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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

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

Colorado Launches New Return on Investment Tool

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,

Last week, Colorado launched a new interactive website, launchmycareercolorado.org, in order to help future students estimate the return on investment for an array of higher education choices. The tool identifies in-demand jobs and reveals how a student’s choice of school, major, industry, or job can impact future earnings.

Using data from the Colorado Department of Higher Education and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, the tool allows users to compare the earnings potential of various career options. It also enables students to determine if a chosen career will enable them to meet their desired lifestyle goals, and determine how many working years it will take for their earnings to exceed the total net price of a particular educational program.

Colorado Return on Investment Graphic

Additionally, the website uses survey data from Gallup to help students gauge whether their chosen career will make them happy. It provides statistics about the percentage of past graduates who are deeply interested in what they do, say they have an ideal job, and are satisfied with their personal life.

The website was launched through a partnership between College Measures (a division of the American Institutes for Research), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and Gallup Inc., and funded through a grant from USA Funds. These partners will launch similar websites in three other states, including Tennessee later this month. 

Posted In: Colorado, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
NSC partners host lawmakers at workforce development, training, and education facilities

Over the summer, while Congress was out of session, many NSC partners hosted site visits with their U.S. Senators and Representatives or State Legislators. Site visits are an opportunity for elected officials to visit workforce development, education, or training facilities and see programs in action. It is an excellent way to educate lawmakers and their staff and show them the importance of workforce development funding. Many of these site visits were follow-ups to the advocacy visits that NSC partners made during the 2015 Skills Summit last February.

Ohio: Towards Employment

Senator Sherrod Brown's Special Assistant Matthew Keyes visited Towards Employment in Cleveland OH. Towards Employment’s mission is to empower individuals to achieve and maintain self-sufficiency through employment.  The group offers job-readiness training. Participants learn job search skills as well as the soft skills needed to succeed on the job. They also have access to legal services and vocational training. During their meeting they were able to showcase their programs and discuss workforce development policy.   

Virginia: Dan River Region Collaborative 

Senator Tim Kaine and his team met with members of the Dan River Region Collaborative and ABB employees to tour the facility and discuss economic development issues and career and technical training.  ABB is a global company which operates and manufactures power and automation technologies that enable utility, industry, and transport and infrastructure customers to improve their performance while lowering environmental impacts. As co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education Caucus, Senator Kaine recently introduced the JOBS Act to expand federal Pell Grants to students who enroll in short-term job training programs. The bill would help workers afford high-quality training in advanced manufacturing and other industries. (Click here to support this bill). The Dan River Region Collaborative was founded to address workforce development in the Dan River Region of Virginia. Utilizing a sector strategy approach, the Collaborative promotes regional partnerships of employers, educators, workforce developers and other stakeholders to address the skills needs of regional employers. Within the industry partnerships, the Collaborative’s efforts focus on capacity building, systems change and policy advocacy.

Pennsylvania: District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund 

Susan Thomas, Director of Industry Partnerships (IP) at District 1199c Training and Upgrading Fund met with Pennsylvania State Representative Cherelle Parker and Pennsylvania State Senator Dominic Pileggi.  They spoke about the fund’s work on IPs and the need to add money to the IP budget at the state level. They also discussed the importance of pushing a sector skills policy agenda as well as making Pell grants available for occupational post-secondary programs. The District 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund's mission is: (1) providing access to career pathways in healthcare and human services for incumbent workers and job seekers through education, training and work-based learning; and, (2) building the capacity of the Delaware Valley's healthcare industry to create a highly-skilled workforce through on-the-job training opportunities and the development of an education pipeline that aligns with career ladder steps. 

Iowa: Central Iowa works 

Representative David Young toured the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families in Des Moines, Iowa.  During his visit, he met with students enrolled in the Transportation/Distribution/Logistics program, which is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and Jobs for the Future. The site visit was a community event which brought out a multitude of stakeholders:

  • Rob Denson, President of Des Moines Area Community College
  • Mary Sellers, President of United Way of Central Iowa
  • Sarah Ramsey, Advocacy Officer, United Way of Central Iowa
  • Angie Arthur, Central Iowa Workforce Investment Board
  • Marvin DeJear, Director, Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families
  • Pat Steele, Central Iowa Works

After the tour, Young participated in a discussion with all those in attendance regarding workforce issues.  Topics discussed included employment challenges for people with a criminal history, the utilization of Pell grants, youth unemployment, and the Direct Care Workforce. 

Colorado: Skills2Compete Colorado coalition 

The Skills2Compete Colorado coalition met with Senator Michael Bennet’s State Policy Director, Becca Montgomery. In attendance were representatives from VocRehab and SNAP E&T providers, the Regional Representative from the Dept. of Labor, Colorado Center on Law and Policy and local CBOs: Mi Casa and CWEE (host). TANF and WIOA were the major topics of discussion for this diverse group of stakeholders.  The Skills2Compete-Colorado Coalition is a multi-sector coalition that includes representatives from adult education, post-secondary education, workforce development, business, and the advocacy arena

Let’s keep the momentum from this "summer of engagement" going! NSC facilitates regular calls with partners in the field and the staff of their members of Congress; if this is something in which you’d be interested, feel free to reach out to Ashley Shaw, Field Coordinator.


Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia

NSC highlights skills policies adopted in states’ 2015 legislative sessions

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
NSC highlights skills policies adopted in states’ 2015 legislative sessions

In 2015, numerous states enacted legislation to address the needs of workers and employers and close the middle-skill gap. As highlighted in NSC’s 2015 state legislative round-up, states increased access to career pathways and set policies to support job-driven training.  They also took steps to implement the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which became effective on July 1, 2015.

To hear more about the actions governors and state legislatures took in 2015 to close the skills gap, register for our 2015 State Policy Legislative Round-Up, hosted on July 28 at 2pm ET.

Career Pathways 

At least nine states enacted legislation to support career pathways policies. Career pathways combine education, training, career counseling and support services that align with industry skill needs so participants can earn secondary school diplomas or their equivalent, postsecondary credentials, and get middle-skill jobs. In 2015, Colorado and Minnesota adopted legislation that will increase investments in career pathway strategies in their states.

 Career pathways include adult basic education, typically offered concurrently with and in the same context as general workforce preparation and training for an occupation. In 2015, Arkansas, California, Georgia, and Ohio increased investments in adult basic education.

Tuition assistance is also critical to ensuring that career pathways lead to postsecondary credentials, particularly for part-time, working students. In 2015, Indiana, Nebraska, and Oregon all passed legislation that expands tuition assistance.

Job-Driven Training 

Job-driven training prepares workers for jobs available in the economy. In 2015, a handful of states passed legislation to advance job-driven training.

California, Colorado, and Washington enacted legislation to expand work-based learning in their states by making investments in apprenticeship programs, paid internships in key industries, and apprenticeship preparation and supportive services respectively.

Hawaii and Oklahoma both passed legislation establishing bodies to advise the state on healthcare workforce policy.

Arkansas and Maine passed legislation to support employer-driven training programs developed through partnerships between employers and educational institutions.

WIOA Implementation

In 2015, Arkansas and Louisiana were among states that enacted WIOA implementation legislation specifying the type of workforce plan the state should submit to the federal government under the new federal law. 

In 2015, California, Florida, and Virginia all enacted legislation that emphasizes skills strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways, as part of WIOA implementation.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Career Pathways, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Maine, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia

States adopt new policies to close the skills gap

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis

At least 15 states have enacted legislation in 2014 to close the skills gap. States increased access to career pathways, invested in job-driven training and sector partnerships, and set policies to coordinate activities and collect outcome data across education, workforce, and other programs.

Colorado and Iowa appropriated funds to support career pathway programs, while Alabama provided funding to local areas to align educational pathways with regional skills needs. Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee all created or expanded tuition assistance programs that will help occupationally-focused students move along career pathways.

In addition to funding career pathways, states made a range of investments in job-driven training and sector partnerships. Connecticut created the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which can be used to support workforce training. Iowa created an apprenticeship training program, and Wisconsin funded grants to technical colleges to reduce training program waitlists in high-demand fields. Rhode Island’s State Senate passed a resolution directing the community college system to review and expand programs that provide credentials recognized by the state’s in-demand industries.  

Connecticut also appropriated funding to help the long-term unemployed.  The funds will be used to expand state-wide the Platform to Employment program offering support services, training, and subsidized employment.

Finally, several states adopted policies to align workforce and education programs with the labor market and to measure the outcomes of these programs. Alabama, Idaho, and Oregon passed legislation directing state agencies and institutions to coordinate workforce and education programs around state skill needs. Indiana and Utah established systems to measure and report outcomes across agencies. Iowa and Minnesota funded a system to report educational and employment outcomes for different workforce programs while Kentucky and Maine passed legislation to require postsecondary institutions to report on their education and employment outcomes.

To hear more about the actions state legislatures took in 2014 to close the skills gap, and the opportunities and challenges that NSC members had in advancing these policies during the legislative sessions, watch our 2014 State Workforce Policy Round Up webinar.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin

Colorado passes the Adult Education Act

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Colorado passes the Adult Education Act

On May 5, the Colorado Senate passed the Adult Education and Literacy Act (HB 1085). The Colorado House passed the bill earlier in the session and it now goes to Governor John Hickenlooper who is expected to sign it into law. The bill was the Colorado Skills2Compete (S2C) Campaign’s top priority this legislative session. Once the bill is signed into law, Colorado will join every other state in providing state funding for adult basic education.

The bill, sponsored by Representative Rhonda Fields and Senator Rachel Zenzinger, establishes a $960,000 state program to provide basic literacy and numeracy education for individuals 17 years or older who are not enrolled in secondary education and who do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent.  

The Office for Adult Education within the Department of Education will allocate grants to local partnerships. The local partnerships must include adult basic education providers, higher education and workforce development. The bill requires similar collaboration among state partners, and refocuses adult education on the goals of postsecondary credential attainment and positive employment outcomes for students. As stated in the Act, “These programs must refocus their mission to ensure that more low-skilled, low-income adults not only attain the basic literacy and numeracy skills that they lack, but that they move as quickly as possible from skill acquisition to postsecondary credential attainment to employment.”

National Skills Coalition applauds the Colorado Skills2Compete (S2C) Campaign for the great work they did to get this bill passed.

Posted In: Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Colorado

CO legislation to fund adult education advances.

  ·   By Andrea Glispie,
Colorado took one step closer towards expanding career pathways for adult learners with the passage of House Bill 1085 by the state House of Representatives. The bill provides $900,000 for adult education programs, and would be the first appropriation of its kind for the Centennial State. 

More than 300,000 working age Coloradans lack a high school diploma or GED. Yet, Colorado is the only state that relies only on federal funding to support adult education programs. Limited federal funding and a total lack of state investments means that Colorado only serves 4 percent of prospective students that seek basic skill development.  

The Skills2Compete – Colorado Coalition, led by the Colorado Center of Law and Social Policy, has been instrumental in crafting the funding proposal and building policymaker support for it. The Coalition’s advocacy efforts began long before the start of the current state legislative session. Last summer, Coalition leaders – including NSC Leadership Council member Frank Waterous – met with the legislative taskforce on Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction to make the case for such funding, citing that the majority of Colorado’s future workforce is already working. So building the skills of a broader range of workers is essential to closing the state’s pronounced middle-skills gap. The hard work paid off as the taskforce voted to include an adult education funding measure in its package of sponsored bills which no doubt bolstered the bill’s status when it was heard in the House. 

The legislation now moves to the Senate where the Coalition will continue its efforts of securing organizational endorsements, legislative sponsors, and key testimony by education providers, employers and students.

Posted In: Career Pathways, Colorado

Colorado report identifies skill gaps.

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,

The Colorado Department of Higher Education has released its annual report comparing the supply of newly credentialed workers to the demand expected in the labor market. The findings show that unless the supply increases, the number of new certificates and associate degrees in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production will fall far short of employer demand. The annual report is required by the Skills for Jobs Act, passed in 2012, and championed by the Colorado Skills2Compete Campaign.   

Looking at all levels of postsecondary education the report finds that, “In 2012, public institutions in Colorado awarded 49,739 certificates and degrees, an impressive 8.7 percent increase from the year prior. Since 2007, postsecondary completions have seen an average annual growth rate of 5.6 percent.” Yet, despite this success more needs to be done.  

Colorado ranks third among the states in the percentage of jobs that are expected in 2020 to require some form of postsecondary education or training (74 percent of jobs). Colorado needs to produce about 1,000 more certificates and degrees each year in order to meet demand.

While the aggregate gap for postsecondary education and training is significant, the gap for certain middle-skill credentials is huge. Unless production is increased, the supply of new certificates and associate’s degrees in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production will fall way below the levels demanded by Colorado employers. In 2012, there were 3,667 completers of mid-level credentials in the skilled trades, manufacturing and production, but in 2020 there are expected to be about 6,500 job openings, due to economic growth or retirements, for workers with these skills. This is a skill gap of 44 percent.  

Beyond pointing out where Colorado needs to boost skills training, the report demonstrates how states can produce useful information for policy makers who want to know where to direct additional resources in order to close the skill gaps widely reported by employers. Click here to read the report.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Colorado

Adult Ed & Literacy Act passes CO Ed Cmte.

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,

On January 26, the Colorado House Education Committee passed the Adult Education and Literacy Act (HB 1085) that would create a state-funded program for adult education. The bill, sponsored by Representative Rhonda Fields and Senator Rachel Zenzinger, establishes a $1.2 million state program to provide basic literacy and numeracy education for individuals 17 years or older who are not enrolled in secondary education and who do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Currently, there is no state funding for adult basic education in Colorado, making Colorado unique among the states. 

The Colorado Skills2Compete (S2C) Campaign was instrumental in developing the legislation and the bill is the coalition’s top priority this legislative session. S2C Campaign members, Chaer Robert of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and Frank Waterous of the Bell Policy Center, testified in support of the bill.

As the bill notes, “Before Colorado can meet its workforce, educational attainment, and poverty-reduction goals, the state must address the need for adult aducation. A significant percentage of the state’s working-age population lacks a high school diploma or its equivalent.” According to the Bell Policy Center, 430,000 working-age Coloradans do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

A newly released study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that 18 percent of America’s adult population has literacy skills that are too low to function effectively in our society and economy. When it comes to adult basic skills, the United States compares poorly to most of our economic competitors. U.S. adult literacy skills are lower than in 15 other OECD nations.

Under HB 1085, the Office for Adult Education within the Department of Education would allocate grants to local partnerships. The local partnerships would include adult basic education providers, higher education and workforce development. The bill would require similar collaboration among state partners and would refocus adult education on the goals of postsecondary credential attainment and positive employment outcomes for students.   

The bill now moves on to the House Appropriations Committee.  

Posted In: Career Pathways, Colorado
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