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Applications for California Advocacy & Policy Academy now open

National Skills Coalition is launching a California Advocacy & Policy Academy (CAPA) for people from nonprofit community-based organizations (CBOs) in California who want to build their capacity to engage in workforce development policy and advocacy activities. Applications for participation are currently being accepted and are due November 18, 2019.

Community-based organizations play a critical role in recruiting and training workers, providing culturally competent services, and supporting people as they work to fulfill their career aspirations. Yet too often, state skills policies fail to support these organizations. CAPA will empower participants to change this narrative. CAPA will be a platform to better connect the work being done at the local level and the decisions being made at the state policy level. Participants in CAPA will have the opportunity to examine how CBOs and non-profit service providers can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.

The goals of CAPA are to:

  • Build the capacity of CBO leaders and nonprofit service providers to engage in state workforce development policy.
  • Empower more CBOs and nonprofit service providers to become more active advocates for workforce development policy change.
  • Educate and widen participants understanding of key workforce development policy issues, the policymaking process, and landscape.
  • Examine and understand how CBOs can inform and be supported by state skills training policies.
  • Create a community of practice that unearths and elevates best practices that impact policy change and decisions.


Academy members should represent CBOs or non-profit providers that are:

  • Expanding high-quality, industry-based job training and/or support services across California.
  • Working towards a more equitable economy.
  • Committed to removing systemic barriers and creating more opportunities for people who have been structurally disconnected from economic opportunity.

The Academy will officially launch in February 2020 and will include four in-person workshops through November 2020. Participants will be expected to attend the 2020 Skills for California Summit in Sacramento on May 13-14, 2020*.

To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

*A stipend will be provided to cover the cost of travel and any necessary lodging

Posted In: Sector Partnerships

Applications for Supportive Services Academy now open

  ·   By Michael Richardson,
Applications for Supportive Services Academy now open

National Skills Coalition is launching a Supportive Services Academy to assist state teams in advancing state policies that expand access to supportive services so that people with lower incomes can complete education and training programs. Applications for participation are currently being accepted and are due November 1, 2019.

The cost of participating in skills training goes beyond tuition or costs of a training course and includes non-tuition costs like transportation, childcare, books and supplies, equipment, etc. For too many people with low incomes – particularly people balancing the costs of training with family expenses —those costs present huge obstacles to accessing and completing a postsecondary training program.

Federal human services programs – e.g., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – can provide these critical supportive services. However, they are often underutilized by states or not used in alignment with postsecondary and workforce training efforts.

NSC’s Supportive Services Academy will focus on helping state teams advance policies that expand access to education and training supportive services in the following areas:

  • State policy agendas for increasing access to childcare for people participating in education, training, and/or work-based learning.
  • Career pathways programs that include career navigation and supports for childcare and transportation, financed with state higher education funding, TANF and/or SNAP E&T funding.
  • State-established support funds to provide supportive services such as coaching, service coordination, childcare, transportation, and other assistance to people with low incomes as they prepare for and succeed in work-based learning.
  • Policies that expand access to SNAP for students participating in postsecondary education.
  • Establishment and/or expansion of skills-focused SNAP E&T and/or TANF programs.
  • Any other policy area that helps students and workers to address the non-tuition costs of training so that they can secure in-demand skills and postsecondary credentials. Academy teams have the flexibility to develop and promote specific policy proposals that expand access to supportive services and work in the unique context of their individual state.

Supportive Services Academy teams will be required to apply a racial equity lens to their work advancing policies in these areas. Supportive services can advance racial equity by providing more resources to workers and students of color who, due to systemic racism, usually have greater financial needs.

Priority in team selection will be given to SkillSPAN partners. The Academy will officially launch in December 2019 and run until December 2020. To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships
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
NSC’s new 50-state scan discovers increased support for sector partnerships

National Skills Coalition (NSC) has updated our 50-state scan of sector partnership policies and finds that state policies supporting sector partnerships are rapidly growing. Sector partnerships are collaborations of employers with education, training, labor, and community-based organizations to address the local skill needs of a particular industry.  Sector partnerships are a proven strategy for helping workers prepare for middle-skill jobs and helping employers find skilled workers. States can support local sector partnerships through program initiatives, technical assistance, and funding.

Our 2017 scan finds that thirty-two states have policies in place to support local sector partnerships. This is an increase of eleven states from our previous scan conducted two years ago. Of the thirty-two states, twenty-two provide funding to support local sector partnerships, an increase of seven states from two years ago. The biggest difference in funding is the increased use of Governor’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Reserve Funds to support sector partnerships. Twelve states use Governor’s Reserve Funds, while just a single state used Workforce Investment Act Reserve Funds two years ago. Also, more states are providing technical assistance to local sector partnerships. Twenty-eight states now provide technical assistance; two years ago, fifteen states did so.

Increased state support for sector partnerships is largely attributable to WIOA. WIOA, which became effective two years ago, requires sector partnerships as a local workforce activity, and requires states to support those local efforts. While state support has increased substantially under WIOA, there is still considerable room for further progress. In 2018, states must modify their WIOA state plans, which will present another opportunity for states to establish policies to support sector partnerships. As Congress reauthorizes other federal acts - including the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and the Higher Education Act - there may be more opportunities to include sector partnerships as a key strategy to engage employers in skill development. 

States without a policy in place can use National Skills Coalition’s Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit to establish one. Many of the states with a policy already in place can also use the Toolkit to further expand state support for local sector partnerships.  

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Skills Equity

Georgia Announces Grants to Support Sector Partnerships

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch and Amy Lancaster
Georgia Announces Grants to Support Sector Partnerships

This summer, the Georgia Department of Economic Development awarded $1.5 million to support the development of sector partnerships in six workforce regions in the state. The awards are part of a $3 million competitive grant program to build sector partnerships across the state under its High Demand Career Initiative.

Sector partnerships bring together multiple employers within an industry to collaborate with colleges, schools, labor, workforce agencies, community organizations and other community stakeholders to align training with the skills needed for that industry to grow and compete. These partnerships are required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and Georgia is using WIOA state discretionary dollars to fund its grant program.

In addition to providing grants, the Georgia Department of Economic Development is offering technical assistance to help regions develop partnerships. The department has created a Sector Partnership Guide hosted regional workshops, and is planning a grantee conference.

A coalition led by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and in collaboration with Atlanta CareerRise, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and Georgia Business Leaders United (BLU), started working with National Skills Coalition in 2015 to promote sector partnerships as a key way to address the skill needs of Georgia’s workers and businesses. Coalition members believe the state’s support for sector partnerships will help communities across Georgia make progress toward closing the skills gap. In fact, Metro Atlanta’s five workforce boards were jointly awarded a $400,000 two-year grant to develop partnerships in the healthcare, IT, and logistics sectors, in collaboration with Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta CareerRise. 

National Skills Coalition has advocated for states to provide funding, technical assistance, and guidance to support regional sector partnerships positioned to close the skill gap in key industries. We’re pleased to add Georgia to the list of states with such a policy in place. For more on how to develop a sector partnership policy in your state, check out NSC’s Sector Partnership Policy Toolkit.


Rachel Hirsch is State Network Manager at National Skills Coalition. Amy Lancaster is the Director of Workforce Development at Metro Atlanta Chamber, which works to advance economic growth, enhance the business climate and improve the quality of life for each and every person who calls Atlanta home.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Georgia
California appropriates $200 million for a strong workforce

The California legislature has appropriated $200 million for the community colleges’ Strong Workforce Program. In 2015, the community colleges’ Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy issued a set of recommendations to enhance postsecondary career technical education. The appropriation funds the Task Force’s recommendations that include actions to increase student success, build career pathways, enhance data, strengthen curriculum, increase the pool of qualified instructors, and improve regional coordination.

The $200 million is a remarkable investment in middle-skill training, and the accompanying legislation represents an extraordinary partnership between the California community colleges and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) system.   

The legislation calls for aligning the Strong Workforce Program with the California Workforce Development Board’s Strategic Workforce Development Plan. Both the Strong Workforce Program and the Strategic Plan emphasize regional planning, and the legislation requests that planning regions be aligned to the extent possible.  Moreover, under the legislation the Strong Workforce Program plans must be “informed by, aligned with, and expand upon” the regional plans established under WIOA.  

In order to receive funding from the Strong Workforce Program, a community college must be part of a Regional Collaborative. The Regional Collaborative must include community college districts, local educational agencies, interested campuses of the California State University and the University of California, civic leaders, workforce development boards, and representatives from labor, economic development, and business.

Forty percent of the funds allocated by the state must go to the fiscal agents of the Regional Collaboratives and must be used to meet the needs identified in the Collaborative and WIOA regional plans. Sixty percent of the funds must go to individual college districts to carry out activities consistent with the two plans.

The legislation also supports the use of industry partnerships and urges the community colleges to build upon the industry partnerships established under WIOA. Other strategies endorsed by the legislation include career pathways, integrated support services, work-based learning, and the use of the WIOA common measures.  Permissible uses of the funds include contributing to the development of cross-program reporting consistent with WIOA. 

By aligning the Strong Workforce Program with WIOA planning, strategies, and measures, California will advance the coordination of workforce development programs as it increase resources for job-driven investments.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships, California

The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

  ·   By Silvia Vallejo
The positive impact of partnerships: a Q&A with Alma Salazar

NSC Board Member, Alma Salazar is the Vice President of Education and Workforce Development at the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Can you tell us a little about your professional background and how you came to focus on workforce development?

I've been working with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce for 16 years. Within this role I oversee education and workforce development programs and also direct the Chamber’s higher education and workforce development policy priorities. My path into workforce development came about serendipitously. While employed at the Los Angeles County Office of Education, I was responsible for overseeing regional implementation of the Federal School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.  The National School-to-Work Act was the response to the Nation at Risk report which detailed business leaders’ concern that when students graduated from high school and/or college they lacked the necessary skills to compete in the workforce. We looked to partnerships between businesses and education as a way to improve the skills they were lacking. We found opportunities for students to learn beyond the four walls of the classroom.  By giving them access to critical work-based learning opportunities such as internships, job shadowing and apprenticeships we helped students bring learning to life. I found my niche in making employer partnerships work and making sure that, as essential stakeholders, business has a strong voice in workforce development policy creation.

When did you first get involved with NSC and why?

I became involved with NSC after attending the 2011 Skills Summit. That allowed me to become aware of NSCs in-depth policy expertise and to meet other incredible thought-leaders across the country who shared my passion for providing opportunities for individuals to compete and prosper.   After the summit, I made an effort to forge a good relationship with the staff and to participate in as many events as I could. I've been involved and a huge fan ever since. 

How has your partnership with NSC helped to advance your work in California, and how has your work helped to inform and progress NSC’s efforts?

NSC has been an invaluable resource and has provided many of us with the in-depth policy analysis needed to engage policy makers in thoughtful conversations about WIOA Reauthorization and implementation and has helped guide California’s workforce development policy priorities. The policy content NSC has published has truly helped the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and other regional chambers of commerce throughout the country engage meaningfully in these policy discussions.

Can you tell us a little about your efforts with SWEAP in California?

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) provides California the unprecedented opportunity to connect cross program data to better align education and workforce development programs to labor market demand.  It’s important that we have broad stakeholder support, including the business community, to move this initiative forward.  The Chamber is committed to engaging our business leaders and other chambers of commerce throughout the state to champion these efforts and see them through to fruition.

You’ve been appointed to the California Workforce Investment Board by Governor Jerry Brown. What is the most pressing issue/biggest challenge in that role?

My most immediate priority is making sure that we are working with and supporting the regions in the implementation of WIOA.  If done well, WIOA implementation can be the catalyst for a paradigm shift in the way workforce development systems work together to create career pathways for underserved populations to achieve economic mobility while helping businesses have the workforce they need to grow and prosper.  

In your position at the LA Chamber of Commerce, what do you think has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

I am incredibly proud to work for a business organization that cares deeply about the underserved and works daily to ensure that individuals have equal access to a quality education and high level job training — resulting in a thriving local economy.  

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Sector Partnerships, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Sector Partnerships, California
DOL requests information on industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship

On February 25, Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Apprenticeship (OA) released a Request For Information (RFI) for contracts to fund 8-10 industry intermediaries to expand apprenticeship. These contracts will build on DOL’s Sectors of Excellence in Apprenticeship (SEAs) Initiative and last year’s $175 million in American Apprenticeship Grants, both launched to further the President’s goal of doubling the number of apprentices in the US by 2019. DOL, through SEAs, has identified priority industries in which it will be targeting expansion – Healthcare, Advanced Manufacturing, Energy, Transportation, Construction, Insurance and Financial Services, and Cybersecurity.

Under the RFI, an “intermediary” is an industry association, labor-management partnership organization, workforce intermediary, consortium of employers, state-wide community college system or consortium of community colleges. Recipient intermediaries would be required to:  

  • conduct outreach to their target sector,
  • assist employers in developing programming sufficient to meet standards required for registration,
  • promote innovation and inclusive practices – such as promoting diversity, alignment with post-secondary credentials, expanding competency-based apprenticeship, and aligning Career and Technical Education with the Registered Apprenticeship system, particularly for youth,
  • develop and support a full-time employee dedicated to expanding apprenticeship within an industry,
  • develop materials to support an apprenticeship program, and – if necessary –
  • provide financial support up to $75,000 per employer to expand or create new apprenticeship programs.

Funding for the contracts will come from a new $90 million Congressional investment in expanding apprenticeship for Fiscal Year 2016.

DOL is asking respondents to submit responses by Friday, March 11, describing the respondent’s capacity for acting as an intermediary and successfully performing the activity detailed above. Contracts should be awarded in the summer of 2016.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships
Federal agencies release final requirements for WIOA unified, combined plans

Earlier today, the US Department of Labor, in coordination with the US Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, and Housing and Urban Development, released the final requirements for State Unified or Combined Plans as required under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The information collection (IC) outlines all of the elements that must be included in a state plan, including the basic requirements for a Unified Plan that covers only the six “core” programs under Titles I-IV of WIOA, and additional elements that are required for a Combined plan that includes the core programs and at least one additional workforce or education program described in sec. 103 of WIOA.

The agencies released a draft of the state plan requirements for public comment in August 2015, and National Skills Coalition submitted recommendations in response to this draft in September 2015. The agencies have posted a “supporting statement” that outlines the comments received from NSC and other organizations, and modifications to the August draft IC made in response to those recommendations. Among other things, the agencies accepted NSC’s recommendations to:

  • Require states to provide clear descriptions of the industry or sector partnerships and career pathways that will be implemented in the state, including descriptions of how core programs and other partner programs are aligned to support sector partnerships.
  • Require states to include a description in the state plans of the methods used for joint planning and coordination across core and partner programs.
  • Expand the requirement that states describe efforts to engage community colleges and area career and technical education (CTE) schools to include other education and training providers, including training programs on the state eligible training provider list and adult education providers.
  • Clarify that accessibility requirements for the one-stop system, including physical accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act, apply to all one-stop partner programs and operators.

The revised IC and supporting statement also:

  • Provides that states will not be required to include one-stop infrastructure cost-sharing agreements (as described under section 121(h) of WIOA) in their first WIOA plan, but will be required to describe their process for how they will develop such agreements by 2018;
  • Adds a requirement that states describe how they will ensure accessibility in the one-stop system for individuals with limited English proficiency;
  • Provides that assessments of the effectiveness of core programs and one-stop partner programs (as required under section 102(b)(2)(C)) will not be required until states submit plan modifications in 2018;
  • Includes a requirement that states identify criteria for approval of local transfers of funds between Title I Adult and Dislocated Worker programs.

Labor had previously announced an extension of state plan submission deadlines from March 3, 2016 to April 1, 2016. The agencies have also indicated that final rules for implementation of WIOA will be released by June 2016.   

Posted In: Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships

Building skills in the retail sector

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock ,
Building skills in the retail sector

A year-long pilot project is underway to help retail workers with limited English proficiency to improve their language skills. Skills and Opportunity for the New American Workforce (pdf) is a joint initiative of Miami Dade College, the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education, and the National Immigration Forum. It is funded by a $1.2 million grant from the Walmart Foundation.

Nationally, nearly half (48%) of all immigrant workers have limited English proficiency. The retail sector in particular has high numbers of immigrant workers: Data from the Migration Policy Institute indicate that 14% of workers employed in the “Retail Trade” industry category are foreign-born. Immigrants represent an even higher percentage of those employed in service occupations overall, at nearly 1 in 4 workers.

A Three-City Pilot

The pilot initiative is designed to help retail workers in three cities -- Houston, Miami, and New York -- to improve their English language skills, thus opening up opportunities for career advancement and fostering long-term economic success. As data from the international Survey of Adult Skills has recently affirmed, there is a strong link between improved English skills and higher wages in the United States. 

An estimated 750 participants will be served during the project’s first year. The majority are expected to be front-line workers such as cashiers and stock clerks – occupations where limited English proficient employees are most prevalent, and where improved language skills can have a rapid and positive effect. The program will be free to participants courtesy of the Walmart Foundation’s support.

Best Practices in Contextualized English & Employer Engagement

Drawing on best practices in adult education, the project will integrate contextualized English language instruction with other skills needed in the retail workplace, such as active listening and spontaneous conversation. In addition to helping workers to enhance their fluency with retail-specific vocabulary, the skill-building classes will enable workers to improve their communication with colleagues, increase customer satisfaction, and improve safety on the job. 

Multiple employers are expected to be engaged in the development and delivery of classes, which will blend worksite and online participation. Initial businesses include Kroger and Publix grocery stores, as well as employer partners of the National Immigration Forum’s existing New American Workforce program.

Wider Implications?

The project’s development is expected to be closely watched by stakeholders in the workforce development, adult education and immigrant integration fields. Several of its primary features reflect themes found in major federal legislation and policies such as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

In particular, the project’s emphasis on employer engagement and on job-driven English language and skill-building reflect new WIOA outcome measures and the legislation’s emphasis on tighter connections between adult education and workforce services.  

About the Project Partners

The Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education is a national network based at Westchester Community College in suburban New York City. Among CCCIE’s 2015 activities was the release of a study on how today’s New Americans are being served by community colleges.

Miami Dade College is the largest and most diverse college in the United States. With eight campuses, a major outreach center and more than 165,000 students from across the world, the College offers over 300 programs of study and vocational, associate, and baccalaureate degrees. MDC’s President Eduardo J. Padrón expressed strong support for this project, noting that he himself is an immigrant. 

The National Immigration Forum is a nonprofit advocacy organization based in Washington DC. The Forum’s New American Workforce program works with businesses to assist their eligible immigrant employees with the citizenship process so they become full participants in the workplace, community and economy.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation’s support of this project is part of its $100 million Opportunity initiative to increase the economic mobility of entry-level workers across the country. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Florida
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