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House passes Dream and Promise Act in bipartisan vote

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
House passes Dream and Promise Act in bipartisan vote

New legislation affirms the importance of middle-skill pathways and immigrant workforce to our economy

The House of Representatives yesterday voted 237-187 to pass H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019. Those voting for the bill included 230 Democrats and seven Republicans. It was the first time that the full House had voted on a bill to address the status of immigrant Dreamers since 2010. The bill was supported by an exceptionally broad array of organizations, including the AFL-CIO and the US Chamber of Commerce, which designated it a key vote.

Lead sponsors on the bill were Representatives Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY). The legislation affirms the crucial role immigrant workers play in the US economy -- where they represent 1 in 6 American workers overall -- and the vital importance of middle-skill jobs.

The Dream and Promise Act addresses barriers faced by a key subset of approximately 2.7 million immigrants. It provides a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants, and ensures a stable future for adult immigrants who have been living and working under Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

Legislation Reflects Voters’ Priorities

The legislation reflects National Skills Coalition’s longstanding advocacy for a middle-skills pathway for immigrant Dreamers and sends an important message: the American economy depends on working people and immigrants with middle-skill credentials, not just those with college degrees.

Recent polling shows that the American public strongly values having multiple pathways to good jobs.  Voters across the political spectrum voice overwhelming support for investments in skills, with more than 80 percent endorsing policies that allow workers to pursue technical training, apprenticeships, shorter-term credentials, and other skill-building opportunities.

The role of middle-skill credentials in the Dream Act

In order for immigrant Dreamers to attain permanent legal status under this bill, they would need to meet a host of requirements in different areas. One option for meeting the bill’s educational requirements is to earn a degree from a postsecondary institution (including vocational and proprietary schools), or complete 2 years towards a bachelor’s degree, or earn a certificate or credential from an area postsecondary CTE school.

Read more about the bill’s requirements in our March 26 blog post on the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act. (Please note that some provisions originally proposed in the bill, such as the repeal of a 1996 provision regarding states' ability to provide in-state tuition to Dreamers, were not included in the final legislation.)

Next steps in Congress: What advocates can do

While HR 6 has passed the House, its prospects in the Senate are much more uncertain, and President Trump has already threatened to veto it.

However, a Dreamer bill in the Senate does have bipartisan support, with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) serving as lead sponsors of the Dream Act of 2019, S. 874. While the bill is somewhat different from the House bill, it does include NSC’s recommended middle-skills pathway to citizenship.

Skills advocates should urge their Senators to take action on this legislation. NSC resources available for advocacy include our 50-state fact sheets about the demand for middle skill workers in each state.

Posted In: Immigration

NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

Photo: Partners from Colorado Skills2Compete pictured with State Senator Rhonda Fields, State Representative James Coleman, and Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore.

As state sessions come to a close, NSC’s partners are stacking wins across the country with governors, legislatures, and state agencies. Partners in a dozen states are advancing policies that will make skills training more available to workers in their states.  

NSC has worked with these partners over the past year through key state initiatives including SkillSPAN – a first-ever nationwide network of coalitions working to advance skills policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses. Taken together, these partners are making college more available to working people, broadening the apprenticeship pipeline, and expanding support services to remove barriers to skills training. 

Making college more available to working people

  • Expanding Georgia’s HOPE scholarship to more young adults: NSC teamed up with SkillSPAN partner Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Atlanta CareerRise, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Atlanta Civic Site of The Annie E. Casey Foundation to call on Georgia’s policymakers to make the state’s scholarship program available to more adults in order to close the middle-skill gap. This session, Georgia’s General Assembly extended the time that college students can earn the HOPE scholarship from seven to 10 years after high school. 

  • Funding the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship: SkillSPAN partner the United Way of Central Iowa successfully advocated for investments in Future Ready Iowa initiatives, including more investments in state tuition assistance. The Iowa legislature provided $13 million in funding for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship, which helps students –including adults –cover financial aid gaps as they earn credentials for high-demand jobs.  

  • Reconnecting adults to postsecondary education and training in Michigan: SkillSPAN partner the United Way for Southeast Michigan is supporting a bipartisan effort by Governor Whitmer and legislative leaders to launch Michigan Reconnect. The program, which is under consideration in both the Michigan House and Senate, would provide a tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for Michigan adults.  

  • Expanding resources to low-income community college students in Oregon: NSC and partners at Portland Community College testified to the legislature on Oregon’s new Pathways to Opportunity Initiative. The initiative expands federal, state, and local resources to provide supports like college success and career coaching and help cover costs like tuition, fees, books, bus passes, and food. The initiative builds on another Oregon policy win: the expansion of SNAP Employment & Training partnerships at all 17 of Oregon’s community colleges.  

  • Offering free community college training to SNAP students in Connecticut: Last fall, NSC partners at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities expanded their partnership with the state’s Department of Social Services to offer free skills training at all 12 of the state’s community colleges for students receiving SNAP. This expansion reflects NSC’s prior technical assistance to help Connecticut shift to skills-based SNAP Employment & Training. 

Broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

  • Expanding apprenticeship in Illinois: Members of the Illinois team in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy, including Young Invincibles and SkillSPAN partner Chicago Jobs Council, successfully advocated for legislation that instructs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to conduct a study on the potential expansion of apprenticeship programs in the state. The study must identify fields that support diverse and equitable apprenticeship growth and show how the state can better utilize different funding streams to support apprenticeship. The team also informed the Illinois Apprenticeship Expansion Program, a $2.5 million initiative to expand apprenticeship through regional intermediaries and navigators. 

  • Utilizing apprenticeship to shape the future of work in Texas: The Greater Houston Partnership, along with Educate Texas, supported the creation of the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future. Codified by the Texas legislature, the Commission will develop recommendations to ensure Texas maintains its long-term global and economic competitiveness by ensuring the state is developing the qualified and skilled workforce. As part of its charge, the Commission must recommend ways to increase work-based learning, including opportunities for underrepresented workers and small and midsize companies.  

  • Raising awareness of work-based learning strategies in Oklahoma: Through our Work-Based Learning Academy, NSC is partnering with Oklahoma Works and others to host an Oklahoma Work-Based Learning Summit in June so that workforce and industry partners throughout the state can come together to learn about opportunities for expanding work-based learning. 

Expanding support services and removing barriers to skills training

  • Piloting an emergency support services fund in Colorado: The Colorado Skills2Compete Coalition successfully advocated for the state to create a fund to help cover the costs of support services like transportation, emergency child care, and work equipment for low-income people in skills training, job search, or at the start of employment. The Colorado legislature passed legislation to pilot the program with $250,000 in funding. 

  • Assessing workers’ childcare needs in Mississippi: NSC partners at the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative convened workforce development and human services leaders to discuss how childcare and skills training can grow the state’s skilled workforce. Following the discussion, Mississippi agencies are planning to ask workers about childcare needs when they’re pursuing training at the state’s American Jobs Centers.  

  • Expanding training opportunities for people who are incarcerated in Tennessee: SkillSPAN partner Complete Tennessee supported increased investment in the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, which provides education opportunities to people who are incarcerated. The state quadrupled its investment in the initiative to $1 million, which among other changes, will expand career and technical education and postsecondary education in correctional facilities.   

Investing in strategies to secure a strong economic future for all Californians

With California’s policymakers in midst of budget negotiations, SkillSPAN partner California EDGE Coalition and other leaders in the Skills for California network are working to ensure that the state’s 2019-2020 budget invests in workforce development strategies that increase equity and economic opportunity. The Governor’s May budget revision included $10 million to plan and develop a data system that could work across the state’s education, workforce, and health and human services programs and be used to close equity gaps. It also included increased investment for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and the state’s High Road Training Partnership program, a sector partnership initiative of the California Workforce Development Board.  

 

Posted In: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee
Crucial higher education bill introduced in Senate to round out Community College Compact

Last week, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), joined by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tina Smith (D-MN), introduced the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act (S. 1612) in the Senate. This important bill aims to support crucial partnerships between community colleges and businesses—allowing for increased access to high-quality education and training options for students seeking 21st century skills.

The introduction of the Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act means that all four National Skills Coalition’s Community College Compact policies have been introduced as legislation. The Community College Compact is a set of four higher education policy recommendations informed and vetted by workforce development practitioners. These policies were designed to be collectively considered by Congress as they work to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA)—a sweeping federal policy governing postsecondary programs and student financial aid that has not been updated since 2008.

The Community College to Career Fund in Higher Education Act would authorize the Secretaries of Education and Labor to make competitive grant funding available to community and technical colleges that commit to partnering with workforce development stakeholders to give students more access to skills. To be approved for funding, community and technical colleges are required to submit an application to the Secretaries detailing the education and workforce training programs or activities that will be offered under the grant, how these programs or activities will meet the needs of employers and students in the area, and the methodology by which the success of these programs will be measured.

Under the legislation, grant recipients are permitted to use funds to offset the cost of a range of activities, including expanding articulation agreements, enhancing student support services, building linkages between secondary education or adult education and literacy programs, and developing or improving education and training programs that lead to recognized postsecondary credentials. Grants made by the Secretaries under this bill can last up to five years.

Federal funding for valuable industry partnerships has been lacking since the expiration of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program in 2014. We applaud Senator Duckworth’s efforts to strengthen these partnerships at the federal level—a policy change that will lead to student and employer success in today’s economy.

Given the skill needs of students and employers in today’s economy, where 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level, the modernization of our nation’s higher education policy through the adoption of Senator Duckworth’s bill as well as the balance of the Community College Compact bills is more important than ever before. Notably, the Compact’s policies are overwhelmingly supported by voters and business leaders who want to see higher education change for the better. 

In addition to Senator Duckworth’s bill, the policy proposals that make up the Community College Compact are:

Extend federal financial aid to high-quality, short-term programs by passing the JOBS Act (S.839)

Many students today are enrolling in postsecondary education in pursuit of the skills and credentials they need to successfully compete in today’s economy. However, this does not mean that employers are solely looking to hire candidates with two or four-year degrees. In fact, more than half of all jobs today can be classified as “middle-skill,” meaning they require a high school diploma, but not a college degree.

Despite this reality, students are required to enroll in postsecondary programs that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks of instruction in order to qualify for crucial federal financial aid, including needs-based Pell grants. This policy leaves students enrolling in shorter-term programs behind, despite these programs leading to employer-valued credentials.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act, which would allow students enrolling in postsecondary programs that are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction to qualify for Pell grants—so long as the programs meet the quality assurance criteria outlined in the legislation.

Increase the transparency of postsecondary education and workforce data by adopting the College Transparency Act (S. 800, HR 1766)

Currently, the Higher Education prohibits the Department of Education from collecting data on all postsecondary students. The Department’s existing College Scorecard only includes students receiving federal aid in the calculation of key metrics, like post-college earnings. This presents an incomplete picture of how well higher education and training programs are serving students.

To address this, Senators Warren (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced the College Transparency Act—a bipartisan bill aimed at helping students, policymakers, educators and employers make informed decisions when it comes to postsecondary education. The College Transparency Act proposes to overturn the outdated prohibition on data collection while putting a number of safeguards in place to protect student privacy.

Dedicate federal funding to career pathways by passing the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 1117)

To help meet the needs of these students, community and technical colleges along with their industry partners have been working to establish and strengthen career pathways—21st century learning models that combine support services with academic instruction. 

Despite the value of career pathways, there is a lack of targeted federal funding to help sustain and strengthen them. As a solution, Senators Hassan (D-NH), Young (R-IN), Kaine (D-VA) and Gardner (R-CO) re-introduced the Gateway to Careers Act—a bipartisan bill first introduced in 2018 that makes grant funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership with industry stakeholders, community-based organizations and other entities to better serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

National Skills Coalition applauds the introduction of these bills and looks forward to working with policymakers to advance them through the legislative process.

Posted In: Higher Education Access
Administration and Congress continue incremental progress to expand work-based learning as businesses and workers wait for next steps

The administration and Congress continue to make incremental progress to expand work-based learning opportunities in the US. In the coming months, DOL and Congress are likely to take additional steps by announcing grants to partnerships between educators and business associations, new regulations to implement an industry recognized apprenticeship system and through work on comprehensive apprenticeship legislation.

Administration Activity

Department of Labor

Last month, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the availability of $150 million, 2018 funds appropriated from Congress to support expansion of registered apprenticeship, for state apprenticeship expansion in in-demand industries. This will be the third round of these State Expansion grants. Thirty-six states applied for funds in the first round, and DOL regranted funds – between $1m – $7m per state - to those same 36 states for round two. These grants would be consistent with NSC recommendations, where the partnerships supported by funding included a robust set of local partners, including educators, the workforce system, labor management partnerships and other community organizations.

DOL also continues to work towards releasing regulations on a new Industry Recognized Apprenticeship system, intended to be parallel to the Registered Apprenticeship System and to empower non-DOL Standards Recognition Entities like business associations to recognize industry-recognized programs meet necessary standards. On April 23rd, DOL filed their draft regs for interagency review with Office of Management a Budget, a necessary step prior to releasing draft regulations and triggering a 60-day review period. Regulations are calendared to be released for public comment this spring.

 NSC has called for the administration to ensure regulation of this new system includes engagement opportunity for small and mid-size businesses, alignment with career pathways, and support for equal employment opportunity like that found in current regulations as applied to registered apprenticeships. Along with 15 other national organizations and as part of the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, NSC released a set of principles for expanding apprenticeship last year, including a definition of apprenticeship.

Finally, DOL is anticipated to release $150 million in H-1B visa fee funds to support the creation of these Industry Recognized Apprenticeship programs by supporting partnerships between educators and businesses or business associations. These application process for these grants closed last fall, and Secretary of Labor Acosta has described his intention to release grants soon, along with plans for a second and third round of grants, presumably also using H-1B visa fee funds, in the future.

Department of Education

The Department of Education is also taking steps to expand work-based learning opportunities for students in postsecondary education programs. Just last week the department announced a call for letters of interest from institutions of higher education to participate in a pilot program to expand use of federal work study funds to support work-based learning opportunities with private sector employers. The pilot is intended to empower institutions to use more of their FWS funds to support off-campus employment by waiving several statutory and regulatory restrictions.

The pilot would, among other things,

  1. allow participating students to work full time instead of limiting to part time,
  2. increase the federal contribution towards participant wages from 50 percent to 75 percent for small businesses, and
  3. waive a 10% cap on FWS spending on job training activities.


Congressional Activity

Congress also continues their focus on apprenticeship and work-based learning. The House Education and Labor Committee and the House Appropriations Committee both heard testimony from Secretary Acosta earlier this spring, as did the Senate Appropriations Committee, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (L-HHS) Subcommittee. During all three hearings, Republican and Democrat members, along with the Secretary, recognized the US underinvests in skills training. In response to member questions, the Secretary focused on the Department of Labor’s plans to expand industry recognized apprenticeship and the role of the workforce and education systems in support the expansion of industry recognized and registered apprenticeship.

Appropriations

The Fiscal Year 2020 House L-HHS appropriations bill cleared committee earlier this month, too, and is expected to be voted on by the full House early next month. The bill would include $250 million for expanding apprenticeship, a $90 million increase from Fiscal Year 2019 funding. The Senate L-HHS bill may be debated by the subcommittee as early as mid-June, but is unlikely to include as large of an increase as that proposed by the House bill.

Authorizers

Despite bipartisan support for apprenticeship, a comprehensive apprenticeship bill hasn’t been introduced this session, in part because the committees with jurisdiction over apprenticeship have focused on work towards reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Several targeted bills to support work-based learning have been introduced, however.

  • Senator Baldwin (D-WI), and Representatives Bonamici (D-OR), Ferguson (R-GA), Davis (D-CA) and Guthrie (R-GA) introduced the PARTNERS Act, which would support industry or sector partnerships between business, educators, community organizations, labor groups and the workforce system, building local capacity to run work-based learning programs and worker success in these programs.
  • During Infrastructure week, Senators Kaine (D-VA), Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI), Bonamici (D-OR), Langevin (D-RI) and Thompson (R-PA) introduced the BUILDS Act, which would provide national grants to support pre-employment and retention services for workers in infrastructure industries, have been introduced with broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.


National Skills Coalition, along with our partners in the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, will continue to monitor administration and Congressional progress towards expanding work-based learning.

Update the College Scorecard to fit the needs of today’s students

There is growing interest in providing students and others with information about the performance of postsecondary education and training programs. Consumer reports, which display important information about postsecondary programs and their outcomes – such as the percentage of students who complete their programs and find jobs, and average earnings of graduates – can help students, policymakers, and others make more informed decisions.  One key addition to improving these consumer reports would be ensuring that the College Scorecard consumer pages include a measure of earnings shortly after graduation.

The President recently issued an executive order directing the Department of Education to include information at the program-level on the Department’s College Scorecard.  Further, Congress is considering the College Transparency Act which would authorize such reports based on data from all students at institutions eligible for federal financial aid. As these initiatives continue and evolve, it is important to align postsecondary consumer reports with the characteristics and goals of today’s students and programs. A large and growing share of postsecondary students are working adults who attend certificate and associate degree programs that can quickly advance their level of employment and earnings. To fit the needs of these students and the programs they consider, consumer reports should show their labor market outcomes shortly after graduation.

Already, Congress has enacted statutory requirements for institutions receiving funding under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (commonly referred to as Perkins V) and Individual Training Account funds under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Such institutions must post online consumer reports including short-term labor market outcomes. To ensure that students and policymakers have comparable information about programs’ outcomes, the College Scorecard consumer pages should also include a measure of earnings shortly after graduation. Currently, the College Scorecard’s consumer pages report only earnings ten years after enrollment.

National Skills Coalition’s new policy brief, Consumer Reports for Today’s Postsecondary Students, discusses the current landscape of postsecondary consumer reports and explains why adding a measure of earnings shortly after graduation to the College Scorecard’s consumer pages is important to meet the needs of today’s students and to level the playing field for postsecondary consumer reports.