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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
National Skills Coalition hosts first Southern States Convening on Skills Policies

On May 8, nearly 40 state and national workforce leaders gathered in Atlanta, GA to take part in National Skills Coalition’s southern states convening on skills policies. The event, co-hosted with Atlanta CareerRise, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and Metro Atlanta Chamber, provided a forum for cross-state sharing on skills policies and practical strategies for moving them forward in southern states. The convening was made possible through the generous financial support of JPMorgan Chase & Co., The Annie E. Casey Foundation, and W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

While the South is a large region of the country with a growing population, many of our southern state partners have expressed concerns that too many people are left out of economic opportunity, in part because not everyone has the chance to get the education and training required to find a family-supporting job in today’s economy. This doesn’t just hurt workers and their families; it also hurts businesses that depend on a skilled workforce to grow.

That’s why we teamed up with our Georgia partners to host a day’s worth of cross-state discussions on advancing skills policies in southern states where partners are addressing similar regional issues. Partners from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee participated. Together, participants represented policy and research organizations, community colleges, funder collaboratives, business associations, and workforce practitioners, as well as national organizations and foundations working in the South.  

In addition to discussing common issues across the region, the convening featured existing examples of skills policies from southern states. Collin Callaway, Arkansas Community Colleges and Kenneth Wheatley, Mississippi Community College Board discussed their states’ policies that support career pathways at community colleges – the Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative and Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (MI-BEST). Brad Neese, Apprenticeship Carolina described how the program uses registered apprenticeship to help align the state’s workforce development and economic development strategies. And Laura Ward, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, discussed Tennessee Reconnect and why helping adults earn postsecondary credentials matters for businesses.

Participants also used small group discussions to continue to share across states on topics such as apprenticeship and work-based learning, sector partnerships and skills policies for states with rural communities, pathways to credentials for less-skilled workers, and skills policies as part of economic development strategies. Peer advisors from southern states led each of the small group discussions.   

At the end of the convening, National Skills Coalition committed to working with participants to identify opportunities to continue cross-state sharing and network-building among workforce development leaders in southern states. To learn more, please email Brooke DeRenzis, State Network Director.  

Posted In: Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
NSC highlights skills policies adopted in states’ 2015 legislative sessions

In 2015, numerous states enacted legislation to address the needs of workers and employers and close the middle-skill gap. As highlighted in NSC’s 2015 state legislative round-up, states increased access to career pathways and set policies to support job-driven training.  They also took steps to implement the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which became effective on July 1, 2015.

To hear more about the actions governors and state legislatures took in 2015 to close the skills gap, register for our 2015 State Policy Legislative Round-Up, hosted on July 28 at 2pm ET.

Career Pathways 

At least nine states enacted legislation to support career pathways policies. Career pathways combine education, training, career counseling and support services that align with industry skill needs so participants can earn secondary school diplomas or their equivalent, postsecondary credentials, and get middle-skill jobs. In 2015, Colorado and Minnesota adopted legislation that will increase investments in career pathway strategies in their states.

 Career pathways include adult basic education, typically offered concurrently with and in the same context as general workforce preparation and training for an occupation. In 2015, Arkansas, California, Georgia, and Ohio increased investments in adult basic education.

Tuition assistance is also critical to ensuring that career pathways lead to postsecondary credentials, particularly for part-time, working students. In 2015, Indiana, Nebraska, and Oregon all passed legislation that expands tuition assistance.

Job-Driven Training 

Job-driven training prepares workers for jobs available in the economy. In 2015, a handful of states passed legislation to advance job-driven training.

California, Colorado, and Washington enacted legislation to expand work-based learning in their states by making investments in apprenticeship programs, paid internships in key industries, and apprenticeship preparation and supportive services respectively.

Hawaii and Oklahoma both passed legislation establishing bodies to advise the state on healthcare workforce policy.

Arkansas and Maine passed legislation to support employer-driven training programs developed through partnerships between employers and educational institutions.

WIOA Implementation

In 2015, Arkansas and Louisiana were among states that enacted WIOA implementation legislation specifying the type of workforce plan the state should submit to the federal government under the new federal law. 

In 2015, California, Florida, and Virginia all enacted legislation that emphasizes skills strategies, such as sector partnerships and career pathways, as part of WIOA implementation.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Career Pathways, Arkansas, California, Florida, Louisiana, Virginia, Maine, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Colorado, Washington, Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia

BLU employer profile: Mike Kenig

  ·   By Scott Ellsworth,
BLU employer profile: Mike Kenig

This month I had an opportunity to ask Mike some questions about where he works and why he takes so much of his time to help develop a more robust workforce system in Georgia. Read our conversation below:

BLU: Why did you get involved in workforce work?

Mike: I have a history of working on things that aren’t easy. As the construction industry was struggling to find employees, I thought this was a great place to focus my energy. Helping the industry find solutions to complicated issues is one of the areas I found myself able to make a valuable contribution. I have now become passionate about developing a solution to this issue, I’m all about the solutions!

BLU: As busy as you are, how do you find time for workforce development?

Mike: I have a very unique role. About 20 years ago, Holder Construction Company’s CEO gave me a role with incredible flexibility to get involved in business critical initiatives. I spend a significant amount of my time on working with various trade associations within the construction industry and the initiatives and priorities these groups establish. Virtually all of these groups have been discussing the topic of workforce for years, but not making any real progress. Building on the experience I learned from BLU, I have significantly stepped up my efforts to increase and coordinate the various group’s efforts in the area of workforce development.

BLU: What do you value about being a part of BLU?

Mike: At this year’s BLU meeting, it clicked for me that we are a collective of businesses focused on Workforce Partnerships. The future of our country is dependent on being competitive with our workforce, so we need to band together as a business community to address these issues nationally and at our local level.

BLU: Why should other employers get involved in advocating for employer-led workforce partnerships?

Mike: Advocacy is critical at all levels - national, state and local. We can’t do this alone and we as employers have a much stronger voice when we come together to advocate. As a matter of fact when I came back to Georgia after my first Fly-In, I was looking for our local BLU. Since we didn’t have one, I’ve been partnering with my local industry association and looking to expand to our chambers to work on these issues at a local level and to see if we can organize businesses around workforce issues.

BLU: Tell me about Holder Construction Company.

Mike: Holder Construction Company is a commercial general contractor with approximately 750 employees and offices across the United States. We are consistently ranked as the largest data center builder in the U.S., and are involved in many other interesting projects such as a number of corporate headquarters, aviation projects and the new Falcon’s football stadium. One thing that I am especially proud of is that we have competed for the past 11 years in Fortune magazine’s best places to work for medium businesses and have been listed every year.

BLU: What is a hot button issue for you?

Mike: I was surprised to find that out of every 100 kids, approximately 22 don’t graduate high school; 26 graduate but are not going to college; 21 go to college but don’t finish their degree and only the last 30 or so go on to get their college degree. There is a lot of focus on the 30% that are going to and graduating from college, but we lose the other 70%. I don’t think we are doing enough for that segment of our population; we need to focus more on the 70%.

I think the community college debate is getting lost in the framing. The debate has become around the word “free”. I have learned from my engagement with BLU that spending on workforce training is an investment, an investment that is not lost for society.  While people don’t necessarily want more “giveaways,” we need to make people aware that the community college and career and technical education create an environment for people to gain technical skills that will lead to jobs and self-sufficiency, thus increasing our nation’s ability to compete globally.

The business community needs to stand up and push for technical training and community colleges. As we have said through BLU, a four-year degree is not the only option. Effective community colleges engage businesses of all sizes, like those in BLU, to be sure the skills being taught are delivered in a consistent and high quality manner and meet the needs of the business community so that when they graduate they have the skills required for the jobs that are available. It is the responsibility of the business community to leverage workforce partnerships to communicate the skills that we need so that the journey from K-12 to community college to a career is seamless.

Posted In: Career and Technical Education, Higher Education Access, Georgia, Business Leaders United

States adopt new policies to close the skills gap

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis

At least 15 states have enacted legislation in 2014 to close the skills gap. States increased access to career pathways, invested in job-driven training and sector partnerships, and set policies to coordinate activities and collect outcome data across education, workforce, and other programs.

Colorado and Iowa appropriated funds to support career pathway programs, while Alabama provided funding to local areas to align educational pathways with regional skills needs. Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee all created or expanded tuition assistance programs that will help occupationally-focused students move along career pathways.

In addition to funding career pathways, states made a range of investments in job-driven training and sector partnerships. Connecticut created the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which can be used to support workforce training. Iowa created an apprenticeship training program, and Wisconsin funded grants to technical colleges to reduce training program waitlists in high-demand fields. Rhode Island’s State Senate passed a resolution directing the community college system to review and expand programs that provide credentials recognized by the state’s in-demand industries.  

Connecticut also appropriated funding to help the long-term unemployed.  The funds will be used to expand state-wide the Platform to Employment program offering support services, training, and subsidized employment.

Finally, several states adopted policies to align workforce and education programs with the labor market and to measure the outcomes of these programs. Alabama, Idaho, and Oregon passed legislation directing state agencies and institutions to coordinate workforce and education programs around state skill needs. Indiana and Utah established systems to measure and report outcomes across agencies. Iowa and Minnesota funded a system to report educational and employment outcomes for different workforce programs while Kentucky and Maine passed legislation to require postsecondary institutions to report on their education and employment outcomes.

To hear more about the actions state legislatures took in 2014 to close the skills gap, and the opportunities and challenges that NSC members had in advancing these policies during the legislative sessions, watch our 2014 State Workforce Policy Round Up webinar.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin

Governors propose new workforce initiatives.

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,

More than a dozen governors have announced new legislative and budget proposals to support workforce development efforts in their state. As state budgets recover from the recession, these governors are targeting middle-skill training for increased investments, including proposals to provide support for employer-led sector partnerships, to align the state’s workforce system, to make technical and community college affordable, and to assist the long-term unemployed back to work. Below are a few of these gubernatorial initiatives.

The governors of Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin have requested funding for new or enhanced programs for middle-skill training. Florida Governor Rick Scott proposed $30 million to train incumbent and unemployed workers for middle-skill STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering and math) and other high demand/high wage fields, and to provide scholarships for students. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker requested a $35 million enhancement for Wisconsin’s Fast Forward program to support dual enrollment programs between school districts and technical colleges that target high demand jobs; increase technical college capacity to eliminate waiting lists in high demand fields; and support programs helping people with disabilities enter the workforce.  

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett requested $5 million in additional funding for three middle-skill job training programs for employer-driven training, including services to people with disabilities. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed a $4.5 million increase for the Missouri Works Training Program, a customized training program for employers. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad proposed tripling state funding for apprenticeships, and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee requested a $500,000 enhancement from the state general fund for the state’s workforce investment system.  

Governors in Connecticut and Kentucky proposed new efforts to fill skill gaps in advanced manufacturing. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy proposed $25 million to create an advanced manufacturing fund to support workforce training and other assistance for employers. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear proposed $24 million in general fund-supported bonds to build an advanced manufacturing training center to serve as a direct pipeline for high demand workers. 

Malloy also proposed measures to assist the long-term unemployed (LTU). He requested $3.6 million to establish a program to replicate Platform to Employment. The program provides five weeks of intensive job readiness training, behavioral health services, financial coaching, and eight weeks of subsidized work experience. Malloy also proposed legislation to prevent employers from screening out LTU applicants merely because they are unemployed.  

The governors of Ohio and Oregon introduced proposals to increase the alignment of their workforce development systems. Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed a single integrated state plan for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Adult Basic Education. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber requested legislation authorizing the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) to assist the governor in approving the plans of local workforce investment boards (LWIBs) and in establishing criteria for LWIB membership. The bill also authorized the SWIB to hold workforce agencies and LWIBs accountable for meeting performance goals.

Finally, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proposed funding to cover the cost of tuition for technical college students in high demand fields, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed free tuition for high school graduates if they attend a community college or college of applied technology.

NSC will continue to monitor and provide updates as these proposals move forward.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio, Oregon, Georgia