine what the impact of our investments is.

NSC has been an incredible resource for its advocacy and information about national trends, legislation, best practices in other states, and articulating a vision for what workforce development can and should be. My involvement with NSC has opened up opportunities to connect with other colleagues who are doing great work around the country.  

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Job-Driven Investments, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships, Rhode Island, Workforce Data Quality Campaign