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Colorado House considers bill to pilot emergency support services fund

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch,
Colorado House considers bill to pilot emergency support services fund

Today, the Colorado House of Representatives will be hearing HB-1310, which would create a pilot program for an emergency support services fund that community-based organizations and public agencies could draw on to serve people in job training programs or who are recently employed. This bill is the culmination of nearly two years of research and outreach across the state conducted by National Skills Coalition’s partners at the Skills2Compete Colorado Coalition.

For some Coloradans, emergency costs associated with child care, transportation, or an unexpected bill get in the way of completing job training. The emergency support services fund proposed in HB-1310 would make sure that these small-dollar financial challenges don’t impede training. It would give people who are in training, looking for work, or recently hired up to $400 a year to help cover costs associated with childcare, transportation, necessary work equipment, and other items. As such, the bill would be an important step in addressing financial barriers that can keep low-income Coloradans who want to train for middle-skill jobs from doing so.

Giving more Coloradans the financial support they need to train for jobs will help grow the skilled workforce. Middle-skill jobs account for 50 percent of Colorado’s labor market, but only 40 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle-skill level. Key industries in Colorado are unable to find enough sufficiently trained workers to fill these jobs. Closing this skill gap will help Colorado’s workers and businesses.

NSC supports HB-1310 since we believe that support services are critical to ensuring that people can complete training programs and find a good job.

For more information, please contact Kristopher Grant at the Colorado Center on Law and Policy at kgrant@cclponline.org

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Colorado

Iowa law expands high school equivalency diploma options for students

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch, Renee Miller, and Dave Stone
Iowa law expands high school equivalency diploma options for students

On April 20, 2017, Iowa’s then-Governor Terry Branstad signed House File 473 into law. This legislation expands pathways to achieving a high school equivalency diploma beyond the traditional assessment tests. In particular, it empowers the state board of education to develop rules for competency-based assessment of individuals’ skills.

The legislation was developed by the High School Equivalency Diploma Task Force (HSED Task Force), which had been assembled by the Iowa Department of Education in 2016 to advance policy in this area and was co-chaired by United Way of Central Iowa. United Way of Central Iowa and several other state partners were involved in this successful legislative effort.

An impetus for the legislation was the recognition that many Iowans lack the skills and credentials that will enable them to meet the state’s demand for middle-skilled workers. By 2025, 68 percent of all jobs in Iowa will require some postsecondary training or education. Despite this, more than 200,000 Iowans over age 18 currently do not have a high school diploma or equivalency.

Prior to the passage of House File 473, the only way for Iowans to achieve high school equivalency was by taking High School Equivalency Test (HiSET) classes and passing the HiSET assessment of five core competency areas. (HiSET is one of three tests used nationally to assess high school equivalency; the others are known as the GED Test and the TASC. Some states allow the use of all three tests, while other states restrict eligibility to only one or two tests.)

The HSED Task Force successfully argued that providing additional competency-based options will expand access to an equivalency diploma for a diverse population of Iowans.

Now that House File 473 has been signed into law, students can gain their high school equivalency through programs like the adult diploma at Iowa community colleges. These programs bundle prior high school coursework with secondary or postsecondary education courses. According to the Iowa Department of Education, 40 percent of Iowans who have dropped out of high school are less than one course away from attaining their high school diploma. This new law creates opportunities for students to receive credit for their prior coursework and focus on the competencies in which they are deficient, all while starting on a pathway to postsecondary training. Such pathways are especially helpful for students who need to enter the workforce as soon as possible, or who are balancing their education with other commitments such as work and supporting a family.

United Way of Central Iowa’s Bridges to Success initiative is working to help 10,000 central Iowans earn their high school equivalency diploma by the year 2020. This partnership with Des Moines Area Community College offers free classes, books, testing, and career coaching to adult students. With the passage of House File 473, Bridges to Success will be expanding in the coming years to include more options for students to earn their equivalency diploma.

National Skills Coalition is a strong proponent of policies that help to expand equitable access to middle-skill credentials and careers, including for the millions of Americans who lack a high school diploma or its equivalent. Establishing multiple pathways to attaining a high school diploma or equivalent, such as those allowed by Iowa House File 473, are one tool that states can use to help people with limited skills earn a secondary degree and continue on a path to a middle-skill credential.

Such programs also benefit employers who are seeking skilled workers. Like many states, Iowa faces a middle-skill gap. Middle-skill jobs account for 56 percent of Iowa’s labor market, but only 50 percent of the state’s workers are trained to the middle skill level. By providing workers with limited skills better access to education and training, states like Iowa can close the gap.


This blogpost was co-authored by National Skills Coalition and United Way of Central Iowa. Since 1917, United Way of Central Iowa (UWCI) has brought together individuals, employers, and organizations from throughout central Iowa to create and implement initiatives focused on making lasting impact in the areas of education, income, and health. UWCI is a "Collective Impact" organization, bringing together nonprofits, businesses, government, and community leaders to collaborate and implement solutions to tackle our community's most critical issues. Learn more at www.unitedwaydm.org.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Iowa

U.S. Department of Labor announces America’s Promise Grants

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba
U.S. Department of Labor announces America’s Promise Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor today announced $111 million in America’s Promise grants to 23 regional workforce partnerships to support tuition-free education and training for high-demand industries. The new four-year grants build on President Obama’s 2015 proposal to provide up to two years of free community college for qualifying students, and will support a range of sector-driven strategies, including work-based learning, classroom instruction, and competency-based education. The grants are expected to provide more than 21,000 US workers with the skills and credentials they need to enter into, or advance within, target occupations. Grantees are expected to leverage more than $57 million in other federal and non-federal dollars to support the implementation of these programs.

Grant recipients announced today include:

The University of Alabama at Birmingham



MiraCosta Community College District



Delaware Technical Community College



Florida State College at Jacksonville



Brevard Workforce Development Board, Inc.



Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center



Tecumseh Area Partnership, Inc.



United Way of Central Iowa

Des Moines


Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas, Inc.



Montgomery College



Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids


Southeast Michigan Community Alliance



City of Springfield



RFCUNY on behalf of CUNY OAA - CEWP

New York


Monroe Community College



Worksystems, Inc.



Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training



Greater Memphis Alliance for a Competitive Workforce



Alamo Community College District

San Antonio


New River Mount Rogers Workforce Investment Area Consortium



West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission



Employ Milwaukee



Northern Wyoming Community College District



National Skills Coalition applauds the Obama administration’s continued efforts to expand access to quality education and training as part of their Job-Driven Training plan, including $2 billion in Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants that were released between 2011-2014, and more than $250 million in DOL grants to expand apprenticeship over the past two years.  These investments have helped tens of thousands of workers take advantage of new work opportunities while helping businesses across a range of industries develop talent pipelines that will support their growth and competitiveness. As we look forward to the 115th Congress and the beginning of the Trump administration in 2017, we hope that policymakers will expand on these important efforts, and ensure that every workers and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Job-Driven Investments

Administration announces $100m in funding for America’s Promise Grants

  ·   By Katie Spiker ,
Administration announces $100m in funding for America’s Promise Grants

On April 25, the Administration announced a $100 million investment in increasing access to job-driven community college training programs through the America’s Promise Grants. Based on the America’s College Promise plan the Administration announced in 2015, the program will use H-1B funds to award competitive grants to sector partnerships between community colleges, employers, and workforce developments boards developing innovative training programs leading to middle-skill jobs.

Partnerships under the America’s Promise grants will be required to pilot and scale tuition-free programs that increase opportunities for all Americans, especially unemployed, underemployed, and low-income workers. The program is intended to catalyze more communities to create and expand employer-led partnerships and job training programs leading to jobs in growing sectors such as technology, manufacturing and health care.

Recipients of the funds will also be required to track and measure participants’ credential attainment and employment outcomes to evidence the programs’ impact on supporting employers’ needs.

This announcement builds on the Administration’s job-driven action plan, through which the White House and Departments of Labor, Education and Commerce put together a checklist for administrative action to guide workforce investment that included increased employer engagement, increased data usage to strengthen training programs, and building regional partnerships between key workforce stakeholders – all elements of the America’s Promise Grants.

Increased investments in community college and industry partnerships are an important part of National Skills Coalition’s 2016 legislative agenda, and Senator Franken (D-MN) and Representative Duckworth (D-IL) have introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act, which would support industry driven career and technical education. Read more on our 2016 agenda here.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Job-Driven Investments

DOL requests information on industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
DOL requests information on industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship

On February 25, Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA) released a Request For Information (RFI) for contracts to fund 8-10 industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship. These contracts will build on DOL’s Sectors of Excellence in Apprenticeship (SEAs) Initiative and last year’s $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants, both launched to further the President’s goal of doubling the number of apprentices in the US by 2019. DOL, through SEAs, has identified priority industries in which it will be targeting expansion – Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Transportation, Construction, Insurance and Financial Services, and Cybersecurity.

Under the RFI, an “intermediary” is an industry association, labor-management partnership organization, workforce intermediary, consortium of employers, state-wide community college system or consortium of community colleges. Recipient intermediaries would be required to:  

  • conduct outreach to their target sector,
  • assist employers in developing programming sufficient to meet standards required for registration,
  • promote innovation and inclusive practices – such as promoting diversity, alignment with post-secondary credentials, expanding competency-based apprenticeship, and aligning Career and Technical Education with the Registered Apprenticeship system, particularly for youth,
  • develop and support a full-time employee dedicated to expanding apprenticeship within an industry,
  • develop materials to support an apprenticeship program, and – if necessary –
  • provide financial support up to $75,000 per employer to expand or create new apprenticeship programs.

Funding for the contracts will come from a new $90 million Congressional investment in expanding apprenticeship for Fiscal Year 2016.

DOL is asking respondents to submit responses by Friday, March 11, describing the respondent’s capacity for acting as an intermediary and successfully performing the activity detailed above. Contracts should be awarded in the summer of 2016.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships

Building skills in the retail sector

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
Building skills in the retail sector

A year-long pilot project is underway to help retail workers with limited English proficiency to improve their language skills. Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce (pdf) is a joint initiative of Miami Dade College, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, and the National Immigration Forum. It is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation.

Nationally, nearly half (48%) of all immigrant workers have limited English proficiency. The retail sector in particular has high numbers of immigrant workers: Data from the Migration Policy Institute indicate that 14% of workers employed in the “Retail Trade” industry category are foreign-born. Immigrants represent an even higher percentage of those employed in service occupations overall, at nearly 1 in 4 workers.

A Three-City Pilot

The pilot initiative is designed to help retail workers in three cities -- Houston, Miami, and New York -- to improve their English language skills, thus opening up opportunities for career advancement and fostering long-term economic success. As data from the international Survey of Adult Skills has recently affirmed, there is a strong link between improved English skills and higher wages in the United States. 

An estimated 750 participants will be served during the project’s first year. The majority are expected to be front-line workers such as cashiers and stock clerks – occupations where limited English proficient employees are most prevalent, and where improved language skills can have a rapid and positive effect. The program will be free to participants courtesy of the Walmart Foundation’s support.

Best Practices in Contextualized English & Employer Engagement

Drawing on best practices in adult education, the project will integrate contextualized English language instruction with other skills needed in the retail workplace, such as active listening and spontaneous conversation. In addition to helping workers to enhance their fluency with retail-specific vocabulary, the skill-building classes will enable workers to improve their communication with colleagues, increase customer satisfaction, and improve safety on the job. 

Multiple employers are expected to be engaged in the development and delivery of classes, which will blend worksite and online participation. Initial businesses include Kroger and Publix grocery stores, as well as employer partners of the National Immigration Forum’s existing New American Workforce program.

Wider Implications?

The project’s development is expected to be closely watched by stakeholders in the workforce development, adult education and immigrant integration fields. Several of its primary features reflect themes found in major federal legislation and policies such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

In particular, the project’s emphasis on employer engagement and on job-driven English language and skill-building reflect new WIOA outcome measures and the legislation’s emphasis on tighter connections between adult education and workforce services.  

About the Project Partners

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education is a national network based at Westchester Community College in suburban New York City. Among CCCIE’s 2015 activities was the release of a study on how today’s New Americans are being served by community colleges.

Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse college in the United States. With eight campuses, a major outreach center and more than 165,000 students from across the world, the College offers over 300 programs of study and vocational, associate, and baccalaureate degrees. MDC’s President Eduardo J. Padrón expressed strong support for this project, noting that he himself is an immigrant. 

The National Immigration Forum is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington DC. The Forum’s New American Workforce program works with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process so they become full participants in the workplace, community and economy.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s support of this project is part of its $100 million Opportunity initiative to increase the economic mobility of entry-level workers across the country. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Florida
Latest edition of

NSC State Policy Director Bryan Wilson’s article, “Closing Skill Gaps” is included in the Council of State Governments’ new 2015 edition of The Book of the States. The Council of State Governments (CSG) is the nation’s only governmental organization serving all three branches of state government. Published annually since 1935, CSG’s The Book of the States is a reference guide to state governments and policies.

“Closing Skill Gaps” provides state policymakers and others with a brief, introductory overview of state strategies to close skill gaps and meet employer skill needs. The article discusses how each state has multiple programs that help individuals prepare for middle-skill jobs. Most of these programs operate outside the traditional K-12-to-university pipeline. Too often these programs operate in silos rather than as part of a broad workforce development system, even though they serve many of the same individuals. When the programs do not work together, they are less effective in closing skill gaps.

Some states have coordinated middle-skill programs around common strategies. Key strategies are sector partnerships, career pathways, job-driven investments, and cross-agency data and measurement. These strategies align programs with employer skill needs and are incorporated in the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)—the main federal law providing a workforce development framework for states.

As we look to the future, there is great opportunity for states to move workforce development systems forward using proven strategies to close skill gaps.

The entire article may be found here.  

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Data and Credentials
House and Senate pass continuing resolution to fund the government through December 11

Today, Congress passed a Fiscal Year (FY) Continuing Resolution (CR), funding the government at current year levels through December 11, 2015. The “clean” CR – so dubbed because of the absence of additional policy riders such as proposed funding restrictions for Planned Parenthood, passed the House this afternoon, with a vote of 277-151, following a 78-20 vote in the Senate this morning. With FY 2015 funding set to expire at midnight, the passage of the CR prevents a government shutdown but also sets up what is likely to be a contentious budget fight in December.

The CR includes an across the board reduction in discretionary funding of 0.2108 percent for all agencies, including formula and national grants administered through the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The cut is designed to bring overall spending in line with Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget caps.

It is unclear what the next steps in this year’s appropriations process will be, given uncertainty in House leadership and the impending debate over raising the debt ceiling.

The President’s FY 2016 budget proposed significant new investments in education and training, as well as enhanced support for existing programs. The budget built on the recent passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the administration’s job-driven training action plan, and proposals the President announced leading up to and during the State of the Union address on January 20, focused on “middle-class economics.” As part of that agenda, the President proposed expanding opportunities to all Americans to improve their skills, through a series of initiatives designed to deliver access to middle-skill credentials for millions of students and working people.

As a comparison, the House voted along party lines (219-208) on March 25, 2015 to pass the chamber’s FY 2016 budget resolution. The Labor HHS bill proposes consolidating workforce development programs, converting SNAP into a block grant, and cutting funding for non-defense discretionary programs. The Senate’s Labor HHS bill would force deep cuts to SNAP and NDD programs, although the proposed cuts are not quite as significant as those proposed in the House.

It is expected that President Obama would veto any final appropriations bills that included additional cuts to non-defense discretionary programs below current levels, but it is still important for advocates to weigh in with policymakers between now and December to reinforce the importance of continued funding for workforce programs. National Skills Coalition will continue to follow the budget and appropriation process’ impact on workforce and education programs. 

Posted In: Federal Funding, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Job-Driven Investments

White House releases progress update on job-driven training and apprenticeships

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
White House releases progress update on job-driven training and apprenticeships

Last Thursday, the White House released a Progress Update on Job Driven Training and Apprenticeships. The report detailed the Administration’s work over the past year to increase the number of Americans trained to meet employer needs.

The update builds on the White House’s National Job-Driven Training Action Plan, announced last summer. The Action Plan was the product of a government-wide review, led by Vice President Biden, to make the nation’s workforce education and training programs more integrated, effective, and responsive to employer needs.

In order to meet this goal, the Administration highlighted successful training programs, funded $1.2 billion in competitive grants and $8 billion in formula funding for investments in job-driven training strategies, and engaged business and postsecondary training providers in conversations to ensure continued cooperation between those training workers and the employers who will hire them. Each of these strategies maintains the Administration’s emphasis on the importance of creating and fostering sector partnerships, establishing and expanding the use of career pathways, and requiring comprehensive data collection to improve accountability and programming.

Features in the report include the White House’s Upskilling Initiative, which is bringing together employers, labor unions, foundations, educators, workforce leaders, non-profits, and technology innovators to improve the skills of millions of front-line workers and enable their advancement into better paying jobs.  The report also highlighted the $138 million invested in DOL’s Sector Partnership National Emergency Grants, announced earlier this summer, which will allow states to support planning and implementation of sector partnerships that provide services to dislocated workers.

The Progress Update places strong emphasis on efforts to expand apprenticeships, including the recently awarded American Apprenticeship Grants, the creation of DOL’s new online apprenticeship Standards and Curriculum Accelerator tool, and engaging state and local leadership in expanding apprenticeship across the country.

In addition to showcasing achievements over the past year, the report also highlights a number of proposals in the President’s 2016 budget that would support job-driven training, and contrasts the Administration’s funding requests with the House and Senate Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bills drafted earlier this summer.

NSC applauds the Administration’s continued focus on connecting training to the needs of jobseekers and employers, and we look forward to working with policymakers in Washington to build on these efforts in the months ahead.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Job-Driven Investments

College Scorecard Reveals Earnings Data

  ·   By Rachel Zinn,
College Scorecard Reveals Earnings Data

Average earnings for former students of most American colleges and universities are now just a few mouse clicks away, on the revised College Scorecard website from the U.S. Department of Education (ED).

There's a lot of nuance behind the numbers and some important upgrades are in the works, but the new tool provides a major step forward for helping prospective students and educators understand how college helps prepare people for careers.

WDQC and its partner organizations have long advocated for public support of reliable, comparable information on employment outcomes for all postsecondary programs. In comments submitted February 2015, we advised ED to include labor market outcomes in its proposed college ratings system, which has since evolved into expanded college information tools.

The College Scorecard describes earnings in two ways. First, it shows what percent of former students are earning more than $25,000 annually, six years after enrollment. That number approximates annual earnings for the average high school graduate, and this metric is designed to indicate whether the college provides any earnings bump. Second, the College Scorecard shows median earnings 10 years after enrollment.

The earnings outcomes are calculated by matching students' federal financial cash aid data, collected by ED, with tax records managed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

technical paper on the scorecard website notes that the earnings data:

  • Include only students getting federal grants or loans. Ideally the data would include all students, but this information is readily available and a good place to start.
  • Include all students who enrolled in a school, regardless of whether they attained a degree or other credential.
  • Exclude the earnings of students who are still enrolled in school (based on federal loan records).

The College Scorecard is getting a lot of attention in the media, and amongst our partners, some of whom have already analyzed the data for trends. Detailed data sets are available as downloads from the ED website.

A problematic limitation of the College Scorecard is that earnings are available only by institution, not by program. Earnings can vary a lot by program of study within a school, so WDQC is pleased to see that ED stated, in a policy paper, that it is working on being able to publish outcomes by program. 

WDQC also supports the Administration in taking a broad view of the importance of labor market outcomes across workforce and education programs. The policy paper describes several related Administration efforts, including implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and grants for community colleges that support cooperation with employers. Though earnings is certainly not the only way to judge the value of a college education, this information is helpful for students and families making important decisions.

In the coming days, WDQC will work closely with the Postsecondary Data Collaborative and other partners to review the new tools and provide comments as appropriate. The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) released a statement on the College Scorecard and other postsecondary developments today, and CLASP posted about the Scorecard with additional recommendations to improve the tool.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
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