Governors propose workforce initiatives

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Governors propose workforce initiatives

Governors are unveiling their legislative proposals for 2016, including proposals to boost workforce skills. The governors of California, New York, Virginia, and Idaho are among those announcing new skill building proposals. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed $200 million to implement the recommendations of the California Community College Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy. The funds would enable community colleges to expand access to additional career technical education courses and programs and to implement a regional accountability structure aligned with the Task Force’s recommendations.  Community colleges would be expected to collaborate regionally with their educational, workforce, labor, and civic partners to expand access to career technical education programs that meet each region’s workforce needs. In addition, Governor Brown proposed $48 million for California’s Career and Technical Education Pathways program, and proposed repealing the Program’s sunset in order to make it permanent. The Governor also proposed $1.8 million to enhance apprenticeship training.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced proposals focused on opportunity youth.  According to the Governor’s Office, New York will face a shortage of as many as 350,000 workers for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. “This “skills gap” is one of the greatest challenges facing New York State’s economic development goals.” To respond to this challenge Governor Cuomo proposed an additional $31 million to enable another 19,000 youth to participate in the summer youth employment program. The Governor proposed “Apprentice SUNY,” a new $5 million program for 2,000 students to receive classroom and on-the-job training through new registered apprenticeships linked to degrees or certificates. The Governor proposed creating the state Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The Program would enroll young adults 18 to 24 years of age in pre-apprenticeships that would prepare them for direct entry into registered apprenticeships on public work projects. The Governor also proposed expanding the budget of the Urban Youth Jobs Program to $50 million to serve 10,000 young people. The Program provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth. 

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe requested an appropriation of $24.6 million to enhance noncredit workforce programs at Virginia’s community colleges. Of that amount, $12 million is to increase the capacity of existing noncredit workforce programs for occupations with the greatest need for workers, $6 million is to increase student interest in these programs, and $6.6 million is to incentivize those programs that are most successful, using the funding to reduce course costs and allow for further increases in the system's noncredit workforce programs' capacity.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter proposed a budget enhancement of $3.8 million to expand postsecondary training in fields experiencing skill gaps. The initiative would build training capacity at six post‐secondary institutions to produce more graduates for high‐demand jobs in health care, information technology, mechatronics, and transportation. According to the Governor’s Office, there is an average of 2,180 annual job openings across these four occupational areas. However, capacity in the programs that train in these four areas is limited, with only 542 graduates per year, and an average wait list of 825. The additional funding would expand capacity by 410 seats for jobs that have a median hourly wage of $19.10 per hour

As more governors announce their proposals for 2016, National Skills Coalition will keep you abreast of the developments.

*This blog is part of series on governors proposed state plans for 2016. You can read the second blog post here.

Posted In: Career Pathways, Virginia, New York, Idaho, California

Virginia Governor expands apprenticeships

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
Virginia Governor expands apprenticeships

It’s National Apprenticeship Week, and those looking to learn what states are doing to expand registered apprenticeship may be interested in an Executive Order recently issued by Virginia Governor Terence McAuliffe. Signed last month, Executive Order 49 authorizes new resources to increase registered apprenticeships in Virginia – lifting up the training practice as a key strategy for closing the state’s middle-skill gap.

The Executive Order explains that registered apprenticeship combines on-the-job training with apprenticeship-related instruction, which Virginia’s community colleges or career and technical education centers usually provide. It also underscores the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor recognizes over 900 occupations as appropriate for registered apprenticeship. Some of these occupations are in fields experiencing skill gaps in the state.

The Executive Order seeks to expand the use of apprenticeship by state government agencies and key private sector industries, such as Information Technology, Cybersecurity, and Professional and Business Services. It dedicates $400,000 in fiscal year 2016 to help cover the costs of apprenticeship-related instruction for state agencies ($120,000) and private companies in key industries ($280,000). It also requires the state to develop a process for businesses that sponsor registered apprenticeship to apply for federal or state training funds available through Virginia’s workforce system. 

The responsible state agencies must have the programs authorized by the Executive Order in place by January 1, 2016.

Posted In: Virginia
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

Creating career pathways for adult literacy: A Q&A with Patti Donnelly

  ·   By Yuri Chang
Creating career pathways for adult literacy: A Q&A with Patti Donnelly

Patti Donnelly, executive director of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, speaks with NSC about the need for policymakers to address the current void of career pathways for adult literacy and English language learning.

What brought you to your position as executive director of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia? 

I joined the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia because I was inspired by its grassroots mission and model of teaching adults. LCNV trains volunteers to work directly with adult learners, teaching them how to read, write speak, and understand English. My experience in non-profit management and fund- development in education and performing arts, seemed to be the right fit at the right time, and I was eager to get back into direct service work. The Literacy Council’s mission is so great because it gives adult learners the tools to succeed on their own; it’s very empowering.

What do you feel has been your most meaningful accomplishment as executive director?

I just started my fourteenth year as the executive director, and throughout that time I was able to implement many changes and positive growth at a steady pace. We have really professionalized the organization; I love the Literacy Council’s grass-roots approach and engagement with volunteers, but what we were missing at the time was the business backbone of a strong non-profit. There were a lot of good people doing good work, but I felt we couldn’t simply paddle along without a growth strategy. I wanted to strengthen the organization internally so we could carry out our mission more effectively and efficiently.

As executive director, I have been able to build a solid infrastructure by implementing best business practices, strengthening our board of directors, and bringing a greater focus to our operations. Since I began working at the Literacy Council, we went from a $360,000 budget to a $1.3 million budget. We’re in a very different place now as a result of those efforts and the organization has grown tremendously.

Your Destination Workforce initiative helps the lowest-level learners get the skills local employers need. Tell us about how you came to develop this program.

The Literacy Council took notice of the changing population in the Northern Virginia region, and the adults coming through our doors to learn how to read, write, and speak in English. The Literacy Council’s target population shifted and we are now serving primarily non-native English speakers. Adult English language learners require an instructional approach that is different than native-born speakers, and because 95% of the adults we serve are foreign-born adults, we needed to re-design our programs to better serve them.

There are many career development programs that provide opportunities for adults to train for the workforce, such as GED programs, community college Career Pathways, and vocational schools and apprenticeships, yet there aren’t as many services for adults who are at the beginning English language learning level. LCNV wants to help the adults who are sweeping the floors at Target become cashiers or store managers. Often what is keeping adults in low-skilled jobs is their lack of English language proficiency. They are not linguistically ready for the career pathways programs that currently exist. The Literacy Council is focused on filling that void through Destination Workforce.

Destination Workforce puts English language learning in a workplace context with targeted skills and vocabulary to help adults reach their goals faster. We include 21st century soft skills in the curriculum, such as team work, arriving on time, how to speak to your boss, as well as relevant workplace vocabulary. The model is similar to other career development programs, but for adults with limited English language proficiency. It’s a combination of addressing the workforce market need and staying true to our mission, which is to teach the beginning level English language literacy learner.

What is the Literacy Council’s approach to teaching English language skills to adult learners?

The Literacy Council offers a student-centered approach to teaching, by meeting the students where they are in their skills. Currently, our adult students represent over 90 countries and speak 68 different languages. We teach students who have come to the United States with PhDs from their home country but speak or read little English, and we have non-English speakers who have never held a pencil in their lives. In a typical class of 20, there may not be a dominating nationality or language spoken. LCNV provides small group instruction, using volunteer class-aides and tutors along-side of credentialed instructors to ensure a small teacher-student ratio. The rich diversity compels our students to speak English in the classroom and creates a space where everybody is learning from each other. The teachers work to build a community across cultures, and you can imagine how challenging it is when the adult learners speak so many different languages.

One way to address these challenges is by incorporating real life scenarios in the classroom. A teacher might bring in a fruit basket and go through each piece one by one, or items from a drugstore and help students distinguish between adult cough medicine and children’s. It’s an amazing experience to be in a beginning level English class with adults, to be reminded of how much we take for granted; even more amazing to see their improvement from the beginning of the session to twelve weeks later. The joy of helping adults get these basic skills is immensely rewarding. To witness their increase in confidence and enthusiasm is a pleasure, especially knowing that this is a first step toward empowerment and integration into the community. 

When did you first get involved with NSC, and why?

After the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act came out, there was a lot of information circling about how the legislation will affect adult education and immigrant integration services. The Migration Policy Institute hosted a webinar to address these questions, and I listened to the presentation by NSC Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock. Listening to her presentation, I was thrilled to learn about National Skills Coalition, a policy organization that really understands the population we serve. Amanda discussed how WIOA does not target the people who need the most help, the low-level English speakers. She highlighted NSC’s Missing in Action report, which outlines the gaps and opportunities for immigrants in federal policy initiatives such as the DREAM act and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). I knew right away that I wanted to get engaged with NSC. I got in touch with Amanda and met her in person at the NSC office, and I’ve been tracking NSC’s work ever since.

The work NSC does to promote adult literacy education and particularly the struggles of the low-level English language learners is fabulous. No one is paying attention to this population and they need a voice in this new legislation. The policymakers need to recognize that this segment of workers can create significant economic growth if we promote their education and give them opportunities to succeed. There has to be an on-ramp for the English language learners. The current system and policies does not include English language skills training, so I am thrilled that NSC recognizes this void.

How does your connection to NSC help to inform your work?

National Skills Coalition is helping to drive change at a higher level for the people that I work with at the grass-roots level, and puts the statistics and research behind what the Literacy Council experiences anecdotally. When we write proposals for funding, we can present the facts, research, and statistics because NSC has helped us frame the need on a broader scale. We see the realities and life challenges of the adults struggling to learn English from working directly with them in the classroom. It is through the combination of NSC’s research and LCNV’s real-life experiences that we can make a stronger policy statement to support adult education.


Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, Virginia

NSC highlights skills policies adopted in states’ 2015 legislative sessions

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
NSC highlights skills policies adopted in states’ 2015 legislative sessions

In 2015, numerous states enacted legislation to address the needs of workers and employers and close the middle-skill gap. As highlighted in NSC’s 2015 state legislative round-up, states increased access to career pathways and set policies to support job-driven training.  They also took steps to implement the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which became effective on July 1, 2015.

To hear more about the actions governors and state legislatures took in 2015 to close the skills gap, register for our 2015 State Policy Legislative Round-Up, hosted on July 28 at 2pm ET.

Career Pathways 

At least nine states enacted legislation to support career pathways policies. Career pathways combine education, training, career counseling and support services that align with industry skill needs so participants can earn secondary school diplomas or their equivalent, postsecondary credentials, and get middle-skill jobs. In 2015, Colorado and Minnesota adopted legislation that will increase investments in career pathway strategies in their states.

 Career pathways include adult basic education, typically offered concurrently with and in the same context as general workforce preparation and training for an occupation. In 2015, Arkansas, California, Georgia, and Ohio increased investments in adult basic education.

Tuition assistance is also critical to ensuring that career pathways lead to postsecondary credentials, particularly for part-time, working students. In 2015, Indiana, Nebraska, and Oregon all passed legislation that expands tuition assistance.

Job-Driven Training 

Job-driven training prepares workers for jobs available in the economy. In 2015, a handful of states passed legislation to advance job-driven training.

California, Colorado, and Washington enacted legislation to expand work-based learning in their states by making investments in apprenticeship programs, paid internships in key industries, and apprenticeship preparation and supportive services respectively.

Hawaii and Oklahoma both passed legislation establishing bodies to advise the state on healthcare workforce policy.

Arkansas and Maine passed legislation to support employer-driven training programs developed through partnerships between employers and educational institutions.

WIOA Implementation

In 2015, Arkansas and Louisiana were among states that enacted WIOA implementation legislation specifying the type of workforce plan the state should submit to the federal government under the new federal law. 

In 2015, California, Florida, and Virginia all enacted legislation that emphasizes skills strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways, as part of WIOA implementation.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Career Pathways, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Maine, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia