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House, Senate leaders release Farm Bill Compromise; Rejects harsh work requirements and increases training funding

Last night, House and Senate leaders released the text of a compromise Farm Bill reauthorization package that would renew the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and a range of other programs under the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through 2023. Critically, the bipartisan bill rejects expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients that had been included in the House proposal released in April, and provides a modest increase in funding for state SNAP Employment and Training (E&T) programs.

The compromise text is the culmination of lengthy negotiations by a formal conference committee to reconcile the House bill with a very different vision for SNAP outlined in the Senate’s bill, which was released in June and called for relatively modest changes to SNAP. National Skills Coalition and other national groups had strongly urged negotiators to reject the House approach and follow the Senate model in the final bill.

While not accepting the new work requirements proposed by the House, the conference report does include some amendments intended to strengthen SNAP E&T, which helps states and other partners provide access to education and training for SNAP recipients. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Increase state formula funding for administration of SNAP E&T programs (commonly referred to as “100 percent” grants) from $90 million to $103.9 per year;
  • Support increased coordination between SNAP E&T and the workforce development system under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), including through a general requirement that E&T programs be implemented in consultation with the state workforce development board
  • Require case management services to provided as a component of all state SNAP E&T programs
  • Establish a new category of eligible training program called “workforce partnerships,” which are training programs that are operated by either private employers or eligible training providers under WIOA, and which offer not less than 20 hours of training, work, or experience for SNAP recipients. The bill would also add supervised job search, apprenticeship, and subsidized jobs as allowable elements of an E&T program

 

The final bill does not make significant changes to the so-called “50-50” funding that many states and service providers have utilized in recent years to expand high quality training programs for SNAP participants. The bill does not include expanded funding for state pilot grants that had been included in the Senate version. The bill also lowers state authority to exempt SNAP recipients who are able-bodied adults without dependents (known as ABAWDs) from 15 percent of the eligible caseload to 12 percent, although it appears to otherwise largely maintain state authority around ABAWD waivers. There have been some indications that USDA may seek to amend state waiver authority through the regulatory process – the agency released an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in April asking for comments on the current state waiver process, and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has been quoted as suggesting that formal rules could be released early next year. National Skills Coalition submitted comments to the Department in April urging them to focus on expanding access to education and training rather than making it harder for SNAP recipients to succeed.

The conference report may go to the House floor as early as tomorrow or Thursday, with Senate passage expected to follow soon after. It is unclear whether President Trump will sign the bill – he had indicated earlier this year that he supported the House work requirements and wanted to see them included in the final package, but with time running out in this Congress it seems likely that he will ultimately approve the bill when it comes to his desk.

National Skills Coalition applauds House and Senate conferees for their hard work to preserve and strengthen both SNAP and SNAP E&T, and we call on lawmakers to vote yes on the conference report. We look forward to working with our state partners and other stakeholders to build on the investments included in this important bipartisan legislation.

Posted In: SNAP Employment and Training
States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

In recent years, the federal government has invested significantly in registered apprenticeship programs because they are proven to be an equitable pathway to a good job. Since they allow students to learn while they earn, they can help upskill workers while allowing for broader participation amongst non-traditional students and people with barriers to employment, who may not have the financial resources to stop working and pay tuition while they train for a new career. For these reasons, a new paper by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, “Counting Registered Apprenticeship Completions” calls upon states to include registered apprenticeship certificates within their postsecondary attainment goals and collect data about these programs in order to measure progress.

By explicitly including registered apprenticeship certificates within postsecondary attainment goals, states can signal to the public that registered apprenticeships are a valid pathway to a good career. It also provides incentive to state policymakers to pass policies that make registered apprenticeship programs more prevalent.

Just over half of states collect the individual-level data they need to understand which residents have enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs, which industries those apprenticeships are in, and the demographic characteristics of those who completed their apprenticeship and earned a certificate. The rest of the states may not have an accurate method of knowing how many of their residents have enrolled in and completed registered apprenticeship programs, and how those completions help equitably address the skills gap.

This paper details how Iowa, a state whose registered apprenticeship programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and Washington, a state who administers its own registered apprenticeship programs have collected individual-level data on registered apprenticeship completers.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Work-Based Learning, Iowa, Washington, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Job training is key to growing California’s economy and closing the state’s economic divide

California’s economy is booming, yet one out of every four residents lives in or near poverty. That’s why 40 California groups including colleges, unions, philanthropy, and organizations representing businesses and workers have joined with National Skills Coalition to call on California’s next Governor to adopt a workforce development agenda that would connect more people to good jobs. This shared agenda, Securing a strong economic future for all Californians asserts that a world-class workforce development system can support the economic aspirations of Californians while boosting the capacity of the state’s businesses.

The report explains that California’s diversity provides the state’s communities and businesses with a big advantage, but racial disparities in education, employment, and earnings keep California’s economy from reaching its full potential. It calls on the state to adopt policies that create more opportunities for all Californians, including people of color, immigrants, and low-income Californians, to thrive in the workforce and share in the state’s prosperity.

While the report recognizes that workforce development cannot be the only lever for economic mobility, it explains how a world-class workforce development system that helps more workers build in-demand skills and connect to good jobs can support economic opportunity. It lays out guiding principles for a world-class workforce development system to increase equity, opportunity, innovation, and economic growth in the state:

  • Focus on removing barriers to training and good jobs so that all workers can participate and thrive in the labor force.
  • Ensure that public investments in job training put all workers on pathways to good jobs, are aligned with labor market demand, engage businesses as employer partners, and work in tandem with other economic mobility policies.
  • Engage industry leaders to shape training programs and create stronger connections among businesses, workers, organized labor, and training providers.
  • Support upskilling for California’s frontline workers who want additional training to move into better-paying careers.
  • Use data to set and measure progress toward goals for creating a skilled, inclusive, and competitive workforce.
  • Prepare California for the current realities of the changing labor market and the future of work by creating new opportunities for low-wage workers and businesses in the changing economy.
  • Align workforce, education, human services, and corrections systems to move state policy to regional implementation.


The report is clear that California has made significant strides in building a better workforce development system, which policymakers can build on, and recommends nine innovative policy strategies that the state’s leaders can deploy to take it to the next level.  Click here to read the full policy agenda, including specific recommendations.

The work doesn’t end here. In 2019, NSC and its state partners will offer opportunities for California stakeholders to help transform this agenda into action. If you are a California organization interested in working together to secure a strong economic future for all Californians, please click here to learn more and get involved.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Job-Driven Investments, Data and Credentials, Skills Equity, Work-Based Learning, California
White House event on workforce highlights private sector investment - but we can’t compete without public investment

Today, the White House hosted an event, “Our pledge to America’s Workers,” highlighting investments from 165 companies to educate and train more than 6 million workers. NSC applauds this focus on workforce development and urges the administration to build on the event’s enthusiasm by proposing federal investments in the workforce and education programs that can make a dent in the U.S. skills gap.

The event builds on an Executive Order the president signed (EO) this past summer establishing the National Council for the American Worker and highlights commitments from companies including IBM, Microsoft, and AT&T.  While there is no way to evaluate whether these pledges are new hires or investments the companies would have made without administration efforts, NSC applauds the administrations focus on the critical need for workforce education and training.

During opening comments, Senior Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump described America’s workforce as our country’s greatest asset. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has an inconsistent record on education and training issues. While focusing attention on private sector investment, the White House continues to propose drastic disinvestment in critical workforce and education programming.

In a White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) paper released in anticipation of the President’s EO on American workers this past summer, the CEA recognized that the U.S. drastically underinvests in workforce development when compared to other peer countries. The private sector has a role to play in addressing the skills gap, but the federal government must invest in workers to truly bring education and training to scale necessary to ensure workers gain skills businesses need to compete in a global economy.

Over the past 40 years, funding for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) – the legislation that governs our workforce development system – has declined by 40%. Funding for Career and Technical Education (CTE) has declined by more than 30% and funding for Adult Basic Education (ABE) has declined by 20%. The administration has included even more drastic proposed cuts in their past two presidential budget requests.

Congress has – in bipartisan efforts – rejected these proposed cuts, however, providing $70 million more in CTE investments in the most recent fiscal year and $25 million more for ABE. NSC urges the Trump Administration to reverse course and in their next budget request to propose investments in workers and businesses that can complement the strong commitment the administration calls for from the private sector.

NSC will continue working with our network of partners from across the country and with our national partners through the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce to oppose cuts to vital workforce and education programming.

We can’t compete if we cut investment in our workforce, “America’s…greatest asset.” 

3 training programs connecting people to in-demand skills

  ·   By Michael Richardson
3 training programs connecting people to in-demand skills

Unemployment is at an all-time low and employers around the United States are looking to find a workforce that will fulfill their business needs. That’s why industry-specific training programs in the form of apprenticeships and other training programs are vital to helping workers gain the skills they need for middle-skill jobs. Here are three innovative new programs that are making strides in training workers to help meet employers’ needs while creating career advancement opportunities for workers.

Expanding apprenticeship to new industries and new workers is one way of meeting industry needs. In many states, apprenticeships are an emerging effort and create an opportunity to meet the growing demand for workers in industries like healthcare. The Community Health Worker Apprenticeship program is an initiative developed through a partnership between 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds, the New York Alliance for Careers in Healthcare (NYACH), the Bronx Lebanon Hospital and LaGuardia Community. The mission of the program is to train and employ people for positions as community health workers. It is a 6-month program made up of classroom instruction, mentorship and on-the-job training with guidance from current community health workers. Upon completion, participants earn a nationally recognized credential through the Department of Labor and are promoted to community health worker positions.

The California Civil Service Improvement information technology apprenticeship program is the first public sector IT apprenticeship program in the country. This apprenticeship pilot program is available to Sacramento state employees, from participating departments, who are interested in IT careers. For up to two years, apprentices take classes two nights a week online or in person, receive on-the-job training, and on Fridays attend cohort study sessions to complete homework assignments. Upon completion, the students receive a certificate of apprenticeship recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Apprenticeship Standards, a Cisco certification, 24 college credits and may apply to earn additional credits for the on-the-job work experience. Key partners that help manage this program are California Government Operations Agency, SEIU Local 1000, California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, and Mission College in Santa Clara.

In addition to apprenticeship, some programs are utilizing multiple federal funding streams to train workers for industry-specific jobs. The Civic Works Baltimore Center for Green Careers is an example of this. This organization uses funding through the Environmental Protection Agency Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training grant, U. S Department of Labor, philanthropic dollars, and SNAP E&T to train Baltimore city residents from historically marginalized communities for environmental jobs. Their training tracks include weatherization, solar, stormwater, and brownfields. Their brownfields remediation training program is a 5-week essential skills and credential-based training program preparing Baltimore residents for careers in brownfields remediation. Upon completion of the training, participants receive 7 different credentials and are provided with job placement assistance and 2 years of post-job placement and case management support.

These programs are examples of efforts happening across the country to connect more people with the skills they need to succeed in the labor market. It shows that stakeholders across a range of industries are partnering to remove barriers to success and provide industry-specific training so that more workers can have the skills they need to obtain careers and more employers can meet their workforce needs. These types of training efforts that connect workers and employers will help ensure the narrowing of the skills gap.