Today, National Skills Coalition launches SkillSPAN (Skills State Policy Advocacy Network), a first-ever nationwide network of non-partisan coalitions that will bring skills and job training opportunities to thousands of people through policy changes in 25 states over the next five years.
SkillSPAN and NSC’s new Business Leaders United (BLU) state affiliate network will pass policies in the postsecondary education, workforce training, adult education, career and technical education, and safety net arenas to expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local business capacity.
We are launching this network at a critical time: skills training is a popular, bipartisan issue and many of the country’s governors ran on skills training as a critical plank in their education and economic platforms. SkillSPAN and BLU are poised to help these and other state leaders deliver on their skills training promises and address key economic challenges in their states.
SkillSPAN coalitions will include policy organizations, workforce advocates, community colleges, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, and others advocating for a shared agenda.
Ten state coalitions will join SkillSPAN in 2019, with an additional ten joining in 2020, and further growth in 2021. Fifteen states will have BLU affiliates by 2020. With an initial $3 million grant from Ballmer Group, NSC will provide grants to SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU state affiliates, along with an infrastructure to support cross-state learning and technical assistance.
Seizing an economic and political moment
Despite economic, political, and geographic differences, every state in the nation faces a common labor market challenge: jobs that require education and training beyond high school but not a bachelor’s degree make up the largest portion of the labor market; yet too few workers have access to training for these jobs, many of which pay family-supporting wages.
With unemployment at a record low and technology changing the way we work now and in the future, everyone who wants to build their skills – from people who are looking for a job to low-wage workers who want to upgrade their skills and take the next step in their career — should have the opportunity to do so. Training is important for people who want good jobs that can support their families, for businesses looking to adapt to continual industry changes, and for states whose economic growth and competitiveness depends on building a skilled and inclusive workforce.
Across political parties and regions of the country, people have called on policy leaders to recognize this need and include skills training in education and jobs proposals. As governors and state legislators begin new terms this month, they are looking to respond.
SkillSPAN and the BLU affiliate network will provide capacity and infrastructure to seize these economic and political opportunities. In every statehouse, policymakers can support workers and businesses while strengthening the economy by investing in the skills of people – from the father who wants to train for a new career after being laid off to the young woman who wants to take on an apprenticeship instead of college debt.
As a national network, SkillSPAN will leverage the combined expertise of state coalition members and amplify their collective voices in state capitols across the nation.
Scaling what works for workers and business
SkillSPAN coalitions will advance policy changes that impact workers and businesses across a range of areas, including:
- Protecting and increasing vital funding for successful skills training programs
- Turning back efforts to impose work requirements in safety net programs and replacing them with polices to provide job training and supports to low‐income people, including those utilizing TANF, SNAP, and other income supports
- Expanding apprenticeship and other forms of wage‐earning, work‐based learning, particularly for low‐income working adults and out‐of‐school youth
- Making financial aid available to working people and creating new pathways into college programs for low‐skilled workers, along with support services
- Helping states invest in sector partnerships so that participating companies—particularly small‐ and medium‐sized businesses— inform training and higher education efforts connected to their industry
- Creating new opportunities for low‐wage workers with limited basic or English skills to acquire these skills in partnership with their employers, as well as local schools, community organizations, community colleges and unions
- Expanding state data systems and publicly-available data tools so that policymakers and the public can know which programs place people in jobs and raise their incomes
Across these issues, SkillSPAN coalitions will work to ensure that policy changes advance racial equity in the workforce.
In 2019, coalitions in 10 states will join SkillSPAN. Despite a wide range of political and policy environments, these states share a need for comprehensive policies that secure a skilled workforce and a strong economic future for all residents. NSC has selected a nonprofit organization to lead each state coalition. The 2019 states and coalition lead organizations are:
- California: California EDGE Coalition
- Georgia: Georgia Budget & Policy Institute
- Illinois: Chicago Jobs Council
- Indiana: Indiana Institute for Working Families
- Iowa: United Way of Central Iowa
- Massachusetts: SkillWorks
- Michigan: United Way for Southeast Michigan
- North Carolina: North Carolina Justice Center
- Tennessee: Complete Tennessee
- Washington state
As they work to advance skills policies, SkillSPAN coalitions will leverage the voice of businesses in their states through NSC’s new BLU state affiliate network. In March 2019, National Skills Coalition will announce the members of that network in partnership with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives. BLU is supported by NSC and National Fund for Workforce Solutions, and includes businesses from a range of industries who are working with local partners to train and hire residents for skilled jobs, or upskill their existing workforce, and who want policymakers to follow their lead and invest in workers’ skills. By working in partnership on shared agenda items, SkillSPAN coalitions and BLU affiliates will achieve policy wins for workers, businesses, and the economy.