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New coalitions from 10 states will join NSC's SkillSPAN, expanding network reach to advocate for skills training across 20 states

National Skills Coalition has selected coalitions from ten states to join SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network) in 2020 – doubling the number of coalitions in the network since its launch last year. SkillSPAN is a nationwide network of state coalitions expanding access to skills training for thousands of people through state policy changes. With a total of twenty state coalitions in the network, SkillSPAN is poised to promote policies that support all workers’ career aspirations, boost local businesses, and help states build strong, inclusive economies.

Convened by a lead organization, SkillSPAN coalitions include policy and research organizations, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, community colleges, workforce boards, state and local agencies, and others advocating for a shared skills agenda. As a nationwide network, SkillSPAN leverages the combined expertise of state coalition members and amplifies their collective voices in state capitols across the nation.

The 2020 SkillSPAN network and coalition leads

Alabama: Central Six Development Council
California: California EDGE Coalition
Colorado: Colorado Center on Law and Policy
Connecticut: United Way of Connecticut
Georgia: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Illinois: Chicago Jobs Council
Indiana: Indiana Institute for Working Families
Iowa: United Way of Central Iowa
Louisiana: Louisiana Budget Project
Maryland: Jobs Opportunities Task Force
Massachusetts: SkillWorks & The Workforce Solutions Group
Michigan: United Way of Southeast Michigan
New York: New York Association of Training & Employment Professionals
North Carolina:
 North Carolina Justice Center
Ohio: Ohio Workforce Coalition
Oregon: Portland Community College
Tennessee: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
Texas: United Ways of Texas
Washington state
Wisconsin: Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership & Building Industry Group Skilled Trade Employment Programs (WRTP/BIG STEP)

Jobs that require skills training beyond high school but not a four-year degree are the backbone of the American economy. Many people want to upgrade their skills but can’t access or afford the training they need to step into a better career. And while there are lots of innovative training programs, there simply aren’t enough to meet the needs of thousands of workers and businesses as our economy changes.

That’s where SkillSPAN comes in. Coalitions in our network are advocating for public policies that can support and scale effective training programs while also removing systemic barriers to skills training. They are advocating for greater investments in skills training so that more workers and businesses can succeed in the modern economy. And they are utilizing resources like NSC’s Roadmap for Racial Equity to advocate for state-specific policy solutions that ensure that everyone has a fair shot at achieving economic success.

Take two examples from last year: the Illinois SkillSPAN coalition successfully advocated for changes to a state safety net policy in order to expand high-quality career pathways for people who want skills training while also shoring up food security. Meanwhile, SkillSPAN partners in Georgia succeeded in extending the state’s largest scholarship program to students who have been out of high school for up to ten years – making community college more affordable for thousands more young adults. In both cases, SkillSPAN partners showed why policy changes were necessary to create more equitable training opportunities and a more inclusive workforce.

In 2020, the twenty SkillSPAN coalitions will focus on skills training policies across a range of issues, including apprenticeship, postsecondary education, upskilling, and supportive services. To support this work, NSC will provide grants to SkillSPAN coalitions, along with regular opportunities for cross-state learning and assistance with policy development and analysis, coalition-building, and strategic communication.

NSC will also offer more intensive, time-limited capacity-building opportunities to select SkillSPAN coalition members. In 2020, four SkillSPAN coalition leads will participate in our Supportive Services Academy so that people with lower incomes have supports like transportation and childcare as they pursue skills training. Meanwhile, leaders of California’s community-based organizations are participating in a California Advocacy and Policy Academy to use their practical experience to shape and advocate for meaningful skills training polices as members of a state network.

In many states, SkillSPAN coalitions will also work with Business Leaders United (BLU) state affiliates to leverage business voices in their advocacy. BLU — supported by NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions – includes businesses who are working with local partners to train, hire, and upskill workers and who want policymakers to follow their lead and invest in workers’ skills.

With plans to expand beyond twenty states in coming years, SkillSPAN will increase skills and job training opportunities for thousands of American workers, businesses, and communities across the nation. If you would like to connect with SkillSPAN partners in your state or across the country, please reach out!


Posted In: SkillSPAN

NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

Photo: Partners from Colorado Skills2Compete pictured with State Senator Rhonda Fields, State Representative James Coleman, and Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore.

As state sessions come to a close, NSC’s partners are stacking wins across the country with governors, legislatures, and state agencies. Partners in a dozen states are advancing policies that will make skills training more available to workers in their states.  

NSC has worked with these partners over the past year through key state initiatives including SkillSPAN – a first-ever nationwide network of coalitions working to advance skills policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses. Taken together, these partners are making college more available to working people, broadening the apprenticeship pipeline, and expanding support services to remove barriers to skills training. 

Making college more available to working people

  • Expanding Georgia’s HOPE scholarship to more young adults: NSC teamed up with SkillSPAN partner Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Atlanta CareerRise, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Atlanta Civic Site of The Annie E. Casey Foundation to call on Georgia’s policymakers to make the state’s scholarship program available to more adults in order to close the middle-skill gap. This session, Georgia’s General Assembly extended the time that college students can earn the HOPE scholarship from seven to 10 years after high school. 

  • Funding the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship: SkillSPAN partner the United Way of Central Iowa successfully advocated for investments in Future Ready Iowa initiatives, including more investments in state tuition assistance. The Iowa legislature provided $13 million in funding for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship, which helps students –including adults –cover financial aid gaps as they earn credentials for high-demand jobs.  

  • Reconnecting adults to postsecondary education and training in Michigan: SkillSPAN partner the United Way for Southeast Michigan is supporting a bipartisan effort by Governor Whitmer and legislative leaders to launch Michigan Reconnect. The program, which is under consideration in both the Michigan House and Senate, would provide a tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for Michigan adults.  

  • Expanding resources to low-income community college students in Oregon: NSC and partners at Portland Community College testified to the legislature on Oregon’s new Pathways to Opportunity Initiative. The initiative expands federal, state, and local resources to provide supports like college success and career coaching and help cover costs like tuition, fees, books, bus passes, and food. The initiative builds on another Oregon policy win: the expansion of SNAP Employment & Training partnerships at all 17 of Oregon’s community colleges.  

  • Offering free community college training to SNAP students in Connecticut: Last fall, NSC partners at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities expanded their partnership with the state’s Department of Social Services to offer free skills training at all 12 of the state’s community colleges for students receiving SNAP. This expansion reflects NSC’s prior technical assistance to help Connecticut shift to skills-based SNAP Employment & Training. 

Broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

  • Expanding apprenticeship in Illinois: Members of the Illinois team in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy, including Young Invincibles and SkillSPAN partner Chicago Jobs Council, successfully advocated for legislation that instructs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to conduct a study on the potential expansion of apprenticeship programs in the state. The study must identify fields that support diverse and equitable apprenticeship growth and show how the state can better utilize different funding streams to support apprenticeship. The team also informed the Illinois Apprenticeship Expansion Program, a $2.5 million initiative to expand apprenticeship through regional intermediaries and navigators. 

  • Utilizing apprenticeship to shape the future of work in Texas: The Greater Houston Partnership, along with Educate Texas, supported the creation of the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future. Codified by the Texas legislature, the Commission will develop recommendations to ensure Texas maintains its long-term global and economic competitiveness by ensuring the state is developing the qualified and skilled workforce. As part of its charge, the Commission must recommend ways to increase work-based learning, including opportunities for underrepresented workers and small and midsize companies.  

  • Raising awareness of work-based learning strategies in Oklahoma: Through our Work-Based Learning Academy, NSC is partnering with Oklahoma Works and others to host an Oklahoma Work-Based Learning Summit in June so that workforce and industry partners throughout the state can come together to learn about opportunities for expanding work-based learning. 

Expanding support services and removing barriers to skills training

  • Piloting an emergency support services fund in Colorado: The Colorado Skills2Compete Coalition successfully advocated for the state to create a fund to help cover the costs of support services like transportation, emergency child care, and work equipment for low-income people in skills training, job search, or at the start of employment. The Colorado legislature passed legislation to pilot the program with $250,000 in funding. 

  • Assessing workers’ childcare needs in Mississippi: NSC partners at the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative convened workforce development and human services leaders to discuss how childcare and skills training can grow the state’s skilled workforce. Following the discussion, Mississippi agencies are planning to ask workers about childcare needs when they’re pursuing training at the state’s American Jobs Centers.  

  • Expanding training opportunities for people who are incarcerated in Tennessee: SkillSPAN partner Complete Tennessee supported increased investment in the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, which provides education opportunities to people who are incarcerated. The state quadrupled its investment in the initiative to $1 million, which among other changes, will expand career and technical education and postsecondary education in correctional facilities.   

Investing in strategies to secure a strong economic future for all Californians

With California’s policymakers in midst of budget negotiations, SkillSPAN partner California EDGE Coalition and other leaders in the Skills for California network are working to ensure that the state’s 2019-2020 budget invests in workforce development strategies that increase equity and economic opportunity. The Governor’s May budget revision included $10 million to plan and develop a data system that could work across the state’s education, workforce, and health and human services programs and be used to close equity gaps. It also included increased investment for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and the state’s High Road Training Partnership program, a sector partnership initiative of the California Workforce Development Board.  

 

Posted In: SkillSPAN, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee

SkillSPAN coalitions in GA, NC, and TN to boost training opportunities in the South

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
SkillSPAN coalitions in GA, NC, and TN to boost training opportunities in the South

National Skills Coalition is deepening its efforts to bring skills training opportunities to more people in the South by providing increased support to its three southern SkillSPAN partners. NSC’s SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network) is the first-ever nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions working to advance state skills training policies. Coalitions from ten states joined SkillSPAN in 2019.

Coalitions led by Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, North Carolina Justice Center, and Complete Tennessee are among SkillSPAN’s inaugural coalitions and currently represent the network’s presence in the South. With generous support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, NSC will provide increased financial and technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of these coalitions. With this additional support, SkillSPAN leaders in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee will be able to bring new partners to the table to create policy changes that expand economic opportunity for workers and their families and advance racial equity in the workforce.

Each of these SkillSPAN leaders will build on work they’re doing as part of NSC’s Southern Skills Policy Initiative.  NSC launched this initiative last June to help partners in Southern states put forward state policies to support skills training:

  Georgia Budget and Policy Institute is working to expand financial aid so that more people who face financial barriers to postsecondary training, including workers of color, can earn middle-skill credentials.
  North Carolina Justice Center is working to develop better apprenticeship pathways for workers of color and other underrepresented workers.
  Complete Tennessee is working to leverage federal and state programs to support more adults as they pursue postsecondary training that leads to a career.

These policy changes are critical to building a stronger economy in these states and throughout the South. While most of the jobs in the South are middle-skill jobs, policymakers in Southern states have not created enough opportunities to help workers train for these jobs. In a recent report with the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis, we provided a skills policy roadmap for Southern states. We also underscored the need for a skilled and thriving economy to be an inclusive economy.  With more than four in ten Southerners being people of color, education and training policies that advance racial equity in the workforce will make the South’s workers, businesses, and the economy better off. We’re excited to provide additional support to our SkillSPAN partners in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to build a stronger Southern economy by creating more skills training opportunities for their state’s workers.

Posted In: SkillSPAN, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee

NSC’s new SkillSPAN will increase skills & job training opportunities for thousands in 25 states over next five years

  ·   By Andrew Bradley and Brooke DeRenzis
NSC’s new SkillSPAN will increase skills & job training opportunities for thousands in 25 states over next five years

Today, National Skills Coalition launches SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network), a first-ever nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions that will bring skills and job training opportunities to thousands of people through policy changes in 25 states over the next five years.

SkillSPAN and NSC’s new Business Leaders United (BLU) state affiliate network will pass policies in the postsecondary education, workforce training, adult education, career and technical education, and safety net arenas to expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local business capacity.

We are launching this network at a critical time: skills training is a popular, bipartisan issue and many of the country’s governors ran on skills training as a critical plank in their education and economic platforms. SkillSPAN and BLU are poised to help these and other state leaders deliver on their skills training promises and address key economic challenges in their states.

SkillSPAN coalitions will include policy organizations, workforce advocates, community colleges, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, and others advocating for a shared agenda.

Ten state coalitions will join SkillSPAN in 2019, with an additional ten joining in 2020, and further growth in 2021. Fifteen states will have BLU affiliates by 2020. With an initial $3 million grant from Ballmer Group, NSC will provide grants to SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU state affiliates, along with an infrastructure to support cross-state learning and technical assistance.


Seizing an economic and political moment

Despite economic, political, and geographic differences, every state in the nation faces a common labor market challenge: jobs that require education and training beyond high school but not a bachelor’s degree make up the largest portion of the labor market; yet too few workers have access to training for these jobs, many of which pay family-supporting wages.

With unemployment at a record low and technology changing the way we work now and in the future, everyone who wants to build their skills – from people who are looking for a job to low-wage workers who want to upgrade their skills and take the next step in their career — should have the opportunity to do so. Training is important for people who want good jobs that can support their families, for businesses looking to adapt to continual industry changes, and for states whose economic growth and competitiveness depends on building a skilled and inclusive workforce.   

Across political parties and regions of the country, people have called on policy leaders to recognize this need and include skills training in education and jobs proposals. As governors and state legislators begin new terms this month, they are looking to respond.

SkillSPAN and the BLU affiliate network will provide capacity and infrastructure to seize these economic and political opportunities. In every statehouse, policymakers can support workers and businesses while strengthening the economy by investing in the skills of people – from the father who wants to train for a new career after being laid off to the young woman who wants to take on an apprenticeship instead of college debt.

As a national network, SkillSPAN will leverage the combined expertise of state coalition members and amplify their collective voices in state capitols across the nation.

 

Scaling what works for workers and business

SkillSPAN coalitions will advance policy changes that impact workers and businesses across a range of areas, including:

  • Protecting and increasing vital funding for successful skills training programs
  • Turning back efforts to impose work requirements in safety net programs and replacing them with polices to provide job training and supports to low‐income people, including those utilizing TANF, SNAP, and other income supports
  • Expanding apprenticeship and other forms of wage‐earning, work‐based learning, particularly for low‐income working adults and out‐of‐school youth
  • Making financial aid available to working people and creating new pathways into college programs for low‐skilled workers, along with support services
  • Helping states invest in sector partnerships so that participating companies—particularly small‐ and medium‐sized businesses— inform training and higher education efforts connected to their industry
  • Creating new opportunities for low‐wage workers with limited basic or English skills to acquire these skills in partnership with their employers, as well as local schools, community organizations, community colleges and unions
  • Expanding state data systems and publicly-available data tools so that policymakers and the public can know which programs place people in jobs and raise their incomes

Across these issues, SkillSPAN coalitions will work to ensure that policy changes advance racial equity in the workforce.

Inaugural coalitions

In 2019, coalitions in 10 states will join SkillSPAN. Despite a wide range of political and policy environments, these states share a need for comprehensive policies that secure a skilled workforce and a strong economic future for all residents. NSC has selected a nonprofit organization to lead each state coalition. The 2019 states and coalition lead organizations are:

  • California: California EDGE Coalition
  • Georgia: Georgia Budget & Policy Institute
  • Illinois: Chicago Jobs Council
  • Indiana: Indiana Institute for Working Families
  • Iowa: United Way of Central Iowa
  • Massachusetts: SkillWorks
  • Michigan: United Way for Southeast Michigan
  • North Carolina: North Carolina Justice Center
  • Tennessee: Complete Tennessee
  • Washington state

As they work to advance skills policies, SkillSPAN coalitions will leverage the voice of businesses in their states through NSC’s new BLU state affiliate network. In March 2019, National Skills Coalition will announce the members of that network in partnership with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. BLU is supported by NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and includes businesses from a range of industries who are working with local partners to train and hire residents for skilled jobs, or upskill their existing workforce, and who want policymakers to follow their lead and invest in workers’ skills. By working in partnership on shared agenda items, SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU affiliates will achieve policy wins for workers, businesses, and the economy.

Posted In: SkillSPAN, Massachusetts, Michigan, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington