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New Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Regulations fall short of standards to which we hold Registered Apprenticeship, but could still be valuable workforce programs

On March 10th, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released final regulations on the roles and responsibilities of newly created Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) as an effort to implement a new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship system. Under the rule, SREs are nongovernmental entities who will have oversight role for ensuring Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) meet quality standards defined within the regulatory language. SREs will stand in a role similar to that DOL and State Apprenticeship Agencies (SAAs) play in the registered system, and IRAPs are intended to operate parallel to registered apprenticeships – sharing the goal of helping workers access industry-recognized credentials while learning on the job and meeting industry demand for skills, but removing DOL from the role of validating individual program components and practices.

The regulations define IRAPs as “high-quality apprenticeship programs, wherein an individual obtains workplace-relevant knowledge and progressively advancing skills, that include a paid-work component and an educational or instructional component and that result in an industry-recognized credential” and additional analysis, below, details the rule’s distinctions between IRAPs and registered programs.

When evaluated as on-the-job learning programs, IRAPs stand to offer opportunity to workers to access industry driven credentials while earning a wage and to support business engagement for training workers. When evaluated next to the standards to which DOL holds registered programs, however, IRAPs are provided significant flexibility in program structure, wage progression, oversight and interaction with the public workforce system that seem counterproductive to protecting workers or meeting industry demand.

What is in the final rule

The final rule includes regulations on the process for becoming an SRE, the oversight and support role of SREs to the programs they recognize, required structure of IRAPs and incorporates several recommendations made by National Skills Coalition and our national partners. It also, however, fails to require several hallmarks of the registered program – including wage increases commensurate with skills gains, alignment with other state oversight of nondegree credentials, and robust equal employment opportunity provisions.

Registered apprenticeship – and now the newly created Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs – are governed by the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA), a six-paragraph piece of legislation that has been subject to only minimal Congressional updates over the past eighty years. Instead of through Congressional reauthorization, much of the policy and practice of apprenticeship in the U.S. is regulated through agency rulemaking.

The final rule updates those regulations, splitting them into subpart A (substantively the same as current regulations covering registered apprenticeship programs) and subpart B (creating and governing Standards Recognition Entities who will have oversight of Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs).

In creating SREs, the Department’s stated goal was to provide “additional flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model into new industries and to address the diverse workforce needs of different industries and occupations.” This goal serves as the foundation of key differences between IRAPs and registered programs, including an exclusion in the final rule prohibiting SREs from recognizing IRAPs in the construction industry.

This carve out was absent in the draft regulations released last year, and the subject of a massive campaign by the building trades unions in responding to those draft regulations. According to proponents of the construction industry exclusion, and the Department in their justification of excluding construction in the final IRAP rule, the fact that the majority of U.S. apprenticeships are in the construction industry is evidence the model is effective for the industry and that expanding IRAPs to construction is not necessary to meet the goal of expanding apprenticeships in the U.S.

The regulations included a severability clause, allowing the remainder of the final rule to be implemented even if the exclusion of the construction industry is subject to legal action that would delay it being implemented.

Establishing Standards Recognition Entities (SRE)

The regulations detail who is eligible to become an SRE, including business associations, local agencies, educational institutions, community-based organizations, unions, labor management partnerships or a consortium of those entities. To qualify, entities must show expertise in an industry necessary to evaluate training, structure and curricula of programs and capacity to assess program quality, defined as ensuring programs meet the definition of industry recognized programs offered below. SREs would be recognized for five years. 

This section of the final regs contains few significant changes from the proposed rule, but the department adds additional language around removing conflicts of interest between SREs and the IRAPs they recognize and a new requirement that SREs ensure IRAPs maintain an apprenticeship agreement with each apprentice in its program.

Between the release of the final rule and its implementation on May 11th, DOL anticipates conducting technical assistance with entities who are interested in applying to be an SRE to prepare them to apply for recognition.

SRE oversight of IRAPs

SREs are tasked with ensuring IRAPs under their recognition train apprentices for jobs that require specialized knowledge, language that is similar to, but not quite as restrictive as the language governing registered programs. SREs must also ensure programs have a written apprenticeship plan, that apprentices receive credit for prior knowledge, if relevant, and lead to industry-recognized credentials. SREs also must ensure programs provide workers safe work environments, access to mentoring, adherence to EEO laws.

Integration of NSC comments into the final rule

The final regulations offer several updates to a draft version of the rule released last summer, including accepting and acknowledging many of the comments NSC submitted both individually and with a group of other national organizations. These updates include:

  • Improved transparency of the credentials apprentices will earn in programs and the process for earning them. The final rule requires IRAPs to have training plans and apprenticeship agreements with each participant. This responds to NSC’s recommendations that programs need to offer transparency to workers and businesses on industry credentials workers will earn and how they will do so. This transparency is critical to workers being informed about the impact of their programs and to ensuring programs meet industry demand. This transparency is a step towards ensuring businesses utilizing IRAPs have clarity and understanding about the programs run for and by them and will level the playing field for competitors in a local area. Transparency is also critical for workers’ ability to align their own career and education goals within opportunities of training programs.

 

  • Improved reporting and performance measures for programs, including the requirement that SREs both report on attainment of industry-recognized credentials and apprentices’ average earnings and make this information publicly available. This change responds to NSC comments urging DOL to publicly share a list of all SREs and to include the information on program employment outcomes at 2nd and 4th quarter after program completion, attainment of industry-recognized credentials, and post-program wages. This publicly available information helps map credential attainment and measure outcomes of IRAPs comparatively to how we measure other workforce programs. NSC urged the department to disaggregate the data collected on each of these measures, but the narrative and regulations do not address this comment. At the same time, the final rule does not establish a system for reporting and publicizing this data. NSC encourages DOL to release guidance on how SREs will be required to make this data regularly and publicly available to businesses and workers.

 

Even with these changes, however, when compared to the quality standards and processes required of registered apprenticeship programs, the final rule creates seemingly unnecessary distinctions between the two types of apprenticeship. Some of these challenges include:

  • IRAPs are not required to provide workers with guaranteed wage increases commensurate with skills gains, a hallmark of the registered apprenticeship system and a key retention tool for businesses running programs. NSC submitted comments that urged DOL to update the definition of IRAPs to include clearly defined wage structures with increase commensurate with skills gains or credential attainment. NSC urges DOL to issue guidance and provide SREs with technical assistance on best practices for providing apprentices with wage increases commensurate with skills gains or credential attainment, including the business justification for doing so.

 

  • The final rules do not adequately map out the role of states in administering workforce programs within their borders. Unlike most other training or education programming – like that run with federal WIOA, Higher Education Act or Career and Technical Education funding – the final rule does not include a required role for the state in oversight or approval of programs. Several of NSC’s state agency partners highlighted a concern that without an explicit role for the state, programs stood to be disjointed from each other and disconnected from the larger state plan and priorities for addressing worker and business skill needs. NSC urges the department to issue guidance, prior to the implementation of the final rules, that provide state agencies, including but not limited to State Apprenticeship Agencies, with information on how to best support high quality programs in their state.

 

  • The regulations would not apply the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) protections applied to registered programs to IRAPs. The rule also does not require SREs to disaggregate data on participation and completion rates to evaluate how well programs serve women, people of color and people with disabilities, along with other workers underrepresented in apprenticeship programs. The final rule, like the draft rule, seems to conflate state and federal EEO laws with the standard of outreach and retention efforts required of registered apprenticeship programs. Under the regulations governing registered programs, those with more than 5 apprentices are required to do analysis of workers available in their local area and evaluate the demographic composition of their program against available workers. Programs that are not representative of their local area are then tasked with targeted outreach and retention efforts to expand the pool of workers who have access to – and success in – registered programs. These outreach and retention efforts are separate from EEO laws that govern harassment on the job, and are intended – in addition to protecting the welfare of apprentices – to ensure businesses have access to the broadest pipeline of potential workers. Given the overwhelming mismatch between skills workers can access and those businesses need, it seems inefficient and contrary to supporting business expansion of apprenticeship to not require those running IRAPs to adhere to these established best practices. The regulations governing EEO in registered programs were last updated in 2015 and are still being fully implemented. NSC strongly encourages DOL to issue guidance connecting SREs to those processes as applied to registered programs.

 

Congressional Context for the Final Rule

This final rule comes in the context of increasingly partisan conversations about how to modernize apprenticeship in the U.S., based on bipartisan support for the strategy but differing plans for how to expand it. Democrats on the Hill are, largely, defenders of the registered process – and associated modernization that system would require to address workforce needs in the 21st century – while Republicans have increasingly dedicated attention to the capacity of this new IRAP model to scale apprenticeship. At the same time, there are several bipartisan efforts among members of Congress to expand both registered apprenticeship and work-based learning programs and Congress has increased appropriations over the past 5 years to support registered apprenticeship.

While the issue is not completely polarized, these final regulations and any appropriations to support their implementation is likely a nonstarter with Congressional Democrats. House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce and Higher Education Chair, Susan Davis (D-CA), released a discussion draft of a bill to expand registered apprenticeship earlier in March, the product of bipartisan negotiations. Republicans have since stepped away from negotiations on the bill, however, in part because it did not include provisions on Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs. Without bipartisan agreement in the House, the bill is unlikely to see progress in the Senate both because of similar resistance from Republicans to excluding IRAPs and because the HELP Committee has made Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization a priority. With an already shortened Congressional calendar in an election year and HELP Committee Chairman Alexander (R-TN) poised to retire at the end of 2020, the committee’s bandwidth will likely focus first on HEA, leaving insufficient time to negotiate a bipartisan apprenticeship expansion.

Posted In: Work Based Learning
Analysis: What the House Democrats' draft bill to modernize apprenticeship means for workers and businesses

On March 3rd, Chair of the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment, Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) released a discussion draft of a bill to reauthorize the National Apprenticeship Act (NAA), which would authorize significant new funding to expand apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship in the United States. The NAA has never been substantively updated, since being enacted more than eighty years ago. The U.S. also has drastically lower rates of apprenticeship utilization compared to international peers, although there has been important progress towards expanding apprenticeship in recent years.

Congress has also steadily increased appropriations for apprenticeship over the past five years – evidence of bipartisan interest in the workforce strategy. This discussion draft is an important first step towards both modernizing apprenticeship and providing Congress the opportunity to put scaffolding around how the Department of Labor spends the increasing appropriations.  

Even though the discussion draft isn’t bipartisan, it represents discussions between Education and Labor committee Democrats and Republicans. It also includes elements of several bipartisan bills, including those with strong support from National Skills Coalition.

The bill, for example, supports local partnerships between businesses, education and training providers, human service organizations, and labor and labor management partnerships, consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act, introduced by Representatives Bonamici (D-OR), Ferguson (R-GA), Davis (D-CA) and Guthrie (R-KY). These partnerships are critical to expanding apprenticeship and bringing together entities with the knowledge, experience and ability to best serve workers and businesses, and leverage new and existing public investments in apprenticeship. Recent national polling shows that 92 percent of voters and 77 percent of businesses support bringing together industry and local practitioners to train local residents for in-demand jobs.

The bill also prioritizes access to pre-apprenticeship, support services, and post-employment supports consistent with the bipartisan BUILDS Act, introduced by Representatives Mitchell (R-MI), Bonamici (D-OR), Thompson (R-PA) and Langevin (D-RI). More than 80 percent of voters support increasing government funding for support services to help people finish skills training programs and 64 percent of businesses say this will help their businesses.

Finally, the bill is consistent with many of the priorities set forward by the Apprentices Forward Collaborative – a network of national organizations, including NSC, committed to expanding apprenticeship –  in our Definition and Principles for Expanding Quality Apprenticeship in the U.S.  These principles were developed in partnership with fourteen other national organizations.

Bill details

As currently drafted, the NAA provides significant deference to the Secretary of Labor to promulgate rules necessary to support the expansion of apprenticeship programs. The current National Apprenticeship Act is about a six-paragraph instruction for the Secretary of Labor to promote and further standards of apprenticeship. Given this brevity, most of the governance of apprenticeship comes through state apprenticeship agencies (found in half of the states) and the Department of Labor’s regulatory language.

The discussion draft would codify both existing regulations and practical components of how apprenticeship has evolved over the past eighty years. It would also authorize funding to support the administration and expansion of apprenticeship – up to $400 million in Fiscal Year 2021 and $800 million by FY2025  for grants and contracts to partnerships between workforce and education stakeholders. 

Program administration

The bill includes language from the regulations currently governing registered apprenticeship, including components of defining which occupations are appropriate to be registered, the role of the Federal sub-agency in the Employment and Training Administration with jurisdiction over apprenticeship, the Office of Apprenticeship, and state level State Apprenticeship Agencies to both administer and oversee registered apprenticeship programs.

Title I of the discussion draft includes authorized appropriations of $75 million to states to run state apprenticeship agencies and $50 million to the Office of Apprenticeship for federal oversight and technical assistance.

States would be required to use 10 percent of allocated funding to support alignment with both the public workforce system and education system.

Apprenticeship for the 21st Century Grants

Title II of the bill would direct the Administrator of the Office of Apprenticeship to award grants, contracts or agreements to support at least one of four main goals:  

  1. Creating or expanding apprenticeship in new industries, existing apprenticeship programs, pre-apprenticeship, and youth apprenticeship;
  2. Engaging employers in apprenticeship, specifically small and mid-size employers,
  3. Support industry intermediaries; and
  4. Align the apprenticeship system with secondary and postsecondary education.


Applicants for each would be partnerships between state or local workforce boards, education and training providers, a state apprenticeship agency, an Indian Tripe or organization, and industry or sector partnership, a Governor, labor organization associated with the occupation of the program, or a qualified intermediary.

Recipients of grant funds would be required to support outreach, recruitment, and retention strategies for program participants, including supportive services and direct financial support. Recipients will also be required to engage with industry partners and other workforce stakeholders – including workforce boards – to establish industry or sector partnerships.

There are also a broad set of allowable activities under the grants through which recipients could use funding for other services to ensure workers can not only access apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship and youth apprenticeship programs but also succeed in those programs.

 Next steps

The Democrats’ discussion draft will be the subject of a bipartisan hearing in the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee on Wednesday March 4th. If committee members are able to negotiate across the aisle to a bipartisan bill before formal introduction, there may be a small window of opportunity – as members continue to approach the 2020 elections and significant time out of DC over the next few months – for bicameral  conversations about progress on an apprenticeship bill. 

Given the compressed Congressional timeline because of the elections, and competing priorities, like reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, within the committees of jurisdiction, the bill faces an unlikely, but possible, path forward this Congress.

At the same time, the Trump administration is expected to release their final rule implementing a new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship system, which is intended to stand alongside registered apprenticeship programs. The Industry-recognized system would reduce the oversight role of the Department of Labor, instead creating a system of Standard Recognizing Entities (SREs) who would recognize programs. DOL would then have oversight of these SREs.

The discussion draft does not include any reference to industry-recognized programs, but the timing of the draft and impending final rule means Republicans in the House or Senate may not be willing to negotiate any apprenticeship modernization prior to release – and potentially implementation – of a final rule from the administration.

National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with our partners across the country to inform and move forward legislation that supports local workforce and education stakeholder efforts to help workers access in-demand skills and meet industry needs of the 21st century.

Posted In: Work Based Learning
Representatives Horsford and Guthrie introduce bipartisan SKILL UP Act to empower businesses to invest in workers who need it the most

On February 13th, Representatives Stephen Horsford (D-NV) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced the bipartisan SKILL UP Act to empower businesses to invest in workers who need it the most.

Millions of jobs remain open because workers don’t have an opportunity to develop necessary skills, but tax policy isn’t currently structured to stimulate businesses to invest in workers who need it the most — including veterans, out-of-school youth, and the long-term unemployed.

Today’s introduction of the SKILL UP Act would help modernize tax policy by amending the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). As currently structured, WOTC provides businesses with a credit for hiring workers from target populations. SKILL UP Act would update WOTC to better support private investment in upskilling workers in several ways:

  • Provide businesses who hire WOTC eligible hires – and provide them with eligible work-based learning opportunities – up to the maximum credit amount of $9,600 per worker.
  • Allow businesses – including small and mid-size companies and nonprofit employers like those in health care – to apply the credit to their payroll taxes.
  • Expand allowable time for worker certification under the training provision in WOTC to ensure workers have supports to be successful in work-based learning opportunities.


Businesses and workers support these incentives to help upskill workers across
industries. Seventy-four percent of business leaders say their businesses would benefit from targeted tax incentives for investments in skills training for these workers. Ninety percent of likely voters support this kind of incentive to help prepare workers for jobs of the 21st century.  

In December of 2019, Congress passed a one-year extender on WOTC, meaning the provision will be up for negotiations at the end of 2020. Workforce and work-based learning issues continue to be areas of bipartisan interest and priority for members of Congress and National Skills Coalition applauds the Representatives' leadership in the introduction of SKILL UP.

NSC looks forward to working with Representatives Horsford and Guthrie to advance SKILL UP Act and make it easier for businesses to invest in workers’ skills.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Skills training helps veterans find stable careers

  ·   By The Voices for Skills Team
Skills training helps veterans find stable careers

Every year, 200,000 service members transition to civilian careers, yet 41% of veterans say they didn’t feel well prepared to enter the job market after returning from active duty.

Skills training, however, can help veterans find good paying jobs in growing industries like manufacturing, IT, and healthcare. Our new nationwide poll shows that veterans are almost unanimous in their belief that skills training would benefit them (92%) and that expanding skills training would benefit vets (64%) more than workers generally (52%).

Skills training and work-based learning programs are already changing the lives of vets across the country. After 14 years on active duty, U.S. Army veteran Arthur “Patt” Patterson enrolled in an apprenticeship program offered by Minneapolis-based company Ajax Metal Forming Solutions. In just under six years, Patt went from filling boxes to supervising a team of machining experts.

95% of veterans strongly support increased investment in skills training, and 86% believe that we should invest in skills and technical training at the same level we invest in college. As we take time to honor our nation's military, let us also reflect on what we can do to better support veterans returning to the civilian workforce.

You can become a #VoiceForSkills today at voicesforskills.org.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Career and Technical Education

The CEA Training Report: Very Wide of the Mark

  ·   By Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, LaFarge SJ Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown and former NSC board member Harry J Holzer
The CEA Training Report: Very Wide of the Mark

By: Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution, LaFarge SJ Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown and former NSC board member Harry J Holzer

Georgetown University, August, 13 2019-- The White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has issued a report that claims to assess the available evidence on government employment and training programs, and to offer policy implications based on this assessment.[1]

But the document is highly flawed. It clearly misrepresents basic facts about federal job training programs in the US, and it misinterprets research evidence; it appears more driven by ideological and political agendas rather than what is best for US workers. In short, it is very wide of the mark as an evaluation of federal training in the US.

For instance, on the fundamental question of how much the US spends on workforce development: Figure 2 of the CEA report implies that federal spending on workforce development has been rising over time. But it does so without adjusting for inflation – an astounding feature in a report written by economists. In the text, it acknowledges “real (i.e., inflation-adjusted) spending in 2018 is nearly unchanged from the 2014 levels;” but it fails to note dramatic declines in such funding over the past four decades (by almost two-thirds), while the US labor force has roughly grown in size by half.[2] It quietly acknowledges that the nearly $19B of federal funding for such programs, constituting less than one-tenth of one percent of US GDP, is a paltry sum in comparison to spending in most European Union countries on “active labor market policy” (which often falls in the range of .5 to 1 percent of GDP, above the numbers it cites), while not acknowledging how low such spending is for an American economy with 160 million workers.[3]

When reviewing evaluation evidence, the report cites a range of studies using widely respected methodologies that show more or less positive results for programs funded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its earlier incarnations, with many (including mine) showing positive impacts.[4] Yet the CEA concludes that “Government job training programs (with the exception of apprenticeships) appear to be largely ineffective” (p. 23), in a leap of logic that clearly runs counter to the much more mixed evidence the report provides.

When discussing the most important recent study with negative findings on training – by Fortson et al. in 2017 – the CEA report fails to highlight the evidence that intensive workforce services have positive impacts on worker earnings (of 7-20 percent, depending on the source). These results strongly imply that such services are cost-effective – while federal funding for them remains extremely modest.[5]

And, when discussing the lack of positive training impacts in the Fortson study, the CEA report omits important caveats highlighted in the study itself – like the fact that relatively few workers in the “treatment” group actually received training while many in the “control” group received it with funding from other sources – that render the lack of estimated training impacts very hard to interpret and “inconclusive,” as indicated by the authors. The CEA also ignores other well-known and rigorous studies showing impressive training impacts for adult or dislocated workers.[6]

But the most egregious aspect of the CEA report is that it completely fails to acknowledge a growing evaluation literature on highly effective “sector-based” or “career pathway” programs that show large and lasting impacts on disadvantaged worker earnings. These mostly local (though now spreading) programs – like Per Scholas, Project QUEST, the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, the Jewish Vocational Services-Boston, and Year Up – have generated large, statistically significant earnings impacts in several randomized controlled evaluation studies.[7] It’s worth noting that these programs all make substantial investments in the skills of their participants, and work closely with employers to ensure those skills are relevant in the labor market. These results offer a strong counterpoint to the somewhat disappointing results for training in the WIOA study. Though they are not explicitly “government” programs, they have received financial support from a range of state and federal (as well as private) sources.[8]    

Given the very clear successes of these programs, a sensible policy discussion would focus on how to replicate and scale the best sector-based efforts at community colleges or other training providers with available or new federal and state funding. Instead, the CEA completely ignores this strong body of evidence on programs that work, while presenting misleading facts on federal job training funding over time and a skewed portrait of evidence on its impacts. Furthermore, the CEA report makes no evidence-informed recommendations for future policy directions in workforce development.

This report should not be taken seriously as the basis for any discussion of federal funding for workforce policy in the future.



[1] Government Employment and Training Programs: Assessing the Evidence on their Performance. The Council of Economic Advisers, Executive Office of the President, June 2019.

[2]CETA Training Programs – Do They Work for Adults? Congressional Budget Office, 1982.

[3] Such policies include training, job placement assistance, and subsidized work experience. See Chad Brown and Caroline Freund. Active Labor Market Policies: Lessons for the US. Peterson Institute for International Economics, 2019.

[4] Frederik Andersson et al. “Does Federally-Funded Job Training Work? Nonexperimental Estimates of WIA Training Impacts Using Longitudinal Data on Workers and Firms.” NBER Working Paper, 2013; and Carolyn Heinrich et al. “New Estimates of Public Employment and Training Program Net Impacts: A Nonexperimental Evaluation of the Workforce Investment Act Program.” IZA Discussion Paper, 2009. Across studies, the estimates of training impacts on earnings per quarter are in the range of $320–$887 per quarter for participants, which indicates fairly strong agreement given the varying study samples and methodologies Estimated effects of training on the probability of employment are also positive and statistically significant across a majority of studies. These estimates of employment increases range from about 5 to 29 percentage points (measured monthly or quarterly), with some differences observed between women and men, and by specific training type and time following program entry. 

[5] See Kenneth Fortson et al. Providing Public Workforce Services to Job Seekers: 30-Month Impacts Findings on the WIA Adults and Dislocated Worker Programs. Mathematica Policy Research, 2017. As the CEA notes, “Wagner-Peyser” funding for such services at over 3000 job centers across the US is under $.7B now and has changed little in recent years despite their clear cost-effectiveness. Providing intensive services increased earnings over the follow-up period by $3,300 to $7,100 (7 to 20 percent) per customer depending on the data source. The benefit-cost analyses demonstrate that providing intensive services is cost-effective from the perspectives of customers, taxpayers, and society as a whole (Fortson et al., 2017).

[6] For instance, see Louis Jacobson et al. “The Impact of Community College Retraining on Older Workers: Can We Teach Old Dogs New Tricks? Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2005.

[7] See Anne Roder and Mark Elliott, Nine-Year Gains: Quest’s Ongoing Impact, Economic Mobility Corporation, 2018; David Fein and Jill Hamadyck, Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year-Up Program, US Department of HHS, 2018; and Sheila Maguire et al. Tuning Into Local Labor Markets, PPV, 2010. To take one example, The Year Up experimental evaluation found that young adults in the treatment group saw a 53% increase in initial earnings, which remained strong over time, with 40% earnings gains two years out.

[8] Public funding sources for these programs have included WIOA (and its predecessor), federal Social Innovation Funds, and state funding for community colleges.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, SNAP Employment and Training

Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

  ·   By Katie Brown
Update: JOBS Act momentum continues with House introduction

Today, Representatives Cedric Richmond (D-LA-02), Andy Levin (D-MI-09), Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA-03), and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced H.R. 3497, the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act, in the House. This bipartisan legislation is identical to S.839, the Senate version of the JOBS Act, introduced by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) earlier this year. House introduction of this bill underlines the mounting support for extending federal financial aid to short-term education and training programs of high-quality—a policy change that 86% of voters are in favor of. National Skills Coalition applauds the efforts of House and Senate sponsors of this bill and looks forward to working with policymakers on both sides of the aisle to ensure its inclusion in a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization bill.

More on the JOBS Act, from our blog post recognizing the Senate introduction back in March:

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Federal Funding

Congress introduces bipartisan BUILDS Act to support an infrastructure workforce

  ·   By Katie Spiker
Congress introduces bipartisan BUILDS Act to support an infrastructure workforce

New legislation introduced this week by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI 10), Bonamici (D-OR 1), Thompson (R-PA 15), and Langevin (D-RI 2), the Building U.S. Infrastructure By leveraging Demand for Skills Act — or BUILDS Act — takes an important first step towards investing in skills and supports workers need to meet business demand in infrastructure industries. The BUILDS Act would provide grants to help train workers and support services — like childcare, pre-employment training, transportation, and career counseling — to help workers succeed in work-based learning programs.

There is no better time than Infrastructure Week to highlight the critical updates to our nation’s infrastructure that are needed to ensure public safety. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D+ grade, and we have more than 56,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient; an estimated 188 million trips are taken across these structurally deficient bridges each day.

There is growing bipartisan support for an infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked out of a recent White House meeting with an apparent agreement with President Trump to do something “big and bold” on infrastructure – to the tune of $2 trillion.

Businesses in infrastructure are already facing intense labor shortages. A report from the Departments of Education and Labor project 68 percent more job openings in infrastructure over the next five years than students training to fill them. According to the report, we’ll need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022 just to keep pace with hiring needs — a number that doesn’t even factor the millions of new jobs a potential $2 trillion infrastructure investment would create.

Investing in local partnerships between businesses, human services providers, and workforce and education systems will allow us to expand work-based learning programs so that workers have the skills to fill these new infrastructure jobs.

The BUILDS Act would support implementation grants of up to $2.5 million over three years – and renewal grants of up to $1.5 million - to partnerships comprised of multiple employers in a target industry, education or training providers, labor organizations, local workforce boards, and other stakeholders where appropriate. Partnerships would be required to carry out business engagement activities that support the development of short- and long-term talent pipelines, including:

  • Assistance in navigating the registration process for registered apprenticeship;
  • Connecting businesses and education providers for development of classroom curriculum to complement on-the-job learning;
  • Serving as employers of record for participants in work-based learning programs for a transitional period;
  • Training managers and front-line workers to serve as mentors to work-based learning participants; and
  • Helping businesses recruit individuals for work-based learning, particularly individuals being served in the workforce system or by other human service agencies.


Partnerships would also provide support services to ensure participant success in work based learning. These services would be divided between three stages:

  • Pre-employment: prior to a work-based learning participant entering employment, the members of the partnership would provide support and training necessary to ensure the worker was prepared to enter a work-based learning or apprenticeship program. At this stage, the partnership may provide skills training, work attire and tools necessary for the work site, wrap around services such as childcare and transportation and job placement assistance;
  • Early employment: During the first six months of the participant’s connection to the employer, the partnership would provide continued support to ease the transition for both the worker and the business. For example, a partnership could serve as an employer of record for a transitional period and provide subsidized wages from grant funds, as well as provide continuing case management and support services, mentoring, and training necessary to ensure the participant’s continued connection to the program; and
  • Continuing employment: after the participant is on-boarded to the company, the grant recipient would provide at least 6 months of continuing support necessary to ensure participants are able to succeed in work-based learning programs.

 

Polling this year found 64 percent of small and mid-sized business owners say increased government funding for support services to help people finish skills training programs will help their business. 81 percent of likely 2020 voters also agree that we should increase government funding for support services to help people complete skills training programs.

Investing in our nation’s infrastructure is critical. But so is investing in the workers to fill those infrastructure jobs. NSC applauds Senators Kaine and Portman and Representatives Mitchell, Bonamici, Thompson, and Langevin for working together to do both.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure Workforce through Work-Based Learning

  ·   By Katie Spiker
Rebuilding our Nation’s Infrastructure Workforce through Work-Based Learning

It’s National Infrastructure Week! This is an opportunity to not only take stock of the state of infrastructure in our country today, but more importantly, it’s an opportunity to take the necessary steps to train the workforce that will build our future.

Our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of an upgrade. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our infrastructure a D+ grade based on the system’s capacity – or more accurately, lack thereof – condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. We have more than 56,000 bridges across the country that are structurally deficient. ASCE estimates that there are 188 million trips across these structurally deficient bridges each day.

The good news is that there is growing bipartisan support for an infrastructure package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer walked out of a recent White House meeting with an apparent agreement with President Trump to do something “big and bold” on infrastructure – to the tune of $2 trillion.

Investing in infrastructure at this scale would not only strengthen our economic competitiveness and enhance public safety, but it would also create millions of new jobs for those who are looking for work, underemployed, or seeking higher wages.

Taking full advantage of this potential job creation, however, requires investing in our human capital to create a diverse pipeline of workers that are trained with the skills necessary to access and succeed in these infrastructure jobs.

Businesses in infrastructure are already facing intense labor shortages due to impending retirements, lack of diversity in the workforce, and overall skill shortages. According to a report by the Departments of Education and Labor, there are 68 percent more projected job openings in infrastructure over the next five years than there are students training for these jobs.

The report points out that we need to increase our infrastructure workforce by 4.6 million workers by 2022 just to keep pace with current and projected hiring needs – a number that would only get larger given the millions of new jobs that a potential $2 trillion new infrastructure investment would create.

Work-based learning and apprenticeship programs with robust support services – like pre-employment training to develop entry-level skills, childcare and transportation to ensure success during the first few months of employment – are a “win-win” solution to this problem.

For infrastructure companies in desperate need of new workers, these programs immediately place motivated hires on site. For youth and adults in need of skills training, work-based learning offers an on-ramp to a career pathway that includes a paying job from the start, and structured on-the-job learning enables workers to efficiently develop the skills needed to be productive.

Many businesses, particularly small and mid-sized business, lack the resources to develop and implement these training strategies internally. Many of them aren't familiar with external stakeholders, such as community colleges, who provide classroom training that complements on-the-job learning or the community-based organizations who can offer retention supports.

That’s why we need to invest in local partnerships – between businesses, human services providers, and workforce and education systems – to expand work-based learning programs so that workers have the skills to fill these new infrastructure jobs.

Partnerships like this exist in infrastructure industries across the country. Take, Kentucky, for example, where there’s a partnership between Jacobs, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD), and KentuckianaWorks, the local workforce development board. Through their partnership, KentuckianaWorks connects workers to training opportunities to help fill current and future openings with Jacobs and MSD. 

In Iowa, the United Way of Central Iowa runs a workforce partnership that includes several employers in transportation, distribution and logistics, community partners, and the local community college. This partnership not only provides training for incarcerated men and women at two correctional facilities in the area, but it also offers supports like interview clothing, bus passes, and job search advice to help workers succeed in employment after reentry.

What’s needed now is sustainable federal investment to replicate the innovation happening on a small scale now.

The BUILDS Act would provide grants – to help train workers – and support services, like childcare, pre-employment training, transportation, and career counseling, to help workers succeed in work-based learning programs.

Both voters and business leaders agree with the goals of this legislation. 64 percent of small and mid-sized business owners say increased government funding for support services to help people finish skills training programs will help their business. 81 percent of likely 2020 voters also agree that we should increase government funding for support services to help people complete skills training programs.

Investing in our nation’s infrastructure is critical. But so is investing in the workers to fill those infrastructure jobs. Lawmakers should work together to do both.

Posted In: Work Based Learning

Apprentices push for investments in work-based learning on Capitol Hill

  ·   By Jessica Cardott
Apprentices push for investments in work-based learning on Capitol Hill

“People are afraid to go to the doctor,” Jeffrey Bond shared during a meeting at National Skills Coalition earlier this month. “But when you have a community health worker to pick you up at your house and go with you, it’s so comfortable for the client that they begin to trust the health system.”

Jeffrey works at Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive health services organization for people living with HIV/AIDS and those at high risk.  He is one of five apprentices* from across the country that attended an NSC fly-in this April to talk to Congress about how work-based learning programs kickstarted their current careers. Jeffrey’s apprenticeship program involved 150 hours of classroom training at Temple University, coupled with on-the-job training through Philadelphia’s 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund. While training, the labor-management partnership in charge of the training provided stipends for transportation and other necessities to minimize barriers to completion.

The apprentices were invited to DC with their employers and their training providers to offer Congress a full picture of how and why business-led training partnerships work for both industry and workers, and strengthen communities in the process. Jeffrey, now a Re-entry Senior Specialist working with people coming home from prison, explained why his fit with the job for which his apprenticeship prepared him was a success; “I’ve been there, so I knew to have patience with them, talk to them, try to build rapport, build relationships…if you don’t build relationships, you don’t know their mind, you don’t know their mentality, so you really can’t help them.” The apprenticeship was able to translate his existing skill set into a career that supports the health and safety of some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens.  

The small group of partners at the fly-in hailed from a wide-range of geographic areas, as well as industries; representatives from automotive manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and healthcare shared with policymakers on Capitol Hill their experience building quality training programs that get workers the skills businesses need. The range of voices allowed Hill staff to see how work-based learning can create opportunity outside of traditional apprenticeship settings, in different regions, and in pursuit of different ends.

“The apprenticeship program gave me an opportunity to keep succeeding,” Jeffrey said. “I was committed to success and being gainfully employed and right after completing the program, I was employed full-time.” Since his recent graduation from the program, Jeffrey has been promoted twice and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree.

*Advocates were either apprentices or participated in a similar work based learning program.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Business Leaders United

Two National Skills Coalition-backed higher education bills land in the Senate

  ·   By Katie Brown
Two National Skills Coalition-backed higher education bills land in the Senate

Yesterday, we reached a crucial milestone in our effort to modernize the Higher Education Act. Two bills that will work hand-in-hand to make higher education work better for students and employers were introduced in the Senate—the College Transparency Act and the Jumpstarting our Businesses to Support Students (JOBS) Act.

The goal of the College Transparency Act is to provide students with complete information about the success rates of all postsecondary programs—including those that are short-term—while the JOBS Act would expand federal financial aid to those short-term programs that are proven to be high-quality; a move that is supported by 86 percent of Americans. Together, these bills will give students, parents, employers and policymakers peace of mind when it comes to ensuring access and quality of postsecondary programs across all lengths and disciplines.

These bipartisan bills have been met with broad support across multiple stakeholder groups. 10 state higher education systems have signed onto a letter supporting these measures—which are in line with National Skills Community College Compact. Additionally, both bills are supported by several national organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Advance CTE, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Jobs for the Future (JFF), National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), and Young Invincibles.

A recent Business Leaders United poll of small and medium-sized businesses showed that small and medium-sized businesses overwhelmingly support more investment in skills training with 66% supporting making user-friendly data available so that employers can see which post-secondary programs are giving students the skills they need for existing jobs (CTA) and 64% supporting making federal financial aid available to anyone seeking skills training, not just those seeking college degrees (JOBS).

NSC continues to advocate for the inclusion of these complementary bills in any comprehensive Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization put forth by the House and Senate.

JOBS Act

Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable

NSC applauds Senators Kaine and Portman for working to modernize our nation’s higher education system and make it work better for students and employers.

College Transparency Act

Senators Warren (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced the College Transparency Act—a bipartisan bill aimed at helping students, policymakers, educators and employers make informed decisions when it comes to postsecondary education.

Currently, the HEA prohibits the Department of Education from collecting data on all postsecondary students. The Department’s existing College Scorecard only includes students receiving federal aid in the calculation of key metrics, like post-college earnings. This presents an incomplete picture of how well higher education and training programs are serving students.

The College Transparency Act proposes to overturn the outdated prohibition on data collection while putting a number of safeguards in place to protect student privacy. More specifically, the bill:

  • Overturns the ban on student-level data collection in the Higher Education Act;
  • Creates a secure, privacy protected student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) using strong security standards and data governance protocols;
  • Accurately reports on student outcomes including enrollment, completion and post-college success across colleges and programs;
  • Leverages existing data at federal agencies and institutional data by matching a limited set of data to calculate aggregate information to answer questions critical to understanding and improving student success;
  • Protects all students by limiting data disclosures, prohibiting the sale of data, penalizing illegal data use, protecting vulnerable students, prohibiting the use of the data for law enforcement, safeguarding personally identifiable information, and requiring notice to students and regular audits of the system;
  • Streamlines burdensome federal reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions;
  • Provides information disaggregated by race, ethnicity and Pell Grant receipt status to identify inequities in students’ success;
  • Requires a user-friendly website to ensure the data are transparent, informative, and accessible for students, parents, policymakers, and employers; and
  • Feeds aggregate information back to states and institutions so they can develop and implement targeted, data-informed strategies aimed at supporting student success.

The College Transparency Act represents broad consensus among students, colleges and universities, employers, and policymakers that a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student data system is the only way to give students the information they need to make informed college choices.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the sponsors of CTA to advocate for this important legislative change.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning
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