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Twelve community and technical college systems band together to call on Congress to adopt a job-driven Community College Compact for today’s students

Today, education leaders from twelve community and technical college systems across the country—including those in Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington—sent letters to federal policymakers, urging them to make higher education policy more responsive to the needs of today’s students.

The letters, which were sent to Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee leadership, call for the adoption of a job-driven Community College Compact; a set of postsecondary policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition (NSC) and vetted by a range of stakeholders, including academic institutions, employers, community-based organizations and workforce development boards. If adopted by Congress, these policies would increase access to high-quality education and training programs, crucial support services and transparent information regarding postsecondary programs for students of all ages and backgrounds. Likely 2020 voters and business leaders also strongly support the Compact policies, as demonstrated by recent polling conducted by ALG Research on behalf of NSC.

Community and technical college leaders are voicing their shared support for the Community College Compact in light of the impending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The HEA, which is the most comprehensive federal law governing postsecondary institutions and programs, has been eligible for reauthorization by Congress since 2008. Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander, and Ranking Member, Patty Murray, as well as House Education and Labor Committee Chairman, Bobby Scott, and Ranking Member, Virginia Foxx, have expressed interest in reauthorizing this sweeping legislation before the end of this Congress. Additionally, the White House has named the modernization of the Higher Education Act as one of its top priorities.

The letters urge federal policymakers to consider the following policy changes:

Eliminate the bias against working learners in need of federal financial aid

In today’s economy, approximately 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education or training, and more than 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they call for more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. As a result, community and technical colleges are working to increase access to high quality, short-term programs that lead to in-demand credentials. However, most federal financial aid available today is reserved for students who are enrolled in programs of study that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks—an outdated policy that fails to account for the training needs of individuals in our 21st century economy.

Therefore, community and technical college leaders are urging lawmakers to consider legislation—such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 839; H.R. 3497 ) led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Richmond (D-LA-02), Levin (D-MI-09), Horsford (D-NV-04), Gonzalez (R-OH-16), Herrera-Beutler (R-WA-03) and Katko (R-NY-24)—that would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in high-quality education and training programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks.

Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

Since higher education is becoming more closely linked with finding success in the labor market, data about the outcomes of postsecondary programs should be available to students, parents, employers and policymakers. However, as community and technical college leaders note in their letters, existing legal restrictions on the collection of student-level data continue to hinder the accessibility of this important information.

To help provide consumers with better data and relieve institutions of duplicative reporting requirements, community and technical college administrators called for action on the College Transparency Act (S.800; H.R. 1766). Introduced by Senators Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA), Whitehouse (D-RI) and Scott (R-SC) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI-10), Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08), Stefanik (R-NY-21) and Harder (D-CA-10), this bipartisan bill aims to establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student level data network administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to which colleges would be able to safely and easily report their data. The data would then be available as a decision-making tool for current and prospective students—making it easier for individuals to improve their lives through education and training.

Ensure the success of today’s college students by strengthening support services

Due to the diversity of the student populations they serve, community and technical college leaders recognize the growing importance of support services such as career counseling, childcare and transportation assistance. While states and higher education administrators across the country are working hard to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to succeed in the postsecondary education system, their efforts receive little support at the federal level.

To address this issue, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117)—legislation introduced by Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO). This bipartisan bill would make federal funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

Provide targeted funding for valuable partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Community and technical college leaders work with industry stakeholders every day to provide high-quality training and academic instruction to future workers through sector partnerships. However, Congress has not invested in these partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014. The purpose of the TAAACT grant program, which allocated $2 billion in funding to states from FY 2011-2014, was to increase the capacity of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce through job training for adults and other nontraditional students.

Due to the proven impact of community college-business partnerships, community and technical college leaders are calling for the consideration of legislation that would expand and support these collaboratives, an example of which is the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612; H.R. 2920). Introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Feinstein (D-CA), Durbin (D-IL), Shaheen (D-NH), Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Kelly (D-IL-02), this legislation aims to provide academic institutions and businesses with competitive grant funding so that they can continue to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

Read the letter to the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Labor Committee, as well as letters of support from Arkansas and Washington.

Posted In: Transportation, Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Sector Partnerships, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington

WDQC Participates in NY Wage Data Bill Review

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
WDQC Participates in NY Wage Data Bill Review

Last week, WDQC Policy Analyst Jenna Leventoff attended a meeting in Albany, New York about potential amendments to New York Assembly Bill 2164-B. The meeting was hosted by the bill’s sponsor, Assembly Member Harry B. Bronson.

Assembly Bill 2164-B requires New York’s Department of Labor to provide wage data to three workforce data clearinghouses located within academic institutions in the state. The clearinghouses would be required to evaluate workforce programs and issue reports. This bill would build on a 2013 amendment to State Labor Law Section 537 to allow the New York State Department of Labor to share wage records with government agencies (including public universities) by significantly increasing the state’s analytical capacity. To date, the bill has passed the New York Assembly, and will soon be considered in the New York Senate.

Meeting participants included New York state data users and experts, such as representatives of the State University of New York (SUNY), the City University of New York (CUNY), the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP), and the Center for an Urban Future. WDQC was invited to provide a national context for the collection and use of workforce data.

During the meeting, participants discussed the value of labor market and wage data, including how it can help promote program improvement, economic development, policymaking, and student decision making. Participants also provided advice as to the types of data agreements the state could enter into, and what the composition of the clearinghouse’s Board of Advisors should be. 

WDQC is pleased to provide input as this bill moves forward, and is thankful to Assembly Member Bronson for working to enable better use of existing data in New York. 


Posted In: New York, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

New York state funds “community navigators” project for low-income immigrants

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
New York state funds “community navigators” project for low-income immigrants

A recent Request for Applications (RFA) from the New York State Office for New Americans represents an innovative approach to improving low-income immigrants’ access to career pathways and other workforce and social services for which they are eligible.

The RFA proposes to use just over $1 million in Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds to support full-time Community Navigator staff positions at 14 organizations.  Grants of approximately $75,000 are expected to be made to each selected organization. Once awarded, the year-long grants may be renewed for up to two additional years, subject to the availability of funds.  

Per the RFA, the goal of the project is to “maximize the participation of low-income immigrant community members in New York State’s civic and economic life.” The project is not intended to directly provide services. Rather, each community navigator will function as a sort of air-traffic controller, overseeing a corps of volunteers in their local region who will help eligible immigrants to discover and access already-existing services. Navigators will also be responsible for a set of convening and coordinating activities meant to deepen local understanding of immigrant integration, particularly around workforce and economic issues.

Why the project was created

The New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) explains the rationale behind this project in the introduction to its RFA:

There is a chronic lack of accessible information about publicly available services and programs in low-income immigrant communities throughout New York State. Low-income New American communities in New York State often lack reliable information regarding workforce development opportunities and other opportunities open to all New Yorkers to fully participate in our State’s civic and economic life. Meanwhile, the complex relationship between immigrants and government has further left newcomers at a deficit for reliable, trusted information.

Taken together, this has left New York State’s new American population ignored for career pathways, vulnerable to financial frauds and at an access deficit for possible ladders of opportunities. Dedicated outreach and community welcoming efforts are needed to help low-income immigrants gain access to the same opportunities available to all others in the State and country. To address this need, the New York State Office for New Americans (ONA) is seeking local leadership to coordinate and conduct outreach to low-income immigrant communities, and to create a grassroots community navigators program to help low-income New Americans.

Who is eligible to apply

Organizations eligible to apply for these funds include Community Action Agencies and other nonprofits who meet the New York State definition of community-based organization (CBO).

Notably, this statewide initiative is not limited to New York City. Just three of the anticipated 14 grantees will be located in the city. The other 11 grantees will be spread out across the remainder of the state, including two dedicated to the upstate area known as “North Country.”

What activities are required under the project

Each grantee organization will be required to carry out a similar slate of activities. These activities will be led by the full-time staff member (“Community Navigator”) funded under the grant. They include:

  • Establishing and leading a monthly Immigrant Integration Roundtable in their local community
  • Conducting a survey of local immigrants regarding important economic and workforce issues facing immigrants in the region, and producing an accompanying research report
  • Collaborating with nonprofit and other partners to develop and implement 10 employment/workforce development workshops and other events each year
  • Developing and overseeing a program to recruit and train community members to become volunteer Community Navigators assisting low-income immigrants in accessing services and resources for which they are eligible
  • Creating curricula and providing bimonthly trainings for volunteer Community Navigators

Each grantee’s staff member will also be responsible for hosting Community Conversations about immigrant integration, leading quarterly tours to help local stakeholders learn more about immigrant integration issues, and coordinating the dissemination of relevant announcements to ethnic media outlets.

How success will be measured

Grant applicants are required to demonstrate that their funded work will address one or more of the CSBG National Performance Goals and Indicators. Most relevant from a workforce perspective is Goal 1: “Low-income people become more self-sufficient.”

Indicators collected for this goal include individuals who obtained or maintained a job; obtained wage or benefit increase; achieved “living wage” employment; obtained skills/competencies required for employment; completed Adult Basic Education or High School Equivalency and received a certificate or diploma; or completed a postsecondary education program and obtained certificate or diploma.

The broader context for this project

New York is one of a handful of states in recent years that have created Offices for New Americans. Such offices are intended to improve the integration of immigrant newcomers into the fabric of their communities, and often focus on economic and workforce-related issues.

Among the activities undertaken by the New York State ONA include the funding of 27 ONA Neighborhood-Based Opportunity Centers around the state, and of legal counsels that will provide legal technical assistance to ONA Opportunity Centers. The ONA also supports activities that are specifically workforce-focused, including a program to help immigrants with STEM backgrounds to find skill-appropriate jobs in the U.S.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, New York

Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

  ·   By Sapna Mehta
Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

Governors across the nation are proposing new measures to increase middle-skill training.  Among the most common proposals are state support for apprenticeships and new investments in community college training, including free tuition. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed an additional $150 million for grants to support community colleges to develop and implement “guided pathways programs, an integrated, institution-wide approach” to improve student success.  The Governor also proposed utilizing $923,000 in federal funds to expand existing apprenticeship programs and create new programs in non-traditional and emerging industries.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan proposed $41 million for the Going Pro Program, a job training program that focuses on in-demand occupations in advanced manufacturing, construction, information technology and healthcare. The Governor also spoke of the need to work with legislators and the private sector to increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the state.

Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada proposed a $21 million investment in career and technical education programs at the state’s four community colleges. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf requested $12 million in new funding to establish the Manufacturing PA initiative – a partnership between the Department of Community and Economic Development, research universities, community colleges, and other training providers to foster growth and innovation in manufacturing.  Of the $12 million, $5 million is for a manufacturing training-to-career grant program, which would facilitate partnerships between manufacturers and community colleges and technical providers, to link job training to career pathways through programs such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and paid internships. The Governor also proposed $4 million to expand apprenticeship opportunities, including grants for employers of up to $2,000 for each registered apprentice.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin proposed a $5 million increase in state funds and a new $5 million program for the Department of Workforce Development to make grants to the Wisconsin Technical College System for in-demand certification programs for high school students. The Governor also proposed $5 million for a registered apprenticeship program.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan proposed the Student Debt Relief Act, which would allow “Marylanders to deduct one hundred percent of the interest paid on their student loans from their state income tax return.” Additionally, as part of the Governor’s $5 million 2017 Maryland Jobs Initiative, he proposed opening six new P-TECH high schools, and funding to support students currently enrolled in existing schools.  P-TECH schools partner with employers and colleges to provide secondary to postsecondary pathways in STEM.   The Jobs Initiative also includes a $3 million investment in cyber job training grants, modeled after Maryland’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) workforce training program.  The Governor also announced a $1 million investment in Maryland Partnership for Workforce Quality, to encourage employers to invest in employee training.   

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed the $4 million Learn to Earn program, which would offer scholarships for training and certificates in certain fields, as well as transportation and child care subsidies to make it easier for people to attend the trainings.

Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island proposed $2 million for the Community College of Rhode Island Westerly Job Skills Training Center, which prepare students for jobs in advanced manufacturing in partnership with employers, and $2 million for the state’s TechHire initiative for training in technology related fields.  The Governor also proposed free tuition for two years at the state’s public colleges: University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.  Additionally, she proposed expanding P-TECH high schools.  

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb proposed investing $2 million to create regional Jobs Ready Grants to help incumbent workers earn in-demand credentials or certificates.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a budget enhancement of $1 million for the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program, which supports 124 different training programs at Virginia’s Community colleges.  The Governor also proposed requiring community colleges to award college credit for apprenticeships and other related programs, expanding access to in-demand credentials for non-traditional students. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the Excelsior Scholarship Program, a “last-dollar scholarship” to provide free tuition at the state’s public two- and four-year colleges to residents earning up to $125,000 annually.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed tuition-free community college education for all adults without a post-secondary degree.  Currently, adults without post-secondary degrees can attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology tuition-free through Tennessee Reconnect, and only recent high school graduates can apply for “last-dollar scholarships” to attend the state’s community colleges through Tennessee Promise. Funding for the new adult scholarships would come from the state’s lottery proceeds.

Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed piloting the Accelerated Completion of Technical Studies program, which would provide financial support to low-income students pursuing associate degrees at community colleges for in-demand jobs.  This is modeled after a similar successful program at the City University of New York.

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas proposed free tuition at two-year colleges and technical schools for high school students who enroll in high-demand fields, such as computer science or welding.  The grants, known as Arkansas Future Grants, would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  They would be paid for by repurposing $8.2 million in general revenue funds from other workforce and higher education grants.

Posted In: Arkansas, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin

New report makes practical suggestions for improving workforce services for immigrants

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
New report makes practical suggestions for improving workforce services for immigrants

A new report blends demographic and labor market analysis with stakeholder interviews to generate fresh workforce policy recommendations for New York City. A City of Immigrant Workers: Building a Workforce Strategy to Support All New Yorkers was released at a Ford Foundation event last month.

Funded by Ford and the New York Foundation, the report was produced by the Center for an Urban Future and the Center for Popular Democracy. While primarily aimed at municipal and philanthropic leaders, the report’s findings also have rich implications for workforce, adult education, and immigrant advocates.

Perhaps most importantly, the report explicitly builds off of the nationally recognized Career Pathways report issued by New York City last year. This deliberate framing emphasizes a central contention of the new report: That for the city’s ambitious Career Pathways initiative to succeed, it will need to be intentional in addressing the assets and needs of immigrant workers.

Setting the Stage: Workforce Demographics and Landscape 

The report opens with a portrait of New York City’s immigrant workforce. Immigrants make up nearly half (47%) of the city’s workforce, nearly triple the national rate of 17%.

The report draws on US Census Bureau data to explore New York City immigrant workers’ earnings; major sectors of employment; language skills; educational backgrounds; and immigration status. In particular, it highlights the high percentages of immigrant workers in six sectors that were identified in the Career Pathways report as priorities for building industry partnerships.

How Immigrants Relate to the City’s Workforce Ecosystem

Next, the report presents an analysis of immigrants in relation to the city’s labor market and so-called “workforce ecosystem.”  The workforce system in New York City includes services provided by more than 15 city agencies, supported by approximately $500 million in public funds. An additional $72 million in private philanthropy is also devoted to workforce development.

Yet despite this substantial investment, the report says, “there is limited quantitative data about how public and privately funded workforce services entities connect with immigrants in New York City.” This lack of data is extreme: The city’s public Workforce1 Career Centers do not even have comprehensive data on how many foreign-born New Yorkers are accessing their services, much less what services they are receiving or their outcomes.

(New York is not alone; this is a national problem. Learn more in NSC’s fact sheet on workforce program data and immigrants, published in collaboration with the Workforce Data Quality Campaign.)

Few NYC workforce and adult education programs are specifically targeted at immigrants, the report notes. Of those that are directed toward foreign-born New Yorkers, most focus on English language instruction. A relative handful provide workforce services, such as sector-focused bridge programs for Limited English Proficient jobseekers. 

Another section of the report focuses on the informal sector, where workers toil in unregulated and unmonitored workplaces. Unusually for a workforce study, the report explores the “competition” that private employment agencies represent for public and nonprofit workforce providers. In contrast to public workforce centers (a map of which is included in the report) these private agencies are often located in immigrant-dense neighborhoods.

More worryingly, the authors note, these private employment agencies “often prey upon the financial vulnerability and/or instability of a worker’s immigration status” by charging excessive fees, offering meaningless certifications, and connecting workers to jobs that pay far below the legal wage.

Key Barriers & Recommendations for Action

The bulk of the report focuses on barriers faced by immigrant workers and promising strategies for overcoming those barriers.  The report’s recommendations fall into three broad categories: 1) Build the right career ladders for immigrants; 2) improve immigrant access to workforce development through systems coordination; and 3) raise workplace standards for immigrant workers.

Below, we explore select recommendations:

  • Make additional investments in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and adult basic education, focusing on high-quality programs with measurable positive outcomes in educational and skill gains.  National Skills Coalition is a strong supporter of increased funding for adult education; this issue was a key policy request at our Skills Summit earlier this year.
  • Develop new integrated bridge and occupational training programs that provide workforce training and English language instruction using knowledge generated through the city’s new Industry Partnerships. The value of programs that provide contextualized instruction in basic skills combined with attainment of an industry-recognized occupational credential is widely recognized. Model programs cited in the report include those run by 1199SEIU and LaGuardia Community College. NSC is proud to note that the directors of both of these programs – Faith Wiggins and John Hunt – are members of our National Advisory Panel on Skills Equity.
  • Build the capacity of community-based organizations in immigrant neighborhoods to 1) serve a greater number of people through workforce development programming; 2) make appropriate referrals to training and job placement services; and 3) establish robust partnerships with larger adult education and workforce services providers to increase offerings in areas of the city where immigrants live. The report cites PHI’s Cooperative Home Care Associates as an example of an effective larger workforce organization to which immigrant-serving nonprofits can refer, and the Lower East Side Employment Network as an example of a robust multi-organization referral network. 
  • Increase support and technical assistance for community-based organizations and worker centers that already work with undocumented immigrant workers to help them improve their skills and protect their rights in the workplace. Worker centers, also known as day-laborer centers, can offer valuable opportunities for immigrant workers to learn on-site while waiting for employment. NSC profiled one such effort, a Vocational ESOL program offered at the Pasadena Community Job Center in partnership with a local community college.

To view the remainder of the recommendations, refer to the full report.

Implications for Other Cities

The New York report provides a powerful roadmap that advocates in other cities and states may consider replicating. Elements that could most easily be adapted include:

  • Demographic and labor market analysis. NYC used publicly available US Census Bureau and labor-market data, which is easily accessible for other geographic regions using tools such as the American Fact Finder. Additional data on immigrant workers in particular is available via the Migration Policy Institute’s Data Hub.
  • Connection to local workforce policy agendas. In New York City’s case, this was the aforementioned Career Pathways report issued by the city in 2014. Advocates deliberately built off of the city’s earlier report to draw connections between immigrant workers and the city’s broader agenda.  Other regions can look to their local or state workforce boards’ Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plans or similar public documents for inspiration.
  • Amplification of effective models. To help illuminate its policy recommendations, the New York report used concrete examples of local programs that could be expanded or replicated. This technique is effective in helping readers make connections between abstract policies and tangible impact.


Posted In: Immigration, New York

Skill-building in a community setting

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
Skill-building in a community setting

A new effort is exploring skill-building opportunities for immigrant workers who are seeking stable employment in Northern Westchester County, NY. The project is a collaboration between Westchester Community College and the nonprofit Neighbors Link Northern Westchester, both located in the suburban New York City area. 

It is one of more than a half-dozen similar projects supported by the Building Community Partnerships to Serve Immigrant Workers (BCPIW) initiative of the National Council for Workforce Education. The initiative is funded by the Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Each of the BCPIW projects is receiving technical assistance from NCWE, and teams from each project have made a visit to a model program at Casa de Maryland or Instituto del Progreso Latino in Chicago. In addition, project partners have participated in peer-learning opportunities with each other.

Identifying the Need: Home Health

The New York project team began by examining labor-market trends and identifying a growing need for home health workers. Job openings in that occupation in Westchester County are expected to increase by 29% by 2022. Other data-gathering documented an aging population, particularly an increase in those age 80 and older, and an expanding local pool of immigrant workers.  

Many of those workers pass through the doors of Neighbors Link, which serves more than 2,700 immigrant and low-income families every year. Among the organization’s services are a worker center that includes a hiring site and a job bank. “Employers are used to calling here to look for workers in areas like landscaping or construction,” explains Carola Otero Bracco, executive director of Neighbors Link. “And some of our clients are very entrepreneurial; they were already doing informal private-duty [home care].” 

Designing the Program

Initially, project partners anticipated creating a Home Health Aide (HHA) training program. Such programs follow an established process in New York State, which licenses HHAs and which requires that training classes be taught by a Registered Nurse with home health experience.

It quickly became apparent that a more tailored approach would be needed. “We had to back up and realize that our clients had some foundational skills needs,” says Otero Bracco. “Many Neighbors Link clients have limited formal education, perhaps at the 3rd or 4th grade level. When we looked at the textbook that was being used by [other] Home Health Aide training programs, we realized that you really had to have a [higher] level of English in order to participate.”

The partners went back to the drawing board. “We ultimately developed a new Home Companion Certificate that provides 20 hours of training, preparing participants to go into the homes of people who have disabilities or are elderly,” explains Kathy Graf, ESL coordinator at Westchester Community College. “The English as a Second Language [ESL] component is interwoven within this program.”

The certificate provides an initial step on the career ladder for immigrant workers, Graf adds. “After they complete the Home Companion training [at Neighbors Link], we hope that will be the foundation that allows them to enter the [existing] Personal Care Assistant 40-hour training program” currently offered at the college. The next step for PCA graduates is to take an additional 35-hour course to become Home Health Aides.

“It’s about meeting our clients where they are,” says Otero Bracco. “We want them to be successful. Kathy and Robert [Nechols] have worked very hard to develop the contextualized ESL component of the Home Companion Certificate, and the program is being taught by an ESL instructor along with a volunteer who has a background in home health.” (Nechols serves as Director of the English Language Institute at Westchester Community College.) 

What Training Includes

The Home Companion Certificate training consists of eight 2.5-hour classes. “Each class period is really three hours, because we added 30 minutes for dinner for the participants,” explains Luisa Granda, director of adult education and operations at Neighbors Link. “We have learned through our own experience, as well as our site visit to Instituto in Chicago, that providing dinner and childcare is really vital in making sure that people can participate in training.”

The program is also providing other wraparound services to help students persist. Most notable is the learning facilitator, Ramiro Rincon, who serves as a combination counselor, adviser, and troubleshooter. “Commitment [to the training program] is important,” says Granda. “We know that retention can be an issue…life gets in the way. We're trying to work with participants to make sure they can stick with the class.”

Applying a National Model in a Local Context

“We learned when we visited Instituto that each partner should do what they do well. Let the community-based organization do what it does well, and let the community college do what it does well,” says Granda. “So Neighbors Link will engage with employers because that’s one of the things we do well…. We’re developing marketing materials right now.”

Eventually – like Instituto – Neighbors Link hopes to expand eligibility for the program to US-born participants. “Our mission is about integrating the whole community -- not only the immigrant community, but also longer-term residents,” says Otero Bracco. “We take very seriously the concept of integration in the whole community.”

Eligibility Requirements

Participants must have an intermediate level of English. A modest enrollment fee of $50 is charged to ensure participants’ investment in the class. Because Home Companions are not a state-licensed occupation, and training participants are not being directly placed with employers, the program is open to all immigrants.  Learn more about the program.

Previously on the Skills Blog, NSC profiled another program in the Building Community Partnerships to Serve Immigrant Workers project, focusing on immigrant day laborers in Pasadena, CA.


Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, New York

Governors propose workforce initiatives

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Governors propose workforce initiatives

Governors are unveiling their legislative proposals for 2016, including proposals to boost workforce skills. The governors of California, New York, Virginia, and Idaho are among those announcing new skill building proposals. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed $200 million to implement the recommendations of the California Community College Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy. The funds would enable community colleges to expand access to additional career technical education courses and programs and to implement a regional accountability structure aligned with the Task Force’s recommendations.  Community colleges would be expected to collaborate regionally with their educational, workforce, labor, and civic partners to expand access to career technical education programs that meet each region’s workforce needs. In addition, Governor Brown proposed $48 million for California’s Career and Technical Education Pathways program, and proposed repealing the Program’s sunset in order to make it permanent. The Governor also proposed $1.8 million to enhance apprenticeship training.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced proposals focused on opportunity youth.  According to the Governor’s Office, New York will face a shortage of as many as 350,000 workers for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. “This “skills gap” is one of the greatest challenges facing New York State’s economic development goals.” To respond to this challenge Governor Cuomo proposed an additional $31 million to enable another 19,000 youth to participate in the summer youth employment program. The Governor proposed “Apprentice SUNY,” a new $5 million program for 2,000 students to receive classroom and on-the-job training through new registered apprenticeships linked to degrees or certificates. The Governor proposed creating the state Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The Program would enroll young adults 18 to 24 years of age in pre-apprenticeships that would prepare them for direct entry into registered apprenticeships on public work projects. The Governor also proposed expanding the budget of the Urban Youth Jobs Program to $50 million to serve 10,000 young people. The Program provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth. 

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe requested an appropriation of $24.6 million to enhance noncredit workforce programs at Virginia’s community colleges. Of that amount, $12 million is to increase the capacity of existing noncredit workforce programs for occupations with the greatest need for workers, $6 million is to increase student interest in these programs, and $6.6 million is to incentivize those programs that are most successful, using the funding to reduce course costs and allow for further increases in the system's noncredit workforce programs' capacity.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter proposed a budget enhancement of $3.8 million to expand postsecondary training in fields experiencing skill gaps. The initiative would build training capacity at six post‐secondary institutions to produce more graduates for high‐demand jobs in health care, information technology, mechatronics, and transportation. According to the Governor’s Office, there is an average of 2,180 annual job openings across these four occupational areas. However, capacity in the programs that train in these four areas is limited, with only 542 graduates per year, and an average wait list of 825. The additional funding would expand capacity by 410 seats for jobs that have a median hourly wage of $19.10 per hour

As more governors announce their proposals for 2016, National Skills Coalition will keep you abreast of the developments.

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

Posted In: Career Pathways, Virginia, New York, Idaho, California

Skills on the agenda at National Immigrant Integration Conference

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
Skills on the agenda at National Immigrant Integration Conference

Last month’s National Immigrant Integration Conference in Brooklyn, NY, brought together more than 1,300 advocates from across the United States. Hosted by the New York Immigration Coalition and the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA), the gathering featured three days of high-profile plenary sessions, hands-on workshops and in-depth panel discussions on a wide range of topics.

National Skills Coalition’s Amanda Bergson-Shilcock served as co-chair for the conference’s Adult Education and Workforce Development track, in conjunction with Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy.

Each of the track’s three sessions tackled a distinct aspect of the multifaced adult education and workforce arena: 

  • Putting WIOA to Work for Immigrants and Refugees, moderated by Margie, examined the newly reauthorized Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides more than $3 billion in federal funding for workforce and adult education services. Panelists explored changes in the new WIOA legislation compared to the prior Workforce Investment Act, and the implications for immigrants.

  • Employer Engagement, moderated by Amanda, drew on the diverse experiences of practitioners from Jewish Vocational Service of Boston, the International Institute of Buffalo, and Upwardly Global. Each panelist described how their organization has built long-term relationships with employers that have led to job training contracts and/or employment opportunities for immigrant participants. Policy perspective for this panel was provided by the National Immigration Forum.

  • Educational & Workforce Success for DACA Youth: Making the Most of DACA’s Promise was moderated by Audrey Singer of the Brookings Institution. Audrey provided concrete data on the population of young immigrants eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and speakers from Florida, New York, and Washington state described program models that are successfully serving these young people.

Both Amanda and Margie also participated in a plenary session focusing on the New American Dreams policy platform released by NPNA at the conference. The platform was developed to help inform public discussion on immigration issues during 2016 and beyond.  Watch a video of the plenary, or read the succinct policy platform

Conference organizers had invited every Republican and Democratic presidential candidate to address the attendees. Three accepted the invitation. Their remarks are included among the conference videos.

Finally, Amanda moderated a special session on Fixing Brain Waste, hosted by Partnership for a New American Economy and IMPRINT/WES. Researchers from the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University and the Migration Policy Institute presented data from two new studies on under-employed immigrant professionals. Practitioners from the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the St. Louis Mosaic Project served as respondents, sharing examples of how the results of this new research are informing work on the ground.

The next National Immigrant Integration Conference will be held in Nashville, TN. Details will be announced on the conference website in the coming months.

Posted In: Immigration, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, New York

NY Senate White Paper Recommends Improved Workforce Data

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
NY Senate White Paper Recommends Improved Workforce Data

Last week the New York Senate Democratic Policy Group released a white paper entitled Upstate Left Behind: Job Loss, Policy Challenges, and a New Path to Create Jobs Across New York State. The white paper discusses 47 policy initiatives, including improved workforce data, which are intended to bring jobs to Upstate New York and decrease the region’s economic stagnation.

The white paper suggests that by strengthening workforce data, New York can connect residents with the right job training programs, and increase job readiness. That, in turn, would create employment, as it did in Mississippi, where the state’s longitudinal data system provided information that helped attract a Yokohama Tire Corporation manufacturing plant.

WDQC’s 2014 Mastering the Blueprint report is cited in the white paper, because it revealed that the state failed to achieve any of our 13 Blueprint elements for strong data systems. It also influenced development of the policy recommendations.  

WDQC applauds New York State legislators for highlighting workforce data as an important strategy for economic growth, and we look forward to being a resource as policy proposals advance. With better information, workers can pick training programs that give them in-demand skills, businesses can hire qualified workers to help them succeed, and state leaders can direct resources to workforce programs that give people real opportunity and support New York’s economy.

Other recommendations from the white paper include expanding job training programs, facilitating college credit for career technical education courses, and developing a state service corps. 

The white paper is not the only action New York is taking towards improving data. Recently, representatives from New York attended the Multistate Education and Workforce Data: Improving Policy and Program Outcomes meeting, hosted in cooperation between WDQC, Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE), and the New York Association of Training and Employment Professionals (NYATEP). During the meeting, representatives from the state’s public college systems discussed current research efforts as well as the potential benefits of multi-state data.  

Posted In: New York, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

NSC summer tour: Workforce innovation across the United States

  ·   By Yuri Chang, Christina Lindborg-Pena, Ashley Shaw
NSC summer tour: Workforce innovation across the United States

National Skills Coalition has taken to the road this summer. Our staff got to see firsthand how the issue areas we have been working on are progressing in different states, and to meet people who have been tirelessly engaging in these efforts.

NSC would like to thank everyone we met during our visits for sharing their time and insight, and for allowing us into their busy workspaces! 

Demand-driven postsecondary education in St. Louis:

Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh, National Field Director Jessie Hogg Leslie, Workforce Data Quality Campaign Director Rachel Zinn, and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships Director Scott Ellsworth visited two workforce training centers to learn how federal policies such as HEA, Perkins, and WIOA can better support employer-driven training. The group first visited the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program, led by NSC leadership council member Dr. John Gaal of the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis & Vicinity. The apprenticeship program is a partnership between management and labor, preparing at-risk youth and other non-traditional populations for careers in the construction sector. The group then visited St. Louis Community College’s Center for Workforce Innovation. In addition to the Center’s pre-employment training program with Boeing, staff learned about how STLCC has leveraged four rounds of TAACCCT grants to align federal funding streams, partner with employers in targeted industries, revamp developmental education, and collaborate more effectively with other community colleges in the state. Leaders of the TAACCCT initiatives discussed how short-term, non-credit Pell and more resources for postsecondary Perkins/Career & Technical Education could help them sustain and scale the innovations they’ve fostered as a result of the time-limited TAACCCT grants.


Sector partnerships and youth in New York City

CEO Andy Van Kleunen, Chief of Development and Strategic Growth Sarah Oldmixon, Federal Policy Director Kermit Kaleba, and Field Coordinator Ashley Shaw visited organizations focusing on youth workforce development strategies, with a particular interest in learning more about sector partnerships and work-based learning models that serve youth and young adults. Their first stop was Per Scholas, New York City’s largest and oldest professional IT workforce development program. Per Scholas offers a series of free, multi-week professional IT job training courses and career development and placement services, and has trained more than 4,5000 students since 1998. The group then visited Comprehensive Development Inc. (CDI), a non-profit that prepares youth and young adults for future careers and life through free academic, career-readiness, and social services. CDI serves 3,500 NYC public high school students and alumni through a network of partner schools including the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, and organizations such as the New York Alliance for Careers in Health. The group finally visited the Heckscher Foundation for Children, which provides grants to youth-serving organizations in the fields of education, family services, child welfare, health, arts and recreation.


Data systems, career pathways, and WIOA planning in the Twin Cities

State Policy Director Bryan Wilson, Senior State Policy Analyst Brooke DeRenzis, and Rachel Zinn and Christina Lindborg-Pena of Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) traveled to Minnesota to learn about data systems, career pathways, and WIOA planning.  They first met with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Department of Employment and Economic Development personnel who demonstrated recently developed data tools that prospective students and job searchers can use to shape their career paths. The team next visited the Project for Pride in Living (PPL) Learning Center to learn about their FastTRAC career pathway program. PPL prepares people for jobs in the human services sector by partnering with others to combine adult education, occupational training, career counseling, and support services. The crew then headed to the Anoka County Workforce Center, a point of resource for career pathways programs, adult basic education and other education opportunities, WIOA employment and training services, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training, childcare and medical assistance, and more. To cap off the tour, NSC staff had the unique opportunity to join a monthly meeting of the Minnesota Workforce Council Association (MWCA) Operations Committee. The meeting provided NSC staff with a chance to hear about different perspectives on WIOA implementation throughout the state.


Immigrant integration and adult education in Philadelphia

Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Business Manager Melanie Pinkert, Communications Associate Yuri Chang, and Office Manager Tabitha Bennett visited the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians to learn about services that promote immigrant participation in the area’s political, social, and economic life. The Welcoming Center is a centralized employment and referral center that connects jobseekers to employers, and provides English language classes, job and life skills training, small business support, and legal advice. The group learned how the Welcoming Center utilizes strategic partnerships with numerous regional organizations such as government agencies, service providers, employers, business associations, and trade unions to connect immigrants to economic opportunities. The group met with several program directors and sat in on a contextualized English language, life skills class.  NSC is working to increase resources for effective, employment focused ABE/ESL at the state and federal levels.

Posted In: Immigration, Sector Partnerships, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Higher Education Access, Adult Basic Education, Career Pathways, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Data and Credentials, Sector Partnerships, Missouri, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania
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