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Utah and Idaho explore immigrant career pathways; new fact sheets released

Note: The Idaho and Utah fact sheets linked below are being released in conjunction with Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. See also NSC’s 2016 fact sheet, Adult Education: A Crucial Foundation for Middle-Skill Jobs.

National Skills Coalition Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock recently traveled to Boise, ID, and Salt Lake City, UT for skills policy events with stakeholders in both cities. The focus: How immigrant advocates can collaborate with adult education and workforce officials to ensure that skills policies provide effective career pathways for workers at all skill levels.

Immigrant populations have more than doubled in both Idaho and Utah in recent years, demonstrating the growing role that immigrant workers can play in helping the states respond to local industries’ talent needs. The issue is of particular importance given the very low unemployment rates in both states.

Two new fact sheets were released in conjunction with the events. Both are part of NSC’s ongoing series on immigrants and middle-skill jobs:


Idaho: Connecting the Dots between Refugee Youth and State Postsecondary Goals

Idaho is home to approximately 98,000 immigrants, who comprise almost 6 percent of state residents. The state has recently set a goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of Idaho residents ages 25-34 with a college degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2025. Ensuring that state workforce and education policies are inclusive of immigrant and refugee youth will be important in helping the state meet its ambitious attainment goal.

In Boise, Amanda led two workshops hosted by the nonprofit Neighbors United. The first focused on career pathways for refugee and immigrant jobseekers. The second examined education and workforce issues facing refugee and immigrant young adults in particular. Stakeholders at both workshops included state officials, higher education partners, nonprofit service providers, and refugee youth themselves.

Also participating in the event were staff from the nonprofit Global Talent Idaho. The nonprofit’s collaboration with state refugee and labor department officials was spotlighted in NSC’s recent brief At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy: A Roadmap to Smart Policies for State and Local Leaders.

Utah: A Variety of New Efforts to Boost Skills and Credential Attainment

Immigrants and refugees represent approximately 8 percent of Utah’s population, or 252,000 people. Immigrants in the state are dramatically more likely to be of working age: a full 85 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 57 percent of native-born residents. Utah immigrants also have a substantially higher labor force participation rate: 71 percent of adult immigrants are in the labor force, compared to 67 percent of native-born adults.

Utah has also established an aspirational goal for postsecondary attainment: By 2020, the state aims to increase the percentage of Utahns between 25-64 years old with a postsecondary degree to 66 percent. Given the relative youth of the state’s foreign-born population, investing in the skills of immigrants and refugees will be an important element of helping the state reach its goal. (Utah is also one of three states selected to participate in a new Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps, led by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.)

In Salt Lake City, Amanda led two discussions in collaboration with the nonprofit One Refugee. The first focused on policies and programs that support career pathways for young adult refugees and immigrants. The second explored strategies for measuring refugee integration using education and workforce data.

Stakeholders participating in the discussions included state and local workforce officials, nonprofit service providers, and faith community leaders. The events were hosted by OC Tanner, a corporate leader that supports refugee integration through employment. 

Separately, Amanda also met with Utah state legislators to brief them on occupational licensing and career pathway issues for immigrants and refugees in the state. Utah is participating in a national initiative on occupational licensing led by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Council of State Governments.

In addition, both Salt Lake City and Boise, along with partners in Twin Falls, ID, were selected last year to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, and Amanda’s recent trip was conducted as part of the SIIP project.

Posted In: Immigration, Idaho, Utah

Governors propose workforce initiatives

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Governors propose workforce initiatives

Governors are unveiling their legislative proposals for 2016, including proposals to boost workforce skills. The governors of California, New York, Virginia, and Idaho are among those announcing new skill building proposals. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed $200 million to implement the recommendations of the California Community College Board of Governors’ Task Force on Workforce, Job Creation, and a Strong Economy. The funds would enable community colleges to expand access to additional career technical education courses and programs and to implement a regional accountability structure aligned with the Task Force’s recommendations.  Community colleges would be expected to collaborate regionally with their educational, workforce, labor, and civic partners to expand access to career technical education programs that meet each region’s workforce needs. In addition, Governor Brown proposed $48 million for California’s Career and Technical Education Pathways program, and proposed repealing the Program’s sunset in order to make it permanent. The Governor also proposed $1.8 million to enhance apprenticeship training.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced proposals focused on opportunity youth.  According to the Governor’s Office, New York will face a shortage of as many as 350,000 workers for jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree. “This “skills gap” is one of the greatest challenges facing New York State’s economic development goals.” To respond to this challenge Governor Cuomo proposed an additional $31 million to enable another 19,000 youth to participate in the summer youth employment program. The Governor proposed “Apprentice SUNY,” a new $5 million program for 2,000 students to receive classroom and on-the-job training through new registered apprenticeships linked to degrees or certificates. The Governor proposed creating the state Pre-Apprenticeship Program. The Program would enroll young adults 18 to 24 years of age in pre-apprenticeships that would prepare them for direct entry into registered apprenticeships on public work projects. The Governor also proposed expanding the budget of the Urban Youth Jobs Program to $50 million to serve 10,000 young people. The Program provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed, disadvantaged youth. 

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe requested an appropriation of $24.6 million to enhance noncredit workforce programs at Virginia’s community colleges. Of that amount, $12 million is to increase the capacity of existing noncredit workforce programs for occupations with the greatest need for workers, $6 million is to increase student interest in these programs, and $6.6 million is to incentivize those programs that are most successful, using the funding to reduce course costs and allow for further increases in the system's noncredit workforce programs' capacity.

Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter proposed a budget enhancement of $3.8 million to expand postsecondary training in fields experiencing skill gaps. The initiative would build training capacity at six post‐secondary institutions to produce more graduates for high‐demand jobs in health care, information technology, mechatronics, and transportation. According to the Governor’s Office, there is an average of 2,180 annual job openings across these four occupational areas. However, capacity in the programs that train in these four areas is limited, with only 542 graduates per year, and an average wait list of 825. The additional funding would expand capacity by 410 seats for jobs that have a median hourly wage of $19.10 per hour

As more governors announce their proposals for 2016, National Skills Coalition will keep you abreast of the developments.

*This blog is part of series on governors proposed state plans for 2016. You can read the second blog post here.

Posted In: Career Pathways, Virginia, New York, Idaho, California

Skills investments featured in governors’ budget proposals

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
Skills investments featured in governors’ budget proposals

Several governors have proposed investments in skills strategies as part of their budgets for the upcoming fiscal year. Proposals include continued funding for existing skills programs, investments that would better link adult education and workforce training, and strategies for spending statewide discretionary funds under the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

Budgets proposed by governors in Iowa and Idaho renew commitments to their states’ existing skills strategy.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s Fiscal Years 2016-2017 budget maintains funding levels for the state’s Pathways for Academic Career and Employment (PACE) and Gap Tuition Assistance programs. PACE funds sector-specific career pathway projects provided through partnerships between community colleges, industry, and nonprofits. The Gap Tuition Assistance program helps community colleges provide need-based tuition assistance to students in certificate training programs for in-demand occupations. Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal provides $5 million for the state’s Sector Grant program. The grants support sector-specific training developed by partnerships between employers and Idaho’s postsecondary institutions.

Governors in California and Ohio proposed investments aimed at coordinating adult education with workforce training.

In 2014, Ohio piloted a program to help adults earn a high school diploma while participating in training leading to an industry-recognized credential. Governor Kasich’s Fiscal Years 2016-2017 budget includes funding to expand the program to as many as five additional sites.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s 2015-2016 budget proposal includes $500 million for the Adult Education Block Grant to increase adult education capacity and support collaboration between adult education, workforce development, and social service providers. The grants will be planned and allocated by committees representing community colleges, K‑12 districts, other adult education providers, local workforce investment boards, county social services departments, correctional rehabilitation programs, and one public member with relevant expertise.

Both Governor Brown and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe used their budget proposals to highlight skills strategies they will promote with discretionary funds available to governors under WIOA.

Governor Brown will use WIOA discretionary funds to support two initiatives in California:  SlingShot, which gives grants to develop innovative workforce development, training, employer engagement, and career education approaches at the regional level, and Regional Workforce Accelerator Program Grants, which provide job training, support services, and job placement assistance to jobseekers who may have barriers to employment. In presenting his budget to the state legislature, Governor McAuliffe announced that he would direct $1.1 million in WIOA discretionary dollars toward credential attainment.

Continue to check out our blog for analysis as more governors and legislatures roll out their budget proposals.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Sector Partnerships, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Career Pathways, Sector Partnerships, California, Ohio, Iowa, Idaho, Virginia

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