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National Skills Coalition hosts second Skills in the States Forum

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis and Rachel Hirsch
National Skills Coalition hosts second Skills in the States Forum

On October 3-4, well over 100 workforce development leaders from 29 states gathered in Nashville, Tennessee to take part in NSC’s second Skills in the States Forum. This yearly Forum provides an opportunity for advocates, researchers, practitioners, and others to share ideas on how to move skills policies forward in their states, while also elevating policy wins and examples from states across the nation. The Forum is also a venue for state partners to discuss pressing topics in workforce development. This year apprenticeship and work-based learning, upskilling, and equity were among such topics.

Participants learned about apprenticeship and work-based learning programs, what states can do to bring these programs to scale, and how to ensure they are accessible to a broad range of workers. They also shared ideas on opportunities to expand work-based learning through support services that help people prepare for work and continue their training once they’re on the job, incentives to help employers start a program, and ways to create more work-based learning opportunities for young adults who aren’t in school. 

In addition to apprenticeship and work-based learning, the Forum focused on how states can expand equitable access to postsecondary credentials and family-supporting careers. Leaders from our host state shared lessons from Tennessee Reconnect, which helps adults earn credentials by providing free community college tuition along with intensive outreach, enrollment assistance, and advising. We heard about how they built support for Tennessee Reconnect and how a range of partners, from community-based organizations to businesses, are using the program as a vehicle for upskilling the existing workforce and addressing educational disparities. Small group discussions focused on different aspects of using skills policies to advance equity, including using data to advance racial equity, skills policies and immigrant integration, and using adult education to help workers upskill.

Advocacy strategies remained a constant theme throughout the Forum, with teams of state advocates sharing their experience on coalition building across businesses and non-profits, sustaining support in a shifting political environment, and using federal policies as an opportunity to advance state-level work.

Throughout the Forum, participants underscored the value of being able to tap into each other’s knowledge and expertise – across states and organizations -- as they work to develop new strategies for advancing skills policies. NSC intends for the Forum to be a catalyst for continued cross-state networking and collaboration going forward.

Special thanks go to our steering committee, who helped organize the event. The six-member committee included: Marie Downey of BEST Hospitality Training (MA), Jessica Fraser of Indiana Institute for Working Families, Hannah Halbert of Policy Matters Ohio, Waymond Jackson of the Birmingham Business Alliance, Kate Kinder of Portland Community College, and Renée Miller of United Way of Central Iowa. In addition to the steering committee, the forum was made possible with help from our funders: JPMorgan Chase, Lumina Foundation, The JPB Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Walmart.

To view materials from the Forum, please visit the events section of our website here.