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Maine introduces legislation to support and integrate immigrant workforce

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
Maine introduces legislation to support and integrate immigrant workforce

A Republican state senator in Maine has introduced a bill that would create a Cabinet-level Office of New Mainers. The bipartisan legislation is in response to concerns about the state’s aging workforce, and recognition that immigrant workers represent a potential resource for meeting the state’s current and future labor force needs.

According to Census figures, nearly 1 in 5 Mainers is over the age of 65, and the state has the oldest median age in the nation. Just 3.5 percent of the state’s population was born abroad, a number that is far below the national average of 13 percent foreign-born residents.

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Roger Katz (R-Augusta). A press release from the senator’s office describes key features of the bill, titled An Act To Attract, Educate and Retain New Mainers To Strengthen the Workforce (LD 1492). The bill would create an Office of New Mainers headed by a director who would:

  • Coordinate with state agencies and programs to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into Maine’s workforce. Specific agencies mentioned include the state’s departments of Labor; Education; Economic and Community Development; Health and Human Services; and Professional and Financial Regulation.
  • Administer programs, projects and grants to attract, educate, integrate and retain immigrants into the state’s workforce, economy and communities.
  • Develop metrics to evaluate outcomes.
  • Establish a committee to provide input and guide the development and implementation of the comprehensive plan. Committee members would include a wide range of stakeholders, including a representative from the state workforce board; three Chamber of Commerce representatives; a postsecondary education representative; and a person with “extensive experience in providing educational instruction to adult English Language Learners.”

The press release also notes that the bill would establish a Welcome Center Initiative to provide vocational training for foreign-trained workers, match those individuals with employers in areas experiencing a shortage of trained workers and establish three grant programs to provide support to immigrants, communities and adult education programs to achieve the stated goals.

In recognition of the critical role that English language acquisition plays in economic integration, the bill specifies that the Welcome Centers would be housed within existing adult education administrative structures. To ensure that job-training activities are demand-driven, organizations seeking funding under this program must collaborate with local employers to identify skill needs and develop interventions that address those needs.

The bill’s total projected price tag is $2 million. If enacted, Maine would join six other states that have established state-level Offices of New Americans or other initiatives designed to ensure that immigrant residents are incorporated into the labor market and broader society. Those states are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. In 2015, the Pew Immigration and the States Project released a short analysis of such state-level efforts. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Maine

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

State data legislation roundup.

  ·   By Michelle Massie,

This post originally appeared on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) website. Click here to learn more about WDQC.

WDQC has followed several state data legislative proposals. Here are some updates on those state actions:

On Monday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the House Enrolled Act No. 1003, which would bring together data from K-12 schools, colleges, the state’s workforce development agency and businesses to enable trend analysis and to help schools adapt to employer needs. Under the law, Gov. Pence would appoint an executive director to a new stand-alone agency to track and study longitudinal data. Oversight would be provided by the executive director and a committee of workforce and education state officials.

The law renamed the state’s longitudinal data system from the Indiana Workforce Intelligence System (IWIS) to the Indiana Network of Knowledge (INK). The new law also transferred administration and oversight of the longitudinal data system from the Indiana Career Council to a governance committee and an executive director appointed by the governor.

The governance committee would consist of: (1) the commissioner of the department of workforce development; (2) the commissioner of the commission for higher education; (3) the superintendent of public instruction; (4) a member representing private colleges and universities appointed by the governor; (5) a member representing the business community appointed by the governor; and (6) the INK executive director, who serves in an advisory capacity.

Indiana’s longitudinal data system currently integrates state administrative data, including higher education student enrollment and graduation records, employment and unemployment insurance (UI) wage records, UI benefit claims records, claimant demographics, additional geographic and demographic detail from the Indiana Department of Revenue, Trade Adjustment Assistance program data, Workforce Investment Act (WIA) participant data, Wagner-Peyser program data, and adult education records.

New Jersey
Last week, New Jersey lawmakers proposed a package of 20 bills designed to increase graduation rates, make schools more accountable and cut tuition.

Five bills in the package would require colleges to be held more accountable for their graduation rates, fee hikes, student debt rates and other statistics. Under one of the proposed pieces of legislation, state funding would be partially based on a public college's performance.

Of particular interest to WDQC, one bill would require the development of a comprehensive longitudinal statewide data system capable of retaining individual-level information starting when a student enrolls in pre-school through entry into the workforce to better inform education and labor policies.

New Jersey’s current partial longitudinal data system links information from when an individual enrolls in a public school through postsecondary but does not track an individual into the workforce. The newly legislated system will connect workforce and employment data with the administrative data systems of P-12 and postsecondary education in New Jersey. The law also requires the establishment of a P-20 Longitudinal Data System Task Force, which will develop policies and recommendations on matters such as data elements to be maintained in the system and the feasibility of collecting postsecondary education and employment data for inclusion in the system for individuals who graduated from a public secondary school in the state, and subsequently moved out-of-state.

Maine’s proposed “Know Before You Go” legislation recently advanced through the state legislature with unanimous support of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. The bill, LD 1746, sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry would provide students and families with more information on employment and earnings outcomes for graduates of Maine colleges and universities as they make decisions about higher education. Policymakers may benefit as well as they use aggregate information to assess higher education needs and trends in the state’s job market. 

As amended, the bill would create a task force of 15 members to develop procedures around the maintenance and dissemination of the data, which is already held by the state Department of Labor and Department of Education. Next, the bill goes to the House floor.

Last week, Utah’s SB 34, Statewide Data Alliance and Utah Futures, passed the Senate and was sent to the governor. The bill proposed a Utah Education and Workforce Alliance, a consortium run by a governing board of business, education and government representatives. The goal would be to create a statewide data system with public education, higher education and workforce data.

The Utah Data Alliance, a consortium already focused on similar data, would be folded into the new alliance.

The bill would require the new alliance board to decide whether Utah Futures — a website to help guide high school students to make career and college choices — should be outsourced to a private company.


WDQC will continue to identify and publicize state actions that attempt to enhance their workforce data capacity.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, Utah