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NSC kicks off Welcoming Week with UnidosUS affiliates

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
NSC kicks off Welcoming Week with UnidosUS affiliates

Hundreds of immigration-related events are being held across the United States during Welcoming Week from September 15-24 (yes, it’s more than a week). Many of the events are focusing on the skills and contributions of immigrant workers.

National Skills Coalition began the week by joining more than 150 workforce advocates at the UnidosUS (formerly NCLR) 2017 Workforce Development Forum, held in Las Vegas. Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock presented two workshops and participated in a Best Practices Café.

NSC’s presentations included:

  • Effective Skills Equity Policies to Support Latino Adult Learners and Workers (view slides). This presentation explored five different state policies that can help Latino youth and adults, including those with barriers to employment, to succeed in middle-skill training and jobs.
  • Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Policies and Latino-Serving Organizations (view slides). This presentation highlighted opportunities for nonprofit community-based organizations to advocate for effective work-based learning policies that can provide access to well-paying jobs for Latino youth and adults.


NSC’s Work-Based Learning Policy 50-State Scan was a popular take-home for attendees. Other publications shared with attendees included NSC’s new 2-page fact sheet on Latinos and work-based policy, and recent fact sheet on Dreamers and Middle-Skill Jobs.

Business Voices Speak Out on Upskilling

At the plenary session that began the UnidosUS Forum, upskilling was a major focus. Three business leaders participated in a panel moderated by Dr. Margaret “Peggy” McLeod, who serves as Deputy Vice President, Education and Workforce Development for UnidosUS.

“With 14,000 restaurants and 850,000 workers, we can have a real impact on the education gap that exists in this country,” explained Lisa Schumacher of McDonald’s. “There are business benefits and an ROI to us in making this investment.” McDonald’s offers a range of educational benefits to workers via its Archways to Opportunity program, including free individual educational advising services, available in English and Spanish.

Schumacher noted that while turnover rates in the fast-food industry are generally high, they were much lower among individuals who participated in upskilling opportunities. A full 89% of employees who had participated in McDonald’s English Under the Arches program were still with the same employer a year later, and 79% were retained for at least three years.

Also participating in the panel was Elly Dickerman of Charter Communications. “We’ve transformed into a 90,000 employee, Fortune 100 company,” she told conference attendees, “ready to invest in talent and upskill our workforce.”

For example, Dickerman said, Charter offers a Broadband Technician Apprenticeship Program for military veterans that currently has 1,000 participants across five states. “It’s a 2-1/2 year program in which apprentices start as a Field Technician 1 and become a Field Technician 5 by the time they graduate,” she explained.

Panelist Linda Rodriguez of JPMorgan Chase described her company’s evolving investments through its New Skills at Work initiative. To date, the initiative has pledged $75 million for career and technical education, and $17 million for Summer Youth Employment (SYE).  “Kids rely on those SYE jobs” for their crucial first workforce opportunity, she explained. “They may not have a neighbor who can offer them that all-important first job.”

Employers Taking The Lead

The business case for upskilling was also a topic in one of the breakout sessions, which focused on the Skills and Opportunity for a New American Workforce program. The program is a partnership among community colleges in three cities – Miami, Houston, and New York – and the grocery store chains of Whole Foods, Publix, and Kroger. It is overseen by the National Immigration Forum and funded by Walmart.

Session participants heard from National Immigration Forum staff as well as representatives of Westchester (NY) Community College and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education. Among the program outcomes shared by presenters: Between 11 percent and 20 percent of participants (depending on the geographic site) have been promoted, and 79 percent are on track to be promoted. More than 90 percent of workers report that they are more confident on the job, and 89 percent say they have improved interactions with customers. Finally, 88 percent of managers report increased store productivity due to employee participation in the program.

A Congressional Voice for Skills

Wrapping up the UnidosUS Workforce Development Forum was a keynote speech by Representative Ruben Kihuen, a Democrat who represents Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District, including part of Las Vegas.

Kihuen began his speech with a nod to the hospitality workers serving Forum attendees, and a little of his own family’s story, including his father’s history as a farmworker and his mother’s work as a cleaner.

Kihuen emphasized the value of Pell Grants and federal work-study programs, saying that he had personally benefitted from both. He praised the role of high-quality career and technical education (CTE) programs in providing on-ramps to good jobs for youth and adults. Finally, he offered a strong endorsement of the DREAM Act, reminding attendees of the bipartisan support it enjoys. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration
New Texas and Arkansas Fact Sheets: Immigrants Can Help Meet Demand for Middle-Skill Workers

Two new fact sheets from National Skills Coalition highlight the important role that immigrant workers play in filling middle-skill jobs in Texas and Arkansas.

While immigration settlement patterns differ substantially between the two states, in both cases, immigrant workers will be vital to helping the states meet their ambitious goals for postsecondary credential attainment and respond to local industries’ talent needs.

To accomplish these goals, states will need to ensure that their talent-development pipelines are inclusive of the many immigrants who are poised to benefit from investments in their skills: More than half of adult immigrants in Arkansas (62 percent) and Texas (63 percent) have not gone beyond high school in their education.

Arkansas: A Quickly Growing Immigrant Population Meets Aging Workforce

Arkansas is one of the nation’s fastest-growing immigrant destinations. The state has seen its foreign-born population quintuple in recent years, rising from just 1 percent of the population in 1990 to 5 percent today.

Immigrants in Arkansas are much more likely to be of working age: Fully 83 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 59 percent of native-born Arkansas residents. The relatively high number of elders in the native-born population also contributes to another notable difference: 68 percent of adult immigrants in Arkansas are in the labor force, compared to 57% of native-born Arkansas adults.

The state has recently established a significant goal for middle-skill credential attainment: By 2025, Arkansas seeks to increase the percentage of state residents with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent. Immigrants are certain to be an important component of the state’s future workforce pipeline.

Learn more in our new fact sheet: Middle-Skill Credentials and Immigrant Workers: Arkansas’ Untapped Assets

Texas: A Big Population Meets an Ambitious Postsecondary Goal

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas – and that is certainly true for immigration.  Texas has long been a magnet for newcomers from abroad, having been one of the “Big Six” destination states (along with California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York) for decades.

Today, Texas is home to more than 4.7 million immigrants, who comprise 1 in 6 state residents. The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board has recently established an aggressive goal for postsecondary attainment. By 2030, the state aims to equip at least 60 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds with a certificate or degree.

In order to reach that goal, Texas will need to invest in skill-building for native-born and immigrant workers alike.

Learn more in our new fact sheet: Middle-Skill Credentials and Immigrant Workers: Texas’ Untapped Assets

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, Arkansas, Texas
President Trump Executive Order Calls for Apprenticeship Expansion, directs federal agencies to propose elimination of “ineffective” workforce training programs

Earlier today, President Trump signed an Executive Order (EO), “Expanding Apprenticeships in America,” and announced a new initiative to expand apprenticeship in the U.S. The proposal would provide industry associations, unions, and other stakeholders the flexibility to develop standards for "industry-recognized apprenticeships" (that would complement the existing registered apprenticeship system).

The EO directs the Secretary of Labor, in cooperation with the Secretaries of Commerce and Education, to consider proposing new regulations to support the expansion of industry-recognized apprenticeships through the use of third-party certifying entities. Among other things, the regulations must reflect an assessment of whether to:

  • determine how qualified third parties may provide recognition to industry-recognized apprenticeship programs
  • establish guidelines or requirements that qualified third parties should or must follow to ensure that apprenticeship programs they recognize meet quality standards
  • whether to retain the current Registered Apprenticeship system for current employers; and
  • Establishing review process for industry-certified apprenticeships, including processes for terminating a program.


The Secretary is required to consider and evaluate public comments prior to issuing the new regulations, which will allow for stakeholders to provide input into any final rule.

The EO also establishes a new Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, which would be chaired by the Secretary of Labor and co-chaired by the Secretaries of Education and Commerce, and would also include representatives from industry, labor, and educational institutions. The task force would be responsible for developing a report to the president detailing:

  • Federal initiatives that can expand apprenticeship;
  • Legislative and administrative reforms necessary to support expansion; and
  • Strategies to create and expand industry-recognized apprenticeships; and
  • Strategies to support private-sector initiatives to promote apprenticeships.

The EO requires the Secretary to use available funding, including funds provided to the Department of Labor under the H-1B visa program, to promote apprenticeship, with a particular focus on expanding participation in apprenticeship for students in accredited secondary and postsecondary institutions, expanding apprenticeship in sectors without sufficient apprenticeship opportunities, and increasing youth participation in apprenticeship. The EO further calls on federal agencies to take steps to promote apprenticeships with targeted populations, including individuals who are currently or formerly incarcerated, disconnected youth, and veterans.

The Trump Administration’s focus on apprenticeship comes on the heels of efforts under President Obama to expand registered apprenticeship programs, including more than $250 million in grants and contracts to states, national intermediaries, and other stakeholders. The EO does not specifically address how the new initiative will be connected to those ongoing investments.

Overall, the president’s proposals with respect to apprenticeship are consistent with National Skills Coalition’s longstanding support for industry-driven partnerships that support work-based learning and other strategies to connect businesses and workers. While there is clearly much still to be decided prior to implementation – including how to ensure that new industry-certified programs meet quality standards and ensuring that workers continue to benefit from wage increases and other protections associated with traditional registered apprenticeship programs – the initiatives outlined in the EO appear to be a good first step toward our goal of getting to five million apprentices. National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the administration and other stakeholders to make sure that this effort leads to the expansion of high quality programs that meet the needs of workers and employer partners.

Evaluating Federal Workforce and Education Programs

While the apprenticeship components of the EO were generally good, there were some troubling provisions relating to other federal workforce programs. The order directs all Federal agencies with jurisdiction over at least one job training program to evaluate the effectiveness of those programs, and proposes elimination of programs deemed to be “ineffective, redundant, or unnecessary.” In light of the president’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget which called for substantial cuts to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins), and other workforce, education, and human services programs, the direction to propose further cuts or eliminations is a step in the wrong direction. These important federal programs fund the country's workforce and CTE system and although they have strong bipartisan support in Congress, they are already underfunded after more than a decade of cuts. This trend has frustrated small and medium-sized businesses who struggle to find skilled workers.

Under WIOA, registered apprenticeship programs are automatically eligible to access training funds provided through a state's eligible training provider list, registered apprenticeship representatives are required to participate in strategic and operational activities of the local and state workforce development boards, and reporting requirements are relaxed for these programs compared to the requirements for other training providers. These changes are intended to better align the workforce system with the apprenticeship system. President Trump’s proposed cuts to the workforce system, however, would impact state and local efforts to build these connections, and would likely undermine the administration’s efforts to increase apprenticeship utilization.

National Skills Coalition opposes any efforts to cut needed workforce and education investments, and we will continue to work with our national, state and local partners to resist further cuts to these vital services. 

Read the a statement from Andy Van Kleunen, CEO of NSC on the Expanding Apprenticeships in America Executive Order here.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Sector Partnerships, Federal Funding, Adult Basic Education, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Work Based Learning
NSC’s Congressional briefing highlights effective adult education and upskilling policies

It was standing-room-only for National Skills Coalition’s recent Congressional briefing on adult education and upskilling. More than 65 Congressional staff and other attendees packed a Senate briefing room to hear from state leaders about effective policy approaches for helping American adults to build skills and advance in the workforce.

NSC Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock kicked off the briefing with an overview of the issues. Amanda explained the crucial role of federal policy in creating “on-ramps” that enable adults with basic skill gaps to access educational opportunities that equip them for middle-skill, family-sustaining jobs.

Choices that Congress makes in the coming months as key legislation is reauthorized will affect how many adults are able to pursue upskilling opportunities and how successful they are able to be, she said. Reauthorization for several major federal investments -- the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Higher Education Act, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – can be strengthened to better support upskilling.

Amanda thanked Senator Jack Reed (RI) for his office’s assistance in arranging the briefing, and for his longtime advocacy as a champion for adult education. NSC is a supporter of Senator Reed’s proposed CTE for All Act, which would foster tighter connections between Perkins Act programs and adult education programs.

Next, Amanda shared highlights from NSC’s recent Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report. The report found that approximately 20 million service-industry workers have limited literacy or numeracy skills. While some companies are investing in upskilling opportunities for their current employees, strong public policies are vital in bringing these isolated examples to scale.

Attendees then heard from three state leaders with robust experience in supporting adult learners and talent development initiatives:

  • Anson Green, State Director, Adult Education and Literacy, at the Texas Workforce Commission
  • Reecie Stagnolia, Vice President for Adult Education at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and incoming Chair of the Executive Committee for the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education
  • Alex Hughes, Vice President for Talent Attraction and Retention at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce


Anson discussed the pioneering work done in Texas to bring a wide variety of education and workforce investments under one roof. He shared an illustration from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that shows the numerous federal programs and investments that are being coordinated and braided together in the state. Anson also explored the important role of workforce data in evaluating performance outcomes and improving services to participants. A particular area of focus is better aligning Perkins Act postsecondary outcomes with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act performance outcomes.

(View NSC’s policy recommendations for Perkins reauthorization.)

Next, Reecie shared his perspective on the needs and opportunities for adult learners in Kentucky, including a 1-page fact sheet on Kentucky adult education. The state has implemented a range of interventions designed to help adults with basic skill gaps to regain their footing and pursue middle-skill credentials. A key issue, he said, is the “benefits cliff” that many participants face when trying to transition from public benefits to employment. Improving public benefits programs to allow individuals to make a more gradual transition could help more people pursue labor-market opportunities.

(View NSC’s policy recommendations for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.)

Finally, Alex explained why the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce sees talent development as an economic development issue. “Ten years ago, the number-one question from businesses considering a relocation to Nashville was about real estate,” she said. “Today, real estate is number four or five – and finding a skilled workforce is number one.”

That is one of the reasons the Chamber has prioritized involvement in education and workforce-related policy advocacy at the state and regional level, she said. Among its areas of focus are supporting Tennessee Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to help 55 percent of state residents attain a postsecondary credential by 2025.

(Learn more about the Nashville Area Chamber’s work in their workforce report, Strengthening the Middle Tennessee Region 2020: Building a Vital Workforce to Sustain Economic Growth and Opportunity, and their broader 2016 Vital Signs report.)

Both Anson and Reecie also delved into the issue of Integrated Education and Training (IET), a proven model for helping adults build basic skills such as reading and math while simultaneously training for a specific industry or occupation. Reecie discussed how his state is incorporating findings from the Accelerating Opportunity Kentucky (AO-KY) initiative into their broader services for adult learners.

Anson shared information about the widespread implementation of the IET model in Texas, and the two policy memos that the state has issued in recent months to help local adult education providers understand their options for implementing IET approaches. Both men emphasized the importance of IET and other contextualized programs that provide wrap-around support services to help adults persist and complete education and training programs.

Later this summer, NSC will be issuing a policy proposal related to career pathways for low-skilled workers under the Higher Education Act. Get a sneak peek at our thinking in the Upskilling section of our Skills for Good Jobs federal policy recommendations, published last November.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas
Maine introduces legislation to support and integrate immigrant workforce

A Republican state senator in Maine has introduced a bill that would create a Cabinet-level Office of New Mainers. The bipartisan legislation is in response to concerns about the state’s aging workforce, and recognition that immigrant workers represent a potential resource for meeting the state’s current and future labor force needs.

According to Census figures, nearly 1 in 5 Mainers is over the age of 65, and the state has the oldest median age in the nation. Just 3.5 percent of the state’s population was born abroad, a number that is far below the national average of 13 percent foreign-born residents.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta). A press release from the senator’s office describes key features of the bill, titled An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers To Strengthen the Workforce (LD 1492). The bill would create an Office of New Mainers headed by a director who would:

  • Coordinate with state agencies and programs to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into Maine’s workforce. Specific agencies mentioned include the state’s departments of Labor; Education; Economic and Community Development; Health and Human Services; and Professional and Financial Regulation.
  • Administer programs, projects and grants to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into the state’s workforce, economy and communities.
  • Develop metrics to evaluate outcomes.
  • Establish a committee to provide input and guide the development and implementation of the comprehensive plan. Committee members would include a wide range of stakeholders, including a representative from the state workforce board; three Chamber of Commerce representatives; a postsecondary education representative; and a person with “extensive experience in providing educational instruction to adult English Language Learners.”


The press release also notes that the bill would establish a Welcome Center Initiative to provide vocational training for foreign-trained workers, match those individuals with employers in areas experiencing a shortage of trained workers and establish three grant programs to provide support to immigrants, communities and adult education programs to achieve the stated goals.

In recognition of the critical role that English language acquisition plays in economic integration, the bill specifies that the Welcome Centers would be housed within existing adult education administrative structures. To ensure that job-training activities are demand-driven, organizations seeking funding under this program must collaborate with local employers to identify skill needs and develop interventions that address those needs.

The bill’s total projected price tag is $2 million. If enacted, Maine would join six other states that have established state-level Offices of New Americans or other initiatives designed to ensure that immigrant residents are incorporated into the labor market and broader society. Those states are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. In 2015, the Pew Immigration and the States Project released a short analysis of such state-level efforts. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Maine
California uses $2.5 million in WIOA discretionary funds to support “Workforce Navigation” for immigrants

More than 1 in 3 Californians was born in another country, and the state’s workforce system is moving to address systems-alignment and coordination issues to improve services to immigrants and English Language Learners.  On May 1, the California Workforce Development Board and the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency announced the award of five grants to local workforce boards to support pilot “Workforce Navigator” programs over the next 18 months.

A major impetus for the project was the state’s recognition of a disconnect between the high number of immigrant and English Language Learner workers in California and the relatively low number being served by the workforce system. In particular, just 3.7 percent of individuals exiting from the state’s WIOA Title I intensive services in Program Year 2014 had limited English skills.

Grant Recipients

Each of the five local boards received a $500,000 grant. The grantees are:

  • Madera County Workforce Investment Corporation
  • Orange County Development Board
  • Pacific Gateway Workforce Investment Network
  • Sacramento Employment and Training Agency
  • San Diego Workforce Partnership, Inc.

Notably, the grantees represent a wide range of geographic, economic, and demographic diversity. Workforce navigators will likely face location-specific opportunities and challenges given settings as diverse as the sprawling Los Angeles metropolitan area (for the Pacific Gateway project), and the substantially less-dense Fresno area (in the Madera County project).

Project Goals

As outlined in the project’s Request for Applications, a primary goal is to improve systems coordination to allow individual jobseekers to more smoothly navigate through adult education, job training, and other workforce services. In particular, grantees are being asked to improve coordination between Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Title I (workforce) and Title II (adult education) services.

Required activities for each grantee include:

  • Leveraging and coordinating a network of wrap-around services (childcare, transportation, etc.) offered through the workforce system and other partners to help individual participants successfully complete workforce programs. 
  • Partnering with nonprofit community-based organizations, particularly in cases when these organizations have established relationships or expertise in serving immigrant communities that local boards do not.
  • Improving alignment with WIOA Title II adult education programs, including co-enrolling participants as appropriate.
  • Establishment of a Workforce Navigator position, designating a specific staff member to help individual immigrant participants navigate the workforce and adult education systems.


Project Funding Source and Key Partners

Key partners in the effort include the California Community College Chancellor’s Office and the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s adult education programs. The state workforce board is also funding third-party technical assistance and evaluation components of the project.

Funds for the project come from the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act through a provision known colloquially as the “governor’s reserve.” Every state is permitted to use up to 15 percent of its WIOA Title I funds for specific statewide projects at the governor’s discretion, provided the activities meet statutory requirements. All individuals participating in WIOA Title I-funded services must be legally authorized to work in the United States. 

More information about the California effort can be found on the project website.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, California
Upcoming webinar will explore WIOA’s role in supporting corrections and re-entry services

Services for people who are currently incarcerated or who have criminal records are an important element of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. An upcoming webinar from National Skills Coalition will explore policy avenues for improving adult education and workforce services for people who are incarcerated or who are returning to their communities after incarceration.

Featured Speakers

  • Sherri Moses, Council of State Governments Justice Center. Sherri will discuss opportunities under WIOA for better serving people with criminal records.
  • Will Heaton, Center for Employment Opportunities. Will will share examples of how two states – Pennsylvania and California – have used WIOA planning processes and funding mechanisms to address the needs of formerly incarcerated individuals.
  • Gillian Gabelmann, Washburn Tech University. Gillian will provide a case study highlighting adult education and workforce-preparation services in a Kansas correctional facility for women, using an Integrated Education and Training (IET) model.


The webinar will be moderated by NSC’s Director of Upskilling Policy, Amanda Bergson-Shilcock. It will be held on May 18, 2017 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Register now to ensure your place.

Background: How Widespread are WIOA-Funded Re-Entry Services?

A 2015 survey by the National Association of Counties (NACo) found that nearly half (47%) of local workforce boards reported that they were providing re-entry services for people returning to the community after incarceration. More specifically, 44% of workforce boards were providing re-entry services to adults, and 30% were providing such services to youth.

Many workforce boards fund re-entry services using WIOA Title I Adult, Dislocated Worker, or Youth dollars. NACo’s report Second Chances, Safer Counties includes several short case studies of how boards are using such funding as well as other federal and state sources. They include:


In addition to WIOA formula funds to the states, additional funding for services to formerly incarcerated people is available through the WIOA Sec. 169 Re-Entry Employment Opportunities (REO) program. REO is administered by the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. The most recent round of REO grants was awarded in June 2016 and totaled $64.5 million.

Background: Understanding the Demand for WIOA Adult Education Services in Corrections

Under WIOA Sec. 225, states may use up to 20% of their WIOA Title II funds to provide adult education programs for individuals who are currently incarcerated. This is an increase from the earlier Workforce Investment Act, which had allowed states to use up to 10% of their funds for corrections education.

The increase reflects a growing understanding of the deep need for adult education programs serving people who are incarcerated. Data from the rigorous international assessment known as the PIAAC show that a substantial percentage of incarcerated individuals in the United States have basic skills gaps.

In particular, a full 30% of incarcerated adults lack a high school diploma. People who are incarcerated are also more likely to have low literacy levels, with 29% scoring below Level 2 on the PIAAC, compared to 19% of those in US households.  Incarcerated individuals are even more likely to have low numeracy scores, with 52% scoring below Level 2 compared to 29% of adults in US households.

Many people in prison have a strong interest in continuing their education: A full 70% of incarcerated individuals who were not currently enrolled in an education program said that they wanted to pursue one.

More information is available in the publication Highlights from the US PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education and Training, published by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2016.

 

Learn more about these important issues in NSC’s May 18 webinar

Posted In: Adult Basic Education
Adult Education Advocacy: Bringing the Practitioner Voice to Policy Conversations

Making sure that policy conversations are informed by the deep expertise of adult educators in the field is a core element of National Skills Coalition’s work. In addition to bringing practitioners into Washington for federal-level conversations, NSC staff also regularly travel around the country to connect with people who are engaging in advocacy in their local communities and states.

This spring, two NSC staff members joined adult educators at two major conferences to talk about emerging opportunities for policy advocacy, new research findings, and resources for practitioners to connect the dots between local programs and the broader adult education and skills policy conversation.

Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh journeyed to Orlando, Florida, for the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) conference. The COABE conference brings together more than 2,000 adult educators from across the United States, including teachers, administrators, researchers, and other stakeholders. Rachel joined a panel of national leaders in adult education to discuss the federal policy and funding landscape for adult education.

Rachel also presented on results of NSC’s recent Foundational Skills in the Service Sector study. Co-presenting along with Rachel were NSC’s research partners at American Institutes of Research: B. Jasmine Park, Emily Pawlowski, and Katherine Landeros.

Among the policy tools that Rachel discussed were NSC’s state policy toolkit on sector partnerships. The toolkit is accompanied by a 50-state scan showing which states have already adopted such policies. 

Meanwhile, NSC Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock traveled to Salt Lake City for the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association conference. The conference brings together adult educators from across nine states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

Amanda led two workshops:

  • Implementing WIOA: Early Examples of How Adult Educators Are Partnering with the Workforce System, Launching IET, and More
  • Immigrant Integration: Practices and Policies that Can Support Adult English Language Learners (ELLs) in their Career Transitions


Amanda also presented a solo plenary session on Standing Up for Adult Education: Strategies for Policy Advocacy. She encouraged educators to use NSC’s resources in their advocacy with business leaders, policymakers, and others. 

Among the resources she highlighted are NSC’s two new 2-page fact sheets, which draw on findings from the Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report. One fact sheet, The Business Case for Upskilling, includes a case study of how one hotel benefitted from partnering to provide Vocational English classes to its housekeeping staff. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education

New Fact Sheet: The Business Case for Investing in Upskilling

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
New Fact Sheet: The Business Case for Investing in Upskilling

Businesses have a powerful stake in the skills of their frontline employees. That’s the message of a new fact sheet, one of two publications being released today by National Skills Coalition.

The Business Case for Upskilling highlights findings from NSC’s recent report on service-sector workers who have limited literacy, numeracy, or digital problem-solving skills. Among the findings emphasized in the fact sheet: A majority (58%) of these workers have been with their employer for at least three years, and 39% have recently pursued additional education and training.

Companies can help workers overcome their skill gaps through a variety of mechanisms, including partnering with training providers to offer classes and providing paid release time for employees to participate in learning activities.

An on-the-ground example of such collaboration is provided in the story of the Hyatt Regency at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which identified employee language skills as a key barrier hampering the hotel’s efforts to become a four-star facility. Through a partnership with labor, workforce, and other stakeholders, the hotel has been able to upgrade worker skills and obtain the coveted four-star rating.

Also being released today is a second fact sheet, which distills key findings from NSC’s report for a general audience. Low Skills are Widespread in the Service Sector, But Investments in Worker Upskilling Can Pay Off also summarizes key employer and policy recommendations.

Both fact sheets accompany NSC’s Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report, released last month. Slides from NSC’s webinar on the report are also available. 

Posted In: Adult Basic Education
New York state funds “community navigators” project for low-income immigrants

A recent Request for Applications (RFA) from the New York State Office for New Americans represents an innovative approach to improving low-income immigrants’ access to career pathways and other workforce and social services for which they are eligible.

The RFA proposes to use just over $1 million in Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to support full-time Community Navigator staff positions at 14 organizations.  Grants of approximately $75,000 are expected to be made to each selected organization. Once awarded, the year-long grants may be renewed for up to two additional years, subject to the availability of funds.  

Per the RFA, the goal of the project is to “maximize the participation of low-income immigrant community members in New York State’s civic and economic life.” The project is not intended to directly provide services. Rather, each community navigator will function as a sort of air-traffic controller, overseeing a corps of volunteers in their local region who will help eligible immigrants to discover and access already-existing services. Navigators will also be responsible for a set of convening and coordinating activities meant to deepen local understanding of immigrant integration, particularly around workforce and economic issues.

Why the project was created

The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) explains the rationale behind this project in the introduction to its RFA:

There is a chronic lack of accessible information about publicly available services and programs in low-income immigrant communities throughout New York State. Low-income New American communities in New York State often lack reliable information regarding workforce development opportunities and other opportunities open to all New Yorkers to fully participate in our State’s civic and economic life. Meanwhile, the complex relationship between immigrants and government has further left newcomers at a deficit for reliable, trusted information.

Taken together, this has left New York State’s new American population ignored for career pathways, vulnerable to financial frauds and at an access deficit for possible ladders of opportunities. Dedicated outreach and community welcoming efforts are needed to help low-income immigrants gain access to the same opportunities available to all others in the State and country. To address this need, the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) is seeking local leadership to coordinate and conduct outreach to low-income immigrant communities, and to create a grassroots community navigators program to help low-income New Americans.

Who is eligible to apply

Organizations eligible to apply for these funds include Community Action Agencies and other nonprofits who meet the New York State definition of community-based organization (CBO).

Notably, this statewide initiative is not limited to New York City. Just three of the anticipated 14 grantees will be located in the city. The other 11 grantees will be spread out across the remainder of the state, including two dedicated to the upstate area known as “North Country.”

What activities are required under the project

Each grantee organization will be required to carry out a similar slate of activities. These activities will be led by the full-time staff member (“Community Navigator”) funded under the grant. They include:

  • Establishing and leading a monthly Immigrant Integration Roundtable in their local community
  • Conducting a survey of local immigrants regarding important economic and workforce issues facing immigrants in the region, and producing an accompanying research report
  • Collaborating with nonprofit and other partners to develop and implement 10 employment/workforce development workshops and other events each year
  • Developing and overseeing a program to recruit and train community members to become volunteer Community Navigators assisting low-income immigrants in accessing services and resources for which they are eligible
  • Creating curricula and providing bimonthly trainings for volunteer Community Navigators


Each grantee’s staff member will also be responsible for hosting Community Conversations about immigrant integration, leading quarterly tours to help local stakeholders learn more about immigrant integration issues, and coordinating the dissemination of relevant announcements to ethnic media outlets.

How success will be measured

Grant applicants are required to demonstrate that their funded work will address one or more of the CSBG National Performance Goals and Indicators. Most relevant from a workforce perspective is Goal 1: “Low-income people become more self-sufficient.”

Indicators collected for this goal include individuals who obtained or maintained a job; obtained wage or benefit increase; achieved “living wage” employment; obtained skills/competencies required for employment; completed Adult Basic Education or High School Equivalency and received a certificate or diploma; or completed a postsecondary education program and obtained certificate or diploma.

The broader context for this project

New York is one of a handful of states in recent years that have created Offices for New Americans. Such offices are intended to improve the integration of immigrant newcomers into the fabric of their communities, and often focus on economic and workforce-related issues.

Among the activities undertaken by the New York State ONA include the funding of 27 ONA Neighborhood-Based Opportunity Centers around the state, and of legal counsels that will provide legal technical assistance to ONA Opportunity Centers. The ONA also supports activities that are specifically workforce-focused, including a program to help immigrants with STEM backgrounds to find skill-appropriate jobs in the U.S.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, New York
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