New progress report from the White House Task Force on New Americans

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
New progress report from the White House Task Force on New Americans

The White House Task Force on New Americans recently released a report summarizing its achievements during the last year, including progress on implementing the 48 recommendations outlined in its April 2015 Strategic Action Plan.

(The Task Force was launched in November 2014 as part of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. NSC submitted recommendations to the Task Force in early 2015.)

Skills are an important focus of the Task Force’s work. The report notes several developments in the workforce landscape over the last year, including the release of the Department of Labor’s Career Pathways Toolkit, a reference guide for local communities seeking to implement such pathways. The report also notes DOL’s creation of an online resource, the Innovation and Opportunity Network, to assist with ongoing implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

Local Communities

The Task Force report also noted innovative efforts to promote immigrant integration in local communities, including:

  • The Michigan Office for New Americans, which has worked with Global Detroit and the national nonprofit Upwardly Global to advance and promote several initiatives. Among them is the Michigan International Talent Solutions program, which will help skilled immigrants who are new to Michigan return to their professional careers by connecting them to employers who are hiring, particularly in STEM fields.

  • Seattle’s Ready to Work Program, which combines English language classes with computer literacy instruction and case management to help immigrants gain job readiness skills and take steps toward economic self-sufficiency. The program is a combined initiative of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the Seattle City Council, and three City agencies — the Human Services Department, Office of Economic Development, and the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Upcoming Developments

Looking ahead, the Task Force noted several upcoming events and initiatives:

  • In 2016, the Task Force will bring together governments and associations that significantly influence immigrant labor market success for a Credentialing Academy. The convening will address issues facing immigrants who earned credentials abroad, including how US state and local policies can help or hinder credential attainment and recognition, and best practices in facilitating immigrant re-credentialing.
  • The Department of Education (ED) will launch a $2.4 million technical assistance investment using National Leadership Activities funds from Title II of the Workforce Investment Act. This investment will be used to assist state and local adult educators in scaling place-based network models of immigrant integration.

    In particular, local organizations that receive Title II Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) formula funds will be provided assistance in how to best achieve the IELCE program’s purpose as well as fulfill its requirements by adopting a collective impact, network-based approach to providing immigrant integration services. Additionally, ED will be issuing further guidance in the next year on new statutory requirements that apply to the IELCE program under WIOA.
  • The Walmart Foundation is investing in efforts to increase English-language skills among retail workers through a new project, Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce, a coalition between the National Immigration Forum, Miami Dade College, and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education.


Posted In: Immigration, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Career Pathways

California takes its WIOA state plan on the road

  ·   By Bryan Wilson and Brooke DeRenzis,
California takes its WIOA state plan on the road

This week wraps up California’s “Roadshow for Public Input” on its WIOA state plan. Under WIOA, states must develop plans that describe their overall workforce strategy and how it will be implemented. With plans due to the federal government by March 3, 2016, many states are in the process of soliciting public input. In addition to posting a draft of its plan for public comment, the California Workforce Development Board held six events across the state to get feedback.

The state’s workforce board hosted this series of regional events in partnership with the California Workforce Association and local workforce boards during the month of December. Local workforce development boards invited board members, partners in their local workforce systems, and representatives from business and labor. Following presentations on the state plan’s vision, goals, and strategies, stakeholders participated in small group discussions.

California’s draft state plan places a heavy emphasis on regional planning and implementation.  The Roadshow provided an opportunity for input on how California (via the State Plan) can better facilitate regional leadership, alignment with industry, and system integration, and set the stage for regional planning.

California’s draft plan was developed with input from a WIOA Implementation Work Group. Created by the State Board shortly after the passage of WIOA, the work group is charged with helping to develop the framework for the state plan.  The work group is chaired by Van Ton Quinlivan, Vice Chancellor of Economic and Workforce Development for California’s Community Colleges, and includes 15 members representing state agencies, business, local boards, and community-based organizations.    

Want to provide feedback on your state’s WIOA plan? Our recent case study of Chicago Jobs Council’s WIOA engagement activities provides a list of actions that stakeholders can take to impact their state’s plan. NSC’s other WIOA resources provide recommendations for creating effective state plans and for aligning WIOA with key human capital investments like Career and Technical Education, TANF, and SNAP Employment and Training.     

Posted In: Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, California

Tis the season to review state plans

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Tis the season to review state plans

In many states, this is not only the season to celebrate the holidays, but also the season to review a draft Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) State Plan. A number of states have officially released their draft plan for public comment. Other states will release their draft plan later this month or in January. Final state plans must be submitted to the feds by March 3, 2016. 

California has announced an extensive process to allow stakeholders to review and comment on their draft plan, the WIOA State Plan: Roadshow for Public Input. The Roadshow will include five events around the state between December 4 and December 18. In November, Washington State’s Workforce Board approved a draft version of the state's strategic plan that was preceded by eight public forums around the state to gather input. The draft Washington strategic plan is available for public comment here. The initial draft of Indiana’s Unified State Plan is available for comment until December 23.  In other states, interested parties should check out their state’s workforce development board website to find out when their draft state plan will be available for review. 

The window of opportunity may be short. Workforce development officials, practitioners, and other stakeholders should make certain they take advantage of the opportunity to review and comment on their state’s draft plan before it becomes final.

NSC suggests reviewing the draft plan against the recommendations in Realizing Innovation and Opportunity in WIOA: A Playbook for Creating Effective State Plans. In the Playbook, NSC explains how states can incorporate key strategies into their WIOA plan. Bly including language consistent with the Playbook’s recommendations on sector partnerships, career pathways, cross-agency data and measurement, and job-driven investments, states can use their WIOA plan to establish strategies that close the skill gap and help workers and businesses succeed.  

Posted In: Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, California
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
NSC partners host lawmakers at workforce development, training, and education facilities

Over the summer, while Congress was out of session, many NSC partners hosted site visits with their U.S. Senators and Representatives or State Legislators. Site visits are an opportunity for elected officials to visit workforce development, education, or training facilities and see programs in action. It is an excellent way to educate lawmakers and their staff and show them the importance of workforce development funding. Many of these site visits were follow-ups to the advocacy visits that NSC partners made during the 2015 Skills Summit last February.

Ohio: Towards Employment

Senator Sherrod Brown's Special Assistant Matthew Keyes visited Towards Employment in Cleveland OH. Towards Employment’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment.  The group offers job-readiness training. Participants learn job search skills as well as the soft skills needed to succeed on the job. They also have access to legal services and vocational training. During their meeting they were able to showcase their programs and discuss workforce development policy.   

Virginia: Dan River Region Collaborative 

Senator Tim Kaine and his team met with members of the Dan River Region Collaborative and ABB employees to tour the facility and discuss economic development issues and career and technical training.  ABB is a global company which operates and manufactures power and automation technologies that enable utility, industry, and transport and infrastructure customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impacts. As co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, Senator Kaine recently introduced the JOBS Act to expand federal Pell Grants to students who enroll in short-term job training programs. The bill would help workers afford high-quality training in advanced manufacturing and other industries. (Click here to support this bill). The Dan River Region Collaborative was founded to address workforce development in the Dan River Region of Virginia. Utilizing a sector strategy approach, the Collaborative promotes regional partnerships of employers, educators, workforce developers and other stakeholders to address the skills needs of regional employers. Within the industry partnerships, the Collaborative’s efforts focus on capacity building, systems change and policy advocacy.

Pennsylvania: District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund 

Susan Thomas, Director of Industry Partnerships (IP) at District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund met with Pennsylvania State Representative Cherelle Parker and Pennsylvania State Senator Dominic Pileggi.  They spoke about the fund’s work on IPs and the need to add money to the IP budget at the state level. They also discussed the importance of pushing a sector skills policy agenda as well as making Pell grants available for occupational post-secondary programs. The District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund's mission is: (1) providing access to career pathways in healthcare and human services for incumbent workers and job seekers through education, training and work-based learning; and, (2) building the capacity of the Delaware Valley's healthcare industry to create a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training opportunities and the development of an education pipeline that aligns with career ladder steps. 

Iowa: Central Iowa works 

Representative David Young toured the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in Des Moines, Iowa.  During his visit, he met with students enrolled in the Transportation/Distribution/Logistics program, which is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and Jobs for the Future. The site visit was a community event which brought out a multitude of stakeholders:

  • Rob Denson, President of Des Moines Area Community College
  • Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa
  • Sarah Ramsey, Advocacy Officer, United Way of Central Iowa
  • Angie Arthur, Central Iowa Workforce Investment Board
  • Marvin DeJear, Director, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families
  • Pat Steele, Central Iowa Works

After the tour, Young participated in a discussion with all those in attendance regarding workforce issues.  Topics discussed included employment challenges for people with a criminal history, the utilization of Pell grants, youth unemployment, and the Direct Care Workforce. 

Colorado: Skills2Compete Colorado coalition 

The Skills2Compete Colorado coalition met with Senator Michael Bennet’s State Policy Director, Becca Montgomery. In attendance were representatives from VocRehab and SNAP E&T providers, the Regional Representative from the Dept. of Labor, Colorado Center on Law and Policy and local CBOs: Mi Casa and CWEE (host). TANF and WIOA were the major topics of discussion for this diverse group of stakeholders.  The Skills2Compete-Colorado Coalition is a multi-sector coalition that includes representatives from adult education, post-secondary education, workforce development, business, and the advocacy arena

Let’s keep the momentum from this "summer of engagement" going! NSC facilitates regular calls with partners in the field and the staff of their members of Congress; if this is something in which you’d be interested, feel free to reach out to Ashley Shaw, Field Coordinator.


Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia