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The U.S. needs to invest in training incumbent workers for an inclusive economic recovery

The pandemic has caused a major economic shift for businesses and workers. Countless companies have had to quickly upskill their workers, equipping them with the skills they need to pivot to digital or remote services.

As a result, the importance of efficiently and effectively training and onboarding workers with the right skills for the job has become an increasingly critical.

National Skills Coalition's latest report: It's Incumbent on U.S.: Leveraging federal policy to maximize investment in incumbent worker training and business’ pipeline development offers recommendations to Congress on how to address this pressing issue including:

  1. Creating a new Federal Incumbent Worker Training Fund under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to provide dedicated resources to states to fund partnerships between employers, education and training providers, and other stakeholders.

  2. Creating new "21st Century Extension Partnerships," aligning workforce and economic development strategies. These partnerships should provide technical assistance to small and medium-sized employers, coordinate funded training for businesses in the same industry, and efficiently encourage companies to adopt latest industry methods and technologies.

  3. Leveraging changes to the tax code to empower private investment in worker training for both new hires and the upskilling of existing workers.

Investing in incumbent workers is a critical layoff aversion strategy for small and mid-sized companies at a time of historic worker displacement and can be a path to better equity in the workforce.

The problem: Current economic and workforce development programs fail to support business engagement in training new or existing workers

Small and mid-sized business leaders often lack the tools necessary to develop a pipeline of skilled workers or upskill incumbent workers. Existing policies, however, fail to address this need.

The U.S. drastically underinvests in workforce policy meant to upskill and train workers already on the job, despite this being an effective and efficient way to connect learning to career pathways. Where we do invest public dollars, polices often lack alignment between economic and workforce development necessary to bring together programs meant to spur business innovation with those designed to help workers benefit from and contribute to that innovation. And finally, public policy fails to scale up or adequately leverage existing private investments in incumbent workers in a way that could maximize what businesses are already spending on their employees.

The solution: Policy change to maximize public and private investment in incumbent workers

Congress has the chance to reverse course and implement key policy changes that would support businesses and workers now and as our nation adjusts to the new realities of the post-pandemic world. Ideally, these policy changes should connect small and mid-sized businesses— particularly those in COVID-19 impacted industries—to public resources and to other companies in the same industry to scale solutions. And Congress must leverage private and public investments to maximize upskilling opportunities for both new and incumbent workers.

Read the full report today for more details on these recommendations.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Tax Policies, Work Based Learning, Future of Work
Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery: A Call for Action, Equity, and Accountability.

As I draft this message with National Skills Coalition’s Board of Directors, I keep returning to this fact: The emotional, physical, and economic toll that the COVID-19 health pandemic has taken on our country can’t be overstated. Our coalition stands with the working people and local businesses who have been most impacted by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

The deeply inequitable consequences of this economic crisis for Black, Latino, Indigenous, and other communities of color, for immigrants, and for people with a high school diploma or less lay bare our nation’s history. A history of structural racism that kills people of color and robs them of their livelihood. A history of public policies that undermine the aspirations of working people who want to train for a better job. A history of economic recovery strategies that pick winners and losers rather than creating real pathways to prosperity for everyone.

But today, as the NSC Board, we come to you in a spirit of hope, responsibility, and determination with the release of Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery: A Call for Action, Equity, and Accountability. This call to action offers a vision for the role that skills policy can play in an inclusive recovery. A recovery in which workers and businesses most impacted by this recession, as well as workers previously held back by structural barriers of discrimination or opportunity, are empowered to equitably participate in and benefit from economic expansion and restructuring.

Skills for an Inclusive Economic Recovery will guide our coalition’s work over the next two years. And over the coming months, we will share actionable legislative agendas and in-depth policy solutions that achieve the goals we put before you today. Solutions that state and federal policymakers can run with. Solutions based on the experience and expertise of our member businesses, labor-management partnerships, community organizations, community colleges, and education and workforce experts. Solutions that will require your advocacy to make them real.

America cannot train its way out of an economic crisis, nor can skills policy shoulder alone the weight of a more inclusive economy. Inclusive skills policy on its own will not dismantle structural racism, bring economic security to every worker, or ignite sustainable growth for every small business. A web of policies and practices contributes to these goals. But skills policy has an essential role to play and must be part of our nation’s path forward.

So it’s with a sense of hope, responsibility, and determination that we ask you to walk with us on this path and shape this journey.

In solidarity,

Andy Van Kleunen, CEO and Board member, along with the rest of the NSC Board

Scott Paul (Chair)

Alma Salazar (Vice Chair)

Jessica Fraser (Secretary)

Alice Pritchard (Treasurer)

Daniel Bustillo

Brenda Dann-Messier

Melinda Mack

Ned McCulloch

Girard Melancon

Rory O'Sullivan

Grant Shmelzer

Abby Snay

Van Ton-Quinlivan

Portia Wu

Posted In: Future of Work, Work Based Learning, Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Federal Funding, Work-Based Learning, Postsecondary Education, Skills and Supportive Services, Upskilling
3 key policies to support young parents via workforce development

A new brief from National Skills Coalition highlights three touchstones for policymakers to keep in mind when developing interventions to support young parents. The brief, Young Parents and Workforce Development in a Post-Pandemic World, is available now.

There are approximately 4.5 million American parents who are between the ages of 18-24.  Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, many young parents faced significant challenges in balancing their jobs and childrearing responsibilities with efforts to build additional skills and advance in their careers.

As policymakers and workforce advocates adapt o a pandemic-affected world, ensuring that skill-building policies are intentionally inclusive of this population can help to ensure a level playing field for all of America’s workers, regardless of their age or parental status.

A holistic approach to workforce

While NSC’s recommended policies center on workforce development and education, research shows that it is vital for them to also include the ancillary supports — such as childcare, tuition, and transportation assistance — that are necessary for young parents to attain their education and career goals.

As policymakers take action to support young parents and other constituents who are scrambling to find their economic footing, three touchstones will be crucial to incorporate. In each case, advocates and policymakers should be mindful that the enactment of strong policies should be supported with appropriate amounts of funding, guidance, and technical assistance to enable high-quality implementation at the state and local level.

Policy touchstones to inform action

  • Invest in accelerated pathways. Strategies such as Integrated Education and Training, Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP), and guided pathways have demonstrated effectiveness in helping individuals with skill gaps, which include many young parents, to quickly prepare for in-demand jobs.

  • Respond to evolving digital inclusion needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid existing discrepancies in home broadband internet access, digital device access, and digital literacy skills. People of color are disproportionately affected by these disparities, as are parents. Given that many young parents are people of color, it is important to ensure that new policies to support education and workforce development in a pandemic-affected world help to remedy rather than magnify equity gaps.

  • Provide high-quality childcare. It’s so straightforward a solution that it may seem difficult to believe that most workforce programs don’t fund childcare for their participants. But many programs do not have the resources to provide such services, thus leaving young parents burdened with figuring out their own childcare arrangements.  Policymakers and skills advocates should create and expand investments in high-quality childcare programs for workforce development participants, including young parents.

Learn more about each of these touchstones in the full Young Parents and Workforce Development in a Post-Pandemic World report.

Posted In: Training Policy in Brief, Work Based Learning, Future of Work

How states can rev up their recoveries through upskilling

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
How states can rev up their recoveries through upskilling

The COVID-19 pandemic has spotlighted and accelerated two trends that were already occurring in the American workplace: First, the demand for new skills and competenciesincluding digital skills, from workers at every level. Second, the growing importance of investing in employer-based upskilling strategies that can help already-employed workers adapt to changing skill needs on the job, as well as new jobseekers who are preparing for employment at a particular company 

A new report from National Skills Coalition provides a roadmap for state policymakers and skills advocates eager to take action on these issues. Funding Resilience: How public policies can support businesses in upskilling workers for a changing economy details the strengths and shortcomings of state incumbent worker training funds, and makes recommendations for better state policies in this important area.   

Uneven patchwork of policies leaves many workers and businesses out in the cold 

Even before the pandemic, the US was not investing nearly enough in proven strategies to help incumbent workers upskill and new workers enter jobs. Today, only thirty states provide any dedicated state funds for incumbent-worker training -- and among those that do, funding reaches only a tiny fraction of potentially eligible workers and businesses.  

Funding Resilience details the current landscape of state policies that support employers’ in-house upskilling efforts, and explains the major bottlenecks and barriers preventing widespread replication of effective practices. Some of these barriers can be addressed through simple revenue-neutral changes that will not affect state budgets, such as making application cycles more frequent to match the speed of business.   

An opportunity to strengthen policies as states launch COVID economic recovery efforts 

The report makes recommendations for how policymakers can take action to change the trajectory and equip more businesses to implement upskilling programs that respond to emerging labor market demands. These timely ideas are particularly relevant for policymakers spearheading COVID recovery efforts, especially given that many businesses will need support for rapid re-skilling as previously unemployed workers return to the labor market. 

To preview the report’s conclusion: States with existing incumbent worker policies should strengthen them, and those without such policies should advance them. Reinvigorating state incumbent worker training policies is necessary to ensure that the essential workers and industries that the United States depends on can flourish in a post-pandemic economy.  

Enthusiastic advocacy from businesses and workers – combined with the growing public recognition that existing workforce investments are simply not sufficient for the present moment – can provide the momentum necessary to galvanize policymakers to act.   

Get all the details in the full Funding Resilience report. 

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning, Future of Work, Upskilling
New report charts path to reemployment for workers left behind by nation’s pandemic response

The recent health crisis - and unprecedented, rapid job loss associated with it - has illuminated how unprepared the United States is to help workers who lose their jobs reskill to prepare for and successfully enter new employment. Policy responses to the current crisis – while critical – have fallen short of addressing challenges workers and businesses face. In a new report, National Skills Coalition outlines an aligned, comprehensive, reemployment accord to respond to current challenges and prepare for an inclusive economic recovery that addresses prior policy shortcomings and moves all workers and businesses towards success in the 21st century.

This path forward, outlined in A 21st Century Reemployment Accord, includes four key pieces:

  1. Expand access to skills training by making workers who lose their jobs eligible for a Dislocation Training Account, providing up to $15,000 in public funds to invest in training through an apprenticeship program, with a community organization or at a community or technical college. Studies suggest financial concerns are the largest barrier to workers succeeding in training. Reskilling for jobs of the twenty-first century will require short and longer-term training, frequently outside of traditional degree programs, yet today’s workers are often unable to access public funds to support training for quality non-degree credentials.

  2. Launch a federal “Reemployment Distribution Fund,” providing access to income support, through robust unemployment insurance and wage-replacement subsidies, that mitigate the financial impact of job loss on workers, their families, and communities. An initial investment of $20 billion as well as sustainable funding, should empower states to draw down funds to cover the length of training and job search necessary for workers to access a job of the twenty-first century. A first step for Congress to accomplish these goals would be to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance to cover a far larger set of workers, such as those who lose their jobs permanently due to automation.

  3. Create a network of “Twenty-First Century Industry Partnerships” among businesses, education providers, the public workforce system, and community organizations to ensure the significant public and private investments necessary to respond to worker dislocation caused by technological changes in the workplace align with employment opportunities in in-demand industries. Industry and sector partnerships are a best practice across the country but need to be expanded to more industries in more local areas to reach the scale necessary to respond to challenges associated with technological change in the workplace. This expansion will mean a dedicated federal investment.

  4. Maximize eligibility for and access to other support services under existing federal programs for workers during the reemployment process. Barriers to accessing childcare, transportation, and other support services — such as eligibility that doesn’t permit workers to access subsidies while in training programs, underfunding that leads to long waiting lists, or the fact that our social safety net programs reach too few people — make it harder for workers to succeed in training programs necessary for reemployment. To maximize retention and success in a new job, these services should be available to workers during the transition period in a new job, as well. Any federal response to job loss caused by technological change needs to provide workers with access to comprehensive, robust support services that improve worker success and retention.

The new report is the second in several publications National Skills Coalition is releasing this summer detailing recommendations for an inclusive and equitable economic recovery from Covid-19. Read the full brief for more detail on how to modernize reemployment to serve workers and businesses.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Work Based Learning, Future of Work
COVID-19 shines a spotlight on digital skills: Updates and key questions for advocates and policymakers

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into stark relief the importance of digital literacy for American workers and students alike. National Skills Coalition is providing this overview to help education and workforce advocates understand 1) what changes are occurring, 2) how organizations are responding, and 3) what questions advocates and policymakers should be asking to inform their responses over the short and mid-term.

For more resources on digital skills, check out our industry-specific fact sheets on health workers, manufacturing, hospitality, retail, construction and transportation, as well as Applying a racial equity lens to digital literacy. You can also read further details on Medium and register for our May 5th webinar. 

The current snapshot: Major changes in the education and workforce landscape

In just a few short weeks, millions of Americans have shifted rapidly to a new way of working – remote, separated from their colleagues by distance and sometimes by time zone, tasked with quickly getting up to speed on an array of digital tools with which they may not have had any previous experience.

Meanwhile, millions of other workers are still at work on job sites across the country, including many frontline workers whose jobs require extensive contact with the public. Now they too are being asked to use mobile apps, online reporting mechanisms, and related tools in order to keep their jobs and adapt to new customer and employer demands for contactless interactions and improved health and safety amidst a pandemic.

All of this is occurring while key institutions that have traditionally helped Americans build digital skills are staggering under the weight of new responsibilities in this quickly changing landscape. Many public libraries, which have long been at the forefront of digital skill-building, are closed to the public. Librarians are scrambling to identify the best ways to ensure that WiFi hotspots remain accessible to the public even during building closures.

Thousands of adult education programs, many of which were already providing digital skill-building before the pandemic, have had to convert almost overnight into fully online learning experiences. Higher education institutions are facing similar demands. Teachers and administrators are being forced by circumstance to upskill themselves in the moment, while also assisting learners who may lack a computer, reliable internet access, or the skills to participate. 

Families are struggling to support children, youth, and adults whose educational institutions have moved classes and coursework online. Professors and other instructors are wrestling with converting in-person formats into digitally interactive ones overnight, while trying to ensure equity for students with disabilities and/or limited tech access.

The weight of all of these developments is falling unequally on Americans who are more marginalized, more vulnerable, and less connected than their peers. Workers who are able to work from home are disproportionately Asian or White, leaving Black and Latinx workers more likely to be on the front lines. Households without broadband access are also more likely to be comprised of people of color. Rural communities that lacked broadband access before the crisis are now facing additional ripple effects from those digital gaps -- affecting their workforce, businesses, and broader economies. Compelling new evidence indicates that students with smartphone-only internet access face major academic disadvantages compared to their peers who have home broadband access.

Hitting the ground running: How education and workforce leaders are responding

Education and workforce practitioners have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic with a combination of rapid-response and mid-term solutions. In the immediate term, many organizations have temporarily closed their physical offices, often due to state or local mandates shutting down non-essential businesses.

But even as physical locations have shut down, services have moved quickly online. Staff are working feverishly to assess the digital capacity of their learners and jobseekers, even while trying to ensure that their own personnel are equipped to provide (some) services remotely. At the state level, officials are hurrying to provide guidance to local program administrators amidst a quickly evolving landscape.

These are just a handful of the many hundreds of examples of how skills advocates are responding: 

Program level:

  • From Washington DC, the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School, a major provider of adult education and workforce development programs, reports that “From quickly developing distance learning materials and making creative online spaces to connect; to establishing additional phone lines answered by Student Services team members to provide supports in English, Spanish, Amharic, and French; to holding classes via Zoom, Schoology, and QR-code enabled smartphone lessons; our mantra is: We’ve got this!”

  • From South Texas near the US-Mexico border, Maria Cris Gonzalez of the state’s Region 1 Adult Education Program notes that she has done a rapid-response survey to understand staff technology gaps among the 85 teachers serving 3500 adult learners in her programs. Teachers with varying degrees of digital literacy skills have been racing to get up to speed with tools such as Zoom and WebEx. Meanwhile, the Integrated Education and Training welding program is still on track; their community college partner has helped shift it to an online format. Despite the epidemic, adult learners are persisting, Gonzalez adds: "I have students who live in cars. I have students who live in homes with dirt floors. But they are still attending class via their cell phones." 

  • From San Diego, Tech Hire has teamed up with ServiceNow and the San Diego Workforce Partnership to offer a new 5-week intensive virtual training for IT Service Managers. The training will help participants earn two certifications, preparing them to hit the ground running in IT careers.

  • From Illinois, Becky Raymond of the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition notes: “Our recent work in the Illinois Digital Learning Lab (IDLL) showed that 85% of the adult learners participating in the program tested below a proficient level on basic computer skills. Now more than ever, I am heartened by the work that CCLC’s team has done to bridge this divide. Through our technology projects, low-scoring adults have been connected to critical apps and websites such as Chi311, MedlinePlus and the Center for Disease Control’s online resources…. Over the past year, it has been inspiring to work with adult educators across the state to help them set up online learning platforms for their students. We didn’t realize how critical these platforms would be in continuing connection and learning for low-scoring adults during this time. We understand that many adult educators will not be able to implement an easy switch to distance education and we are committed now more than ever to helping adult education programs and instructors facilitate learning at a distance.”

State level:

  • California’s Adult Education Program has reminded its providers that recipients of the state’s $500 million adult education funding stream (as distinct from federal adult ed funds) are funded based on need, rather than seat time or testing results, thus relieving them of concerns about providing in-person testing at a time when many locations are closed. CAEP also provided a list of resources for adult educators who are needing to convert their classes to an online format. OTAN, one of the state’s technical assistance providers for adult education programs, has set up a Field Support resource page.

  • Maine Governor Janet Mills has signed an executive order suspending certain restrictions on job training funds managed by the Maine Community College System’s Maine Quality Center (MQC) program. Suspending those restrictions, such as eligibility and employer matching funds, gives the MQC program more flexibility to rapidly provide free online training to people who have been displaced by the recent effects of COVID-19. “So many people have lost their jobs because of COIVD-19. But overnight there is a huge demand for workers in certain jobs, such as medical assisting and pharmaceutical technicians,” notes Maine Community College System President David Daigler notes. “We need to give people the training and skills they need to step into those jobs as quickly as possible.”

National level:

  • The US Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education (OCTAE) has issued guidance for WIOA Title II-funded adult education programs as many make a shift to distance learning formats

  • The federal LINCS bulletin board is hosting a lively discussion among adult educators on how to move to online education

  • The EdTech Center at World Education has launched the Tips for Distance Learning website to assist adult basic education programs in launching or improving their distance learning program.

  • The International Society for Technology in Education has created an educator help desk

  • The National Digital Inclusion Alliance has created a COVID-19 resources page


Key questions for advocates and policymakers to be asking

As the pandemic evolves, both skills advocates and policymakers will be called upon to develop effective and evidence-informed responses to quickly changing needs of businesses and workers. Below, we outline key questions to consider as these decisions are being made.  

  • How are new digital demands in specific industries such as healthcare or transportation, distribution and logistics affecting workers’ ability to function effectively in the current environment? What reskilling or upskilling interventions need to be provided to assist them? (Note: An industry snapshot released by National Skills Coalition before the pandemic highlighted the stark need for digital literacy skills among healthcare workers.)

  • How are new state investments in COVID-19 rapid response supporting education and workforce development activities? How could they be strengthened?

  • How is existing expertise in digital skill-building -- whether from experienced adult educators, higher education instructors, or other partners -- being drawn upon to inform future program design and funding decisions?

  • How are digital skill-building efforts being woven into existing upskilling programs and policies? In particular, how can workforce development and higher education providers ensure that explicit digital skill-building activities are incorporated, as appropriate, in their programs?

  • How do digital skill-building policies and programs connect to the other “two legs of the stool” on digital inclusion – namely, broadband internet access and digital devices such as laptops and tablet computers?

  • What lessons learned or evaluation results can be captured from recent events to help illuminate the pros and cons of online learning for specific populations of workers, such as those with limited literacy or English skills?


Posted In: Work Based Learning, Future of Work
National Skills Coalition members: Demonstrating leadership and tackling the Future of Work

Last month, National Skills Coalition hosted our 2020 Skills Summit; an annual gathering of workforce development leaders from across the country with an emphasis on the importance of skills in our 21st century economy, including how workers will be impacted by the Future of Work (FOW).

During the Skills Summit, workforce development stakeholders—including education leaders, business leaders, community-based organizations, state and local government leaders and labor organizations—heard from a range of experts about the “state of play” of skills policy in our nation’s Capital. Attendees were also briefed on NSC’s 2020 Skills For Good Jobs Agenda, which outlines priorities around a number of key federal policy areas, such as the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the modernization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and ensuring racial equity in education and workforce programs.

This year, NSC’s Skills for Good Jobs Agenda included an emerging policy platform around the Future of Work (FOW). While most workers are optimistic about the FOW, it is also hard to deny that technology will have an impact on the jobs of the future. In fact, at least 60 percent of jobs are projected to be significantly impacted by automation and 10-15 percent of jobs will be eliminated. These changes would mean that 100 million workers would need to be upskilled or reskilled to succeed in the 21st century economy.

Because of this projected impact, workforce development leaders—including those present at the Skills Summit—see skills and job training programs as a top priority for workers, businesses and our country for the Future of Work. In light of this, NSC hosted three, FOW-focused break-out sessions (pictured above) at the Skills Summit where attendees heard from a panel of experts around specific policy areas: including digital literacy, business engagement and reemployment. Attendees then participated in small group discussions with their peers to talk through challenges and opportunities of proposed federal policy solutions. An overview of each of these discussions is as follows:

Digital Literacy

  • Problem statement: American jobs are undergoing massive technological transformation. To succeed in this rapidly changing environment, workers need broad-based digital problem-solving skills that equip them to learn a wide variety of today’s technologies and navigate continued changes in the future.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Leticia Lewis, the BSA Foundation
    • Alison Ascher Webber, World Education/Digital US
    • Angela Siefer, National Digital Inclusion Alliance
    • Moderator: Molly Bashay, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Defining digital literacy at the federal level is a crucial step towards ensuring its prioritization in education and training policies.
      • Gaps in digital skills affect students and workers of all ages including those working in in-demand industries. Efforts to increase access to digital literacy must be thoughtfully designed so that they reach all individuals—including individuals from traditionally vulnerable or displaced populations.
      • Digital literacy should be embedded into education and training best practices, including Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs and career pathways.
      • Industry and sector partnerships (ISPs) should be utilized as a convening tool to bring business and industry, education leaders, community-based organizations, labor organizations and other workforce development stakeholders together around digital literacy.

Business Engagement

  • Problem Statement: Given the importance of skills in today’s economy, many business leaders stand ready to play a significant role in making sure new and incumbent workers can access the education and training they need to be successful in in-demand industries. However, small and mid-sized business leaders, while willing to invest in skills training, often lack the tools necessary to scale and sustain these programs on their own.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Cassi Zumbiel, Manufacturing Institute
    • Mary Ann Pacelli, National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Dept. of Commerce
    • Ethan Pollack, Aspen Institute
    • Moderator: Katie Brown, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Robust industry and sector partnerships are crucial tools for connecting workforce development strategies with larger scale economic development strategies. Currently, these partnerships exist across the U.S., but stakeholders lack the resources needed to expand them at the pace and scale necessary for the future of work.
      • The federal government has utilized tax incentives for businesses to drive private investments in education and training. These incentives—while effective—should encourage work-based learning and reskilling in addition to hiring. Additionally, more workforce development stakeholders should be made aware of available tax credits for hiring, so these credits don’t go unused.
      • Given impending changes to our nation’s workforce due to automation, training for incumbent workers who will need to reskill to stay in their jobs should be a priority at the federal level. Incumbent worker training should have a dedicated federal funding stream, so as not to take resources away from supports for dislocated workers.


  • Problem Statement: Workers who lose their jobs due to technological change in the workplace will need reskilling to prepare them for jobs of the 21st century, well beyond the intensity and length of time covered by current policies.
  • Panel of experts:
    • Andy Stettner, Century Foundation
    • Jessica Fulton, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
    • Michael Griffiths, Deloitte Learning Consulting Practice
    • Julie Squire, National Association of State Workforce Agencies (NASWA)
    • Moderator: Katie Spiker, National Skills Coalition
    • Key takeaways from small group discussions:
      • Individuals who have been dislocated from their workplace need access to income supports in addition to supportive services while they work to transition to a new job through education and training. Eligibility for these supports should not change based on why an individual was displaced from their job.
      • Industry and sector partnerships play a significant role in ensuring workforce development stakeholders can work together to address dislocation as well as strategies for recruiting and retaining new workers.
      • Connecting the unemployment system with education and training providers as well as community-based organizations is key to ensuring displaced workers have quick access to high-quality jobs. These connections will also make the dislocation to employment pipeline less cumbersome for individuals in need of assistance.


NSC is extremely appreciative of the efforts of all those who participated in these sessions. NSC plans to roll this valuable feedback into a series of policy briefs on the Future of Work set to be released this year.



Posted In: Future of Work

Skills 2020: Iowa ground game & the future of work

  ·   By Rachel Unruh,
Skills 2020: Iowa ground game & the future of work

The 2020 election cycle is a crucial opportunity to raise the visibility of the overwhelming public support for skills training. And National Skills Coalition is leading the field in making sure candidates and the press understand voter views on skills training as well as the policies that can support a competitive workforce – policies developed and vetted by our diverse national coalition of business, labor, colleges, community organizations, advocates, and public officials based on what’s working in their communities.

With first in nation status, Iowa’s February 3rd caucuses transform the state into the epicenter of candidate activity and media attention during December and January. That’s why the NSC team is on the ground in the state making sure that skills are in the spotlight. 

On December 13th, NSC’s press secretary Ayobami Olugbemiga joined local, national, and international press in Des Moines for a tour of the Iowa Caucus Consortium’s media filing center - home base for the media during the February caucuses. Ayobami met with reporters and previewed polling that NSC will roll out in January that explores skills training as a voting issue for caucus goers.

On December 17th, NSC sponsored the Iowa Caucus Consortium’s community forum on the future of work in Des Moines. CEO Andy Van Kleunen talked about the need to harness digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence - which will impact 60% of today’s jobs – by developing a comprehensive skills policy response. He highlighted NSC polling which found that 87% of Iowa voters support a comprehensive policy that would provide skills retraining at no cost to any worker who loses their job due to automation.

Andy was joined by Tej Dhawan, Chief Data Officer at Principal Financial; Christina Trombley, Executive Director of Online Programming at Drake University; and Mary Bontrager, Executive Vice President of Talent Development at the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Watch video of the event here

The NSC team will be back in Iowa in January for an Iowa Caucus Consortium CEO forum sponsored by NSC’s Business Leaders United. NSC’s Voices for Skills campaign is sponsoring the Consortium’s candidate forums leading up to the caucuses (watch candidates talk about skills training at these forums at our Voices for Skills Facebook page). And our team will be on the ground during the caucuses making sure the media understand voter views on skills training.

But we won’t be stopping in Iowa. NSC will continue to raise the visibility of skills training throughout the primaries and through the general election. Want to get involved in our educational ground game over the next year or just stay up to date on what candidates are saying about skills? Visit and sign up to be a voice for skills and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted In: Future of Work, Iowa
CA Future of Work event aims to serve incumbent workers in a changing economy

National Skills Coalition recently travelled to Silicon Valley to build bridges between those driving technological innovations associated with the “Future of Work” and current workforce policy debates in Washington, DC about how to respond to these disruptions.  With the recent announcement from California Governor Gavin Newsom about a new state Future of Work Commission, NSC wanted to learn how the state’s emerging discussions around Future of Work could inform the Coalition’s efforts to advocate for polices that will help workers and local companies prosper through these structural shifts in the labor market.

On June 12, 2019, NSC joined with the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Autodesk Foundation to co-host a roundtable discussion with 40 representatives from leading technology companies – Apple,  Autodesk and Salesforce – as well as community colleges, organized labor, community organizations , philanthropy, and the “futures” community.  These included leaders from the Skills for California Network who recently released an agenda of workforce and education policies that could better secure a strong economic future for all Californians.  Van Ton Quinlivan—NSC Board member, Institute for the Future fellow and former Vice Chancellor of the CA community college system—was instrumental in bringing together such a diverse group to discuss a set of actionable policies that could reskill millions of incumbent workers for a changing, tech-infused economy.

U.S. workers and companies face an unprecedented acceleration of workplace technologies, with broad implications for the “future of work” in America. By most estimates, at least 60% of today’s jobs will be impacted by digitalization, automation, and/or artificial intelligence. That means over 90 million working Americans may have to acquire new skills just to stay in their jobs, let alone to advance in their industries. An additional 10-20% of jobs are likely to be eliminated and replaced with new types of higher-skilled positions, requiring broad-based income and reskilling support for millions of impacted workers as they develop new careers.

While many conversations have focused on abstract solutions to address this impending shift, far less attention has been paid to actionable steps necessary to address the future of work…today.

Attendees discussed several key policy recommendations to best serve incumbent workers—particularly those most vulnerable to technological changes—to prepare for both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the future of work:

  1. Update and scale education and workforce policies to support more rapid assessment and retraining of current workers at risk of technological impact.
  2. Increase both public and private investments in employee upskilling and target those investments at workers most vulnerable to tech displacement.
  3. Expand sector partnerships and technical assistance for local businesses to help them and their employees inclusively adopt new technologies.
  4. Launch a new comprehensive national workforce re-employment system that supports all unemployed workers, regardless of the source of their displacement.
  5. Align public and private workforce and labor market data to support better decision-making and equity across workers in this uncharted era.

In addition, Institute for the Future staff presented new innovations in the areas of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies that could impact the types of scalable training that could be made available to a range of current workers and future job-seekers who will need to continually raise their skills to keep ahead of the technological curve.  IFTF staff also shared current thinking on the ethics of current technology deployment and the tech industry’s role in evaluating – and preventing – bias  exacerbated by new technology in the workplace.

Participants agreed that there was great opportunity to continue working together to shape some of these policy discussions both in Washington and in Sacramento.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to continuing to engage with businesses, worker representatives, and training providers to advance a set of actionable, winnable polices to help today’s workers and local businesses benefit from the technology changes that are already restructuring the U.S. economy.

Posted In: Future of Work, California
There’s More than One ‘Future of Work’: National Skills Coalition sponsors series to bring more perspectives into the Washington discussion

Everybody in Washington wants to talk about the Future of Work (FOW), but they don’t necessarily want to have the same discussion—nor should they.  That’s why National Skills Coalition is sponsoring a series of events in our nation’s capital—and streamed to the rest of the country—to unpack how different industries, different groups of workers, and different sized companies will each face unique challenges as automation, artificial intelligence and digitalization redefine skilled work in the U.S.  As our nation’s leaders assess policy options proposed to respond to these changes, they need to pay attention to these various FutureS of Work that often go unaddressed by popular one-size-fits-all FOW solutions.

Representing a nationwide network of workforce development experts who have been dealing with the impacts of technology and changing skills needs in America’s labor market for years, National Skills Coalition wants to bring some of that hands-on expertise into Washington’s assessment of these issues. Community colleges and community organizations, unions and labor-management partnerships, leaders of both small and large businesses across a range of sectors—manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, construction, energy, retail, and agriculture:  Each of these brings real-world insight into how a tech-driven economy has and will impact different workers and workplaces.  They’ve also seen where government policies have worked and where they have fallen short in supporting the most effective local strategies for upskilling millions of American workers to meet changing economic demands.

NSC hopes the following events bring some additional depth to the Future of Work discussions in Washington:

Register for these Events

  • Uneven Prospects for Different Groups of Workers:  February 6th, 2019, 9:00-10:30 AMHosted by National Skills Coalition at its 2019 Skills Summit, Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St NW, Washington, DC, 20008.  (Conference registration required to attend in-person.)

    Technology associated with the Future of Work will impact workers in every sector and at every level in the U.S. economy—but those impacts will not be borne equally.  Research indicates the majority of job losses from automation will be borne by workers earning less than $20 / hour with a high school degree or less; many of these will be workers of color. Mid- and late-career workers with less developed digital skills than their younger counterparts are likewise vulnerable, as are a range of other experienced workers if they’re at a workplace that is not willing or able to continually invest in their re-skilling.  How should public policy respond to the FOW impacts felt by these different groups of working Americans? What complimentary role can private industry play in these responses, and how can public policy better leverage those investments for workers most vulnerable to these changes? 

  • Tech’s Workforce Impact Across Different Industries:  February 28nd, 2019, 9:00-10:30 AMHosted by Microsoft at the Microsoft Policy and Innovation Center, 901 K Street NW, 11th Floor, Washington, DC 20001. 

    Popular discussions about technology and the Future of Work often reference robots in manufacturing as the prototypical demonstration of automation’s likely impact on future workers.  But automation’s 20th century introduction into modern U.S. manufacturing—and the role that national policy played in that tech diffusion—is distinctive and likely quite different from how new technologies will be introduced into other U.S. industries here in the 21st century.  How will the introduction of AI, automation, and digitization look different between different sectors, based on their contrasting operational structures and workforce compositions? As national policymakers think about how to respond to these changes, is there a need to consider some industry-specific policies that need to be developed around workforce re-skilling to complement other more universal policies to assist workers and firms across industries?  Industry workforce experts will share their thinking on these issues.  

  • Small Companies versus International Firms:  Date, time & location TBD

    The introduction of new workplace technology is a significant capital expense that company operators have to weigh against prospective increases in productivity and profitability.  That math is often going to play out differently depending not only on the relative cost of the technology, but also upon the relative ability of a firm’s workforce to take full advantage of the technology.  As such, smaller firms—despite the availability of new productivity-enhancing technologies—will often introduce technology at a slower rate, or perhaps not all, even as larger firms in their industry are leaning ahead.  In industries in which the predominant number of firms are smaller companies, what does that mean for the uneven pace of technology adoption in the Future of Work? Should there be different type of policy interventions considered to assist firms of various sizes within the same industry, including how to help their workforces re-skill to make use of these new tools?

Register for these Events

A final culminating event in the series will be scheduled for late spring, in which a number of emerging and actionable policy options will be presented to Washington policymakers and other experts, developed in consultation with the stakeholders featured during the event series. the course of the three prior events. 

National Skills Coalition is excited to bring these additional perspectives into the national FOW policy debate. Click here to find out what National Skills Coalition is doing on future of work and related workforce skills and employment issues.

Posted In: Future of Work
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