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NSC’s new 50-state scan discovers increased support for sector partnerships

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
NSC’s new 50-state scan discovers increased support for sector partnerships

National Skills Coalition (NSC) has updated our 50-state scan of sector partnership policies and finds that state policies supporting sector partnerships are rapidly growing. Sector partnerships are collaborations of employers with education, training, labor, and community-based organizations to address the local skill needs of a particular industry.  Sector partnerships are a proven strategy for helping workers prepare for middle-skill jobs and helping employers find skilled workers. States can support local sector partnerships through program initiatives, technical assistance, and funding.

Our 2017 scan finds that thirty-two states have policies in place to support local sector partnerships. This is an increase of eleven states from our previous scan conducted two years ago. Of the thirty-two states, twenty-two provide funding to support local sector partnerships, an increase of seven states from two years ago. The biggest difference in funding is the increased use of Governor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reserve Funds to support sector partnerships. Twelve states use Governor’s Reserve Funds, while just a single state used Workforce Investment Act Reserve Funds two years ago. Also, more states are providing technical assistance to local sector partnerships. Twenty-eight states now provide technical assistance; two years ago, fifteen states did so.

Increased state support for sector partnerships is largely attributable to WIOA. WIOA, which became effective two years ago, requires sector partnerships as a local workforce activity, and requires states to support those local efforts. While state support has increased substantially under WIOA, there is still considerable room for further progress. In 2018, states must modify their WIOA state plans, which will present another opportunity for states to establish policies to support sector partnerships. As Congress reauthorizes other federal acts - including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act - there may be more opportunities to include sector partnerships as a key strategy to engage employers in skill development. 

States without a policy in place can use National Skills Coalition’s Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit to establish one. Many of the states with a policy already in place can also use the Toolkit to further expand state support for local sector partnerships.  

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Skills Equity

Georgia Announces Grants to Support Sector Partnerships

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch and Amy Lancaster
Georgia Announces Grants to Support Sector Partnerships

This summer, the Georgia Department of Economic Development awarded $1.5 million to support the development of sector partnerships in six workforce regions in the state. The awards are part of a $3 million competitive grant program to build sector partnerships across the state under its High Demand Career Initiative.

Sector partnerships bring together multiple employers within an industry to collaborate with colleges, schools, labor, workforce agencies, community organizations and other community stakeholders to align training with the skills needed for that industry to grow and compete. These partnerships are required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and Georgia is using WIOA state discretionary dollars to fund its grant program.

In addition to providing grants, the Georgia Department of Economic Development is offering technical assistance to help regions develop partnerships. The department has created a Sector Partnership Guide hosted regional workshops, and is planning a grantee conference.

A coalition led by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and in collaboration with Atlanta CareerRise, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and Georgia Business Leaders United (BLU), started working with National Skills Coalition in 2015 to promote sector partnerships as a key way to address the skill needs of Georgia’s workers and businesses. Coalition members believe the state’s support for sector partnerships will help communities across Georgia make progress toward closing the skills gap. In fact, Metro Atlanta’s five workforce boards were jointly awarded a $400,000 two-year grant to develop partnerships in the healthcare, IT, and logistics sectors, in collaboration with Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta CareerRise. 

National Skills Coalition has advocated for states to provide funding, technical assistance, and guidance to support regional sector partnerships positioned to close the skill gap in key industries. We’re pleased to add Georgia to the list of states with such a policy in place. For more on how to develop a sector partnership policy in your state, check out NSC’s Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit.


Rachel Hirsch is State Network Manager at National Skills Coalition. Amy Lancaster is the Director of Workforce Development at Metro Atlanta Chamber, which works to advance economic growth, enhance the business climate and improve the quality of life for each and every person who calls Atlanta home.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Georgia

California appropriates $200 million for a strong workforce

  ·   By Bryan Wilson ,
California appropriates $200 million for a strong workforce

The California legislature has appropriated $200 million for the community colleges’ Strong Workforce Program. In 2015, the community colleges’ Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy issued a set of recommendations to enhance postsecondary career technical education. The appropriation funds the Task Force’s recommendations that include actions to increase student success, build career pathways, enhance data, strengthen curriculum, increase the pool of qualified instructors, and improve regional coordination.

The $200 million is a remarkable investment in middle-skill training, and the accompanying legislation represents an extraordinary partnership between the California community colleges and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system.   

The legislation calls for aligning the Strong Workforce Program with the California Workforce Development Board’s Strategic Workforce Development Plan. Both the Strong Workforce Program and the Strategic Plan emphasize regional planning, and the legislation requests that planning regions be aligned to the extent possible.  Moreover, under the legislation the Strong Workforce Program plans must be “informed by, aligned with, and expand upon” the regional plans established under WIOA.  

In order to receive funding from the Strong Workforce Program, a community college must be part of a Regional Collaborative. The Regional Collaborative must include community college districts, local educational agencies, interested campuses of the California State University and the University of California, civic leaders, workforce development boards, and representatives from labor, economic development, and business.

Forty percent of the funds allocated by the state must go to the fiscal agents of the Regional Collaboratives and must be used to meet the needs identified in the Collaborative and WIOA regional plans. Sixty percent of the funds must go to individual college districts to carry out activities consistent with the two plans.

The legislation also supports the use of industry partnerships and urges the community colleges to build upon the industry partnerships established under WIOA. Other strategies endorsed by the legislation include career pathways, integrated support services, work-based learning, and the use of the WIOA common measures.  Permissible uses of the funds include contributing to the development of cross-program reporting consistent with WIOA. 

By aligning the Strong Workforce Program with WIOA planning, strategies, and measures, California will advance the coordination of workforce development programs as it increase resources for job-driven investments.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships, California

The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

  ·   By Silvia Vallejo
The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

NSC Board Member, Alma Salazar is the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how you came to focus on workforce development?

I've been working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. Within this role I oversee education and workforce development programs and also direct the Chamber’s higher education and workforce development policy priorities. My path into workforce development came about serendipitously. While employed at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, I was responsible for overseeing regional implementation of the Federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.  The National School-to-Work Act was the response to the Nation at Risk report which detailed business leaders’ concern that when students graduated from high school and/or college they lacked the necessary skills to compete in the workforce. We looked to partnerships between businesses and education as a way to improve the skills they were lacking. We found opportunities for students to learn beyond the four walls of the classroom.  By giving them access to critical work-based learning opportunities such as internships, job shadowing and apprenticeships we helped students bring learning to life. I found my niche in making employer partnerships work and making sure that, as essential stakeholders, business has a strong voice in workforce development policy creation.

When did you first get involved with NSC and why?

I became involved with NSC after attending the 2011 Skills Summit. That allowed me to become aware of NSCs in-depth policy expertise and to meet other incredible thought-leaders across the country who shared my passion for providing opportunities for individuals to compete and prosper.   After the summit, I made an effort to forge a good relationship with the staff and to participate in as many events as I could. I've been involved and a huge fan ever since. 

How has your partnership with NSC helped to advance your work in California, and how has your work helped to inform and progress NSC’s efforts?

NSC has been an invaluable resource and has provided many of us with the in-depth policy analysis needed to engage policy makers in thoughtful conversations about WIOA Reauthorization and implementation and has helped guide California’s workforce development policy priorities. The policy content NSC has published has truly helped the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and other regional chambers of commerce throughout the country engage meaningfully in these policy discussions.

Can you tell us a little about your efforts with SWEAP in California?

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) provides California the unprecedented opportunity to connect cross program data to better align education and workforce development programs to labor market demand.  It’s important that we have broad stakeholder support, including the business community, to move this initiative forward.  The Chamber is committed to engaging our business leaders and other chambers of commerce throughout the state to champion these efforts and see them through to fruition.

You’ve been appointed to the California Workforce Investment Board by Governor Jerry Brown. What is the most pressing issue/biggest challenge in that role?

My most immediate priority is making sure that we are working with and supporting the regions in the implementation of WIOA.  If done well, WIOA implementation can be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way workforce development systems work together to create career pathways for underserved populations to achieve economic mobility while helping businesses have the workforce they need to grow and prosper.  

In your position at the LA Chamber of Commerce, what do you think has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

I am incredibly proud to work for a business organization that cares deeply about the underserved and works daily to ensure that individuals have equal access to a quality education and high level job training — resulting in a thriving local economy.  

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Sector Partnerships, California

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

Federal agencies release final requirements for WIOA unified, combined plans

  ·   By Kermit Kaleba
Federal agencies release final requirements for WIOA unified, combined plans

Earlier today, the US Department of Labor, in coordination with the US Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development, released the final requirements for State Unified or Combined Plans as required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The information collection (IC) outlines all of the elements that must be included in a state plan, including the basic requirements for a Unified Plan that covers only the six “core” programs under Titles I-IV of WIOA, and additional elements that are required for a Combined plan that includes the core programs and at least one additional workforce or education program described in sec. 103 of WIOA.

The agencies released a draft of the state plan requirements for public comment in August 2015, and National Skills Coalition submitted recommendations in response to this draft in September 2015. The agencies have posted a “supporting statement” that outlines the comments received from NSC and other organizations, and modifications to the August draft IC made in response to those recommendations. Among other things, the agencies accepted NSC’s recommendations to:

  • Require states to provide clear descriptions of the industry or sector partnerships and career pathways that will be implemented in the state, including descriptions of how core programs and other partner programs are aligned to support sector partnerships.
  • Require states to include a description in the state plans of the methods used for joint planning and coordination across core and partner programs.
  • Expand the requirement that states describe efforts to engage community colleges and area career and technical education (CTE) schools to include other education and training providers, including training programs on the state eligible training provider list and adult education providers.
  • Clarify that accessibility requirements for the one-stop system, including physical accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, apply to all one-stop partner programs and operators.

The revised IC and supporting statement also:

  • Provides that states will not be required to include one-stop infrastructure cost-sharing agreements (as described under section 121(h) of WIOA) in their first WIOA plan, but will be required to describe their process for how they will develop such agreements by 2018;
  • Adds a requirement that states describe how they will ensure accessibility in the one-stop system for individuals with limited English proficiency;
  • Provides that assessments of the effectiveness of core programs and one-stop partner programs (as required under section 102(b)(2)(C)) will not be required until states submit plan modifications in 2018;
  • Includes a requirement that states identify criteria for approval of local transfers of funds between Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker programs.

Labor had previously announced an extension of state plan submission deadlines from March 3, 2016 to April 1, 2016. The agencies have also indicated that final rules for implementation of WIOA will be released by June 2016.   

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Career Pathways, 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

Governors propose workforce initiatives - Part 2

  ·   By Bryan Wilson ,
Governors propose workforce initiatives - Part 2

More governors have announced 2016 workforce development initiatives in proposed state budgets and state of the state addresses. Initiatives include support for sector partnerships, secondary and postsecondary career and technical education, training in STEM fields, and P-20W state longitudinal data systems. State legislators are now considering the governors’ requests. This is the second of two blog posts highlighting this year’s gubernatorial proposals.

Massachusetts Governor Baker proposed $83.5 million to enhance career and technical education: $75 million over five years to fund grants for equipment; $7.5 million for work-based learning grants, including nearly doubling support for school-to-career connecting activities; and $1 million for new Career Technical Partnership Grants to strengthen relationships between vocational schools, comprehensive high schools, and employers. The Governor also proposed $5 million to help the chronically unemployed including: $2 million to create a new Economic Opportunity Fund that will  invest in community-based organizations that partner with businesses to offer job training and hiring opportunities; $2 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, the state’s sector partnership program, marking the first time that new funding would be available for two consecutive years; and $1 million to expand the statewide re-entry and job training program for former criminal offenders re-entering society.

Tennessee Governor Haslam proposed $10 million for the second round of Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP) grants, the state’s sector partnership program. The Governor also requested $20 million for the Drive to 55 Capacity Fund, to help community and technical colleges meet the growing demand for degrees and certificates. The Tennessee Promise of two-years of free tuition for high school graduates and the Tennessee Reconnect policy of free tuition for adults, who have some postsecondary education but not a credential, are rapidly increasing student demand. Drive to 55, is the Governor’s effort to reach the goal of 55 percent of Tennessee’s population having a degree or certificate by 2025.

Kentucky Governor Bevin proposed a new bond pool of $100 million for the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet to co‐invest with local communities to meet demand for high‐skill jobs, including jobs in advanced manufacturing and information technology. The money would finance capital investments in training facilities

Maryland Governor Hogan proposed more than $4 million to continue Maryland’s Employment Advance Right Now (EARN) sector partnership program. The Governor also proposed $704,000 to launch four P-TECH schools. P-TECH schools partner with employers and colleges to provide secondary to postsecondary pathways in STEM. 

Alabama Governor Bentley proposed restructuring the state workforce development system, including consolidating Regional Workforce Development Councils reporting to the Department of Commerce and aligning those regions with the community colleges. The Governor also proposed codifying and funding the state longitudinal data system that he established in 2015 by executive order. 

Rhode Island Governor Raimondo proposed $500,000 to expand the number of P-TECH schools in her state (from three to at least five), and $2 million for TechHire coding boot campus and online courses for rapid training. The Governor also proposed realigning existing workforce dollars to fund her Real Jobs Rhode Island sector partnership program.

Delaware Governor Markell proposed extending the state’s longitudinal data system into the early learning, higher education, and workforce domains. Governor Markell also proposed expanding TechHire sites in his state.

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


Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships, Alabama, Kentucky, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Rhode Island
Congress restores 15 percent funds; required uses include support for local sector partnerships

As advocated by NSC, the Omnibus Appropriations Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, restores the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Governor’s Reserve Funds to 15 percent. A Governor may use up to 15 percent of the state’s WIOA Title I allotment to support statewide activities at the Governor’s discretion. While WIOA authorizes 15 percent funding as did WIA, this is the first time since 2010 that Congress has not included language in the appropriations act modifying the statutory level. Among other uses, WIOA requires Governors to use these funds to provide assistance to “local areas by providing information on and support for the effective development, convening, and implementation of industry or sector partnerships.” (WIOA section 134(a)(2)(B)) NSC provides a toolkit on how states can use 15 percent funds and other funding sources and policies to support local sector partnerships. 

Sector partnerships are a proven strategy for helping workers prepare for middle-skill jobs and helping employers find skilled workers. An industry or sector partnership, as defined by WIOA is “a workforce collaborative, convened by or acting in partnership with a state board or local board, that organizes key stakeholders in an industry cluster into a working group that focuses on the shared goals and human resources needs of the industry cluster.” (WIOA section 3(26))

As described in NSC’s first ever 50-state scan of state sector partnership policies, 15 states currently provide funding to support local sector partnerships. Only two of these states (California and Kentucky) use Governors’ Reserve Funds. Prior to the reduction in appropriated levels, more states turned to this funding source, including Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Now that Congress has restored the Governor’s Reserve Funds to 15 percent, we urge states to use more of those funds to carry out the WIOA requirement of supporting local sector partnerships. Even before WIOA’s passage, many states recognized sector partnerships as an effective strategy for closing skill gaps and supported them with other funding sources, including state general funds and offsets through the unemployment insurance system. These state funds can supplement WIOA dollars and provide substantial resources to support multiple sector partnerships in strategic industry sectors throughout a state. 

States can also provide technical assistance and establish criteria for quality sector partnerships. For more information on these and other state policies to support sector partnerships see NSC’s, “Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit.”

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships

New grant will provide childcare to parents in training programs

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
New grant will provide childcare to parents in training programs

On December 17th, the Department of Labor announced the availability of $25,000,000 in grants under the Strengthening Working Families (SWF) Initiative. The Initiative will award up to $4,000,000 in funds to partnerships between the workforce development system, education providers (including community colleges, community based organizations, and tech boot camps), child care providers and employers.

Funded by H-1B visa funds, the program is intended to address barriers related to child care that workers face in maintaining employment and engaging in training. Applicants will be required to show their partnership’s capacity to improve access to child care resources in a way that supports both parents’ current attachment to the workforce and benefits the long-term success of the child. The grants may offer recipients the chance to support career pathways in their region, as required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), by funding services that improve access to child-care services, a key element of many career pathways.

Partnerships are required to include at least three employer partners or an employer industry association with at least three employer members. As states and regions set up and expand industry or sector partnerships, as required under WIOA, these partnerships may be integral for applicants’ success under the SWF Initiative.  

This grant program is an element of the Administration’s Job-Driven Action Plan, which includes goals to maximize the use of limited resources by creating new or expanding existing partnerships between key workforce stakeholders and to provide critical supportive services to ensure all individuals can succeed in the labor market. 

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways
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