On September 24-25, workforce advocates from 12 states gathered in Columbus, Ohio for an annual meeting hosted by National Skills Coalition. There was also representation from two national partners, the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). During the two-day meeting, participants discussed policy solutions they could use to address a variety of issues facing workers and employers back in their states, such as state policies to support sector partnerships and career pathways, and state investments in training for good jobs. They also discussed opportunities to advocate for these policies by participating in WIOA planning and implementation and working with state officials and agency leaders.
Through the meeting’s cross-state sharing sessions, interactive panels, and facilitated dialogues, participants were able to get advice and swap stories from the trenches with their peers.
During panel discussions, Steve Hertzenberg of the Keystone Research Center in PA and Jessica Fraser of the Indiana Institute for Working Families shared lessons learned from advocating for sector partnership policies in their states. 21 states currently have policies to support local sector partnerships, and as such, are positioned to help local communities meet the needs of both workers and employers in key industries, according to NSC’s recent report, Skills in the States: Sector Partnership Policy, a first-ever 50-state scan. NSC will be releasing a toolkit to guide states that are looking to build local sector partnership policies or strengthen already existing ones.
Frank Waterous of the Bell Policy Center in Colorado and Alysia Ordway of Strategy Matters in Massachusetts discussed opportunities to advance career pathways. Group discussions that followed these panels underscored sustainable funding, coordination across education and training agencies, and good data systems as critical elements of policies to support sector partnerships and career pathways.
Meeting participants also discussed ways to use WIOA state planning and implementation to promote skills strategies and access to training for individuals with barriers to work. They discussed opportunities to align programs such as adult education, occupational training, and TANF and SNAP employment and training services under WIOA. They also highlighted the need to improve training participants’ access to support services like child care and financial counseling. Advocates identified opportunities to weigh in during their state’s planning and implementation process including:
- Participating in public planning sessions and state workforce board meetings
- Reviewing and providing feedback on draft state plans, policies, and technical guidance
- Asking state workforce boards to report on implementation of state plans
A special thanks to the United Way of Central Ohio and all of our partners in attendance for making this meeting possible! NSC looks forward to continuing our work with state coalitions and providing support for advancing their policy agendas in the year ahead.