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NSC’s new SkillSPAN will increase skills & job training opportunities for thousands in 25 states over next five years

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.

Inaugural coalitions

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.

Posted In: Massachusetts, Michigan, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Washington

Michigan Invests $1 Million in Integrated Education and Training

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
Michigan Invests $1 Million in Integrated Education and Training

Michigan has recently announced a new $1 million investment that will drive greater collaboration between workforce development and adult education partners across the state. The funding will support more widespread adoption of the Integrated Education and Training (IET) model, a proven strategy to equip adults with foundational skills gaps to meet local businesses’ talent needs.

A two-pronged effort: New funding and policy guidance

Local workforce boards will be receiving the new investment from the Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) via funding formula. The source of the funds is the WIOA Title I Governor’s Reserve, more commonly referred to as WIOA discretionary funds or the 15% set-aside.

Simultaneously with the roll-out of the funding, TIA has released a new policy directive for both WIOA Title I workforce and Title II adult education providers. The directive will help program administrators by providing concrete guidance about the state’s requirements for IET and recommended tools to help them develop IET programs. National Skills Coalition helped to inform the development of this policy directive.

In particular, the directive:

  • Defines the kinds of institutions that may offer an IET program -- such as nonprofit education and training providers -- and clarifies that it is acceptable for two or more organizations to work in partnership to provide IET
  • Encourages providers that are implementing IET programs to co-enroll participants in WIOA Title I and II services as appropriate
  • Requires that IET programs be part of a regionally or locally defined career pathway that is business-driven, aligned to the skill needs of target industry sectors, and leads to industry-recognized credentials
  • Strongly encourages, but does not require, IET programs to lead to a recognized postsecondary credential
  • Provides a table demonstrating ways in which various funding sources can support IET, including WIOA, the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • Includes a lengthy appendix with links to resources for developing and funding IET programs and career pathways 

A win for business and workers alike

Both workers and businesses in Michigan will benefit from the new Integrated Education and Training investment and guidance. Given the state’s tight labor market, businesses will particularly benefit from the opportunity to help shape talent pipelines that will prepare new workers for in-demand jobs.

Workers themselves will benefit because IET is a powerful mechanism for helping adults with reading, math, or spoken English gaps to build their skills and qualify for in-demand jobs. Overall, there are approximately 1 million working-age Michiganders who lack key foundational skills and could benefit from opportunities to build their skills.

More specifically, there are approximately 30,000 Michigan residents who have already made the pro-active choices to upskill themselves by enrolling in some type of Title II-funded adult education program.  However, in Michigan as in other states, only a relatively small fraction of those individuals is enrolled in an IET program specifically (typically because such programs are not available in their locality). The new guidance and funding are expected to spur broader adoption of IET by providers and regions of the state that have not previously offered such programs, and thus improve the availability of IET to adult learners across Michigan. 

How employers will benefit

Businesses benefit from IET when they are able to influence the way that IET programs are designed in their local communities, and in Michigan they will be invited to do just that. When employers provide direct input to the instructors and administrators who are developing an IET program, it helps to ensure that participants will be acquiring the exact skills and credentials that are in-demand in the local labor market.

The new guidance states that training providers should draw on input from employers via the Michigan Industry Cluster Approach (MICA), local industry associations or chambers of commerce, or other means. (The MICA program is Michigan’s investment in sector partnerships, which NSC previously profiled in our Sector Partnerships 50-state scan.) 

What support are providers receiving to help them implement IET?

In addition to the information provided in the policy guidance, Michigan adult education and workforce development stakeholders have also received professional development training on IET. Two events coordinated by TIA in Fall 2018 brought adult education frontline staff and program administrators together with MichiganWorks! administrative staff for in-depth training on IET models and related implementation issues.

Presenters for these training sessions included TIA personnel as well as staff from the nonprofit National College Transition Network at World Education (World Ed). World Ed has worked with adult educators around the country who are implementing IET, and profiled eight such programs in their report Implementing Integrated Education and Training Programs in Diverse Contexts.

How can I advocate for greater investment in IET in my state?

  • Encourage your state to follow Michigan’s lead in investing WIOA Title I discretionary funds in IET
  • Review your state WIOA plan to see how IET is being implemented already, and advocate with your state workforce board or governor’s office to deepen the work through additional activities or investments
  • Use NSC’s IET State Policy Toolkit to borrow sample language for your state to use in developing its own administrative or legislative policy that goes beyond federal WIOA requirements. (Not sure if your state already has such a policy? Check out our IET 50-state Scan).


NSC and World Ed’s provision of technical assistance for this project was supported by a grant from Walmart. The opinions and ideas expressed in this blog post are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Walmart.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Michigan
Michigan releases new materials on determining immigrant eligibility for WIOA Title I services

The Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA) and Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) have collaborated on two new publications intended to support frontline workforce staff in facilitating eligible immigrants’ access to public workforce services.

Both publications focus on how workforce agencies – including local workforce boards, MichiganWorks! American Job Centers, and other stakeholders – should determine immigrant and refugee eligibility for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I services.

Under the WIOA statute, immigrants who are authorized to work legally in the United States are eligible to access Title I services, provided they meet other standard eligibility criteria.

The new Michigan publications include:

Both publications link to the underlying federal legislation, policy guidance, and regulations that dictate WIOA eligibility requirements, as well as the accompanying state guidance from Michigan’s TIA.

Because states are not required to collect data on the nativity of WIOA participants, there is no available information on how many immigrants are currently served under Title I. However, there is data on how many participants have limited English proficiency. National data shows that only 1.5 percent of participants in Title I intensive training services are limited English proficient. In comparison, a full 10 percent of the US workforce has limited English skills.

Michigan is a national leader on immigrant workforce policy issues, with MONA having previously advanced initiatives focusing on innovative adult ESOL, occupational licensing guides, Refugee/Immigrant Navigators, and more. Most recently, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed an executive order transferring authority over much of the state’s refugee resettlement services from its Department of Health and Human Services to MONA.

Michigan was also one of just eight sites selected to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. The new workforce publications were developed as part of that initiative, and MONA and TIA have also collaborated to provide in-person training to state and local workforce staff on use of the new publications. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, aiding in the development of the publications and participating in the training sessions this summer.

Posted In: Immigration, Data and Credentials, Michigan
New MI Law Allows Community Colleges to Receive UI Data

In March 2018, Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder signed MI HB 4545. This bi-partisan bill enables Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) to make unemployment insurance information available to community colleges and Michigan Works! Agencies.

Under previous Michigan law, only four-year colleges and universities could receive data from UIA, and they could only use that data for public-service research projects. MI HB 4545 expands the entities who are eligible to receive unemployment insurance information to include Michigan Works! Agencies and community colleges. The bill also expands the ways these entities can use the data. Now, eligible entities may receive and use data for program planning and evaluation, grant application or evaluation, accreditation, economic or workforce research, award eligibility, or state or federal mandated reporting. The bill also requires UIA to make information about what types of data it can share available online, and to help eligible institutions apply to receive data.

A companion bill, HB 4546, holds anyone involved with an eligible entity liable for misusing unemployment insurance information. Offenders would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“This bill will simplify the process for community colleges and Michigan Works! vocational programs. These bills are an opportunity for us to make Michigan stronger and make better employment opportunities available to our residents,” said Michigan state representative Gary Howell.

According to stakeholders, both bills were introduced and passed in large part because of advocacy from the state’s community colleges. Michigan’s community colleges have long advocated for better access to unemployment insurance wage records in order to improve programs and better meet employer demand. In 2016, the community colleges helped develop HB 5763, which would have provided community colleges and Michigan Works! Agencies with access to unemployment insurance information. WDQC submitted written testimony in support of that effort. HB 4545 is substantially similar to HB 5763, representing a victory for the community college and workforce systems after years of hard work.

HB 4545 will take effect on July 1, 2018.

Posted In: Michigan, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

MI Releases New Data Tool for Students and Workers

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
MI Releases New Data Tool for Students and Workers

Michigan’s Pathfinder is an online career planning tool intended to help students make informed choices about their education and career options.  The state tool is similar to the website envisioned by the College Transparency Act supported by WDQC.

It’s the result of several agencies from across state government working together to provide information for students and the people who advise them, including parents, teachers and counselors. But it’s also an effective tool for adults looking at new career options.

The tool allows users to search for education and career information by career name, school, or program type. Data on careers includes details about what a student can expect to do in that career and the relevant training required, as well as information about wages and occupational growth over the next decade. Data on schools includes graduation rates, the cost of tuition and fees, and information about the graduate debt. Data on programs includes the employment and earnings outcomes of graduates one and five years after graduation.

In order to ensure that students can create pathways to their chosen careers, users have the option to see information about careers, schools, and programs all on one page.  

Pathfinder is populated with information from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard, which was created under the Obama administration to highlight key measures about college costs and value to help students make smarter postsecondary decisions. Pathfinder is also populated with Michigan wage record and educational performance data, as well as the state’s labor market information.

The website also includes sections directing students to information about apprenticeships, on-the-job training, self-employment and financial aid.

The Talent Investment Agency, which was the lead on the project, plans to continue to enhance the tool and update the data at least annually. You can learn more about Michigan’s data infrastructure by visiting Michigan’s state page.

WDQC applauds Michigan for making more information about education and career options available to students and their parents. Scorecards are one of the 13 elements featured in our State Blueprint for creating strong state data systems, that provide useable information to relevant stakeholders.

Posted In: Michigan, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
New Maryland and Michigan fact sheets: Immigrants can help meet demand for middle-skill workers

Two new fact sheets from National Skills Coalition highlight the important role that immigrant workers play in filling middle-skill jobs in Michigan and Maryland.

While immigration settlement patterns differ substantially between the two states, in both cases, immigrant workers will be vital to helping the states meet the demand for middle skill workers and respond to local industries’ talent needs.

To meet these demands, states will need to ensure that their talent-development pipelines are inclusive of the many immigrants who are poised to benefit from investments in their skills: 41 percent of adult immigrants in Michigan and 39 percent in Maryland have not gone beyond high school in their education.

Maryland: A Quickly Growing Immigrant Population Meets an Ambitious Postsecondary Goal

Maryland has a steadily growing immigrant population.  The state has seen its foreign-born population more than double from 6.6 percent in 1990 to 15.2 percent today.

Immigrants in Maryland are much more likely to be of working age:  80 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 60 percent of native-born residents. Maryland immigrants also have a substantially higher labor force participation rate: 72.7 percent of adult immigrants in Maryland are in the labor force, compared to 65.3 percent of native-born adults

The state has recently established an ambitious goal for postsecondary attainment: By 2025, Maryland aims to increase the percentage of state residents between twenty-five and sixty-four years old with a postsecondary degree to 55 percent. Meeting this goal will require investments in skill-building for all Marylanders, including those born abroad.

Learn more in our new fact sheet: Middle-Skill Credentials and Immigrant Workers: Maryland’s Untapped Assets


Michigan: A Large Immigrant Population is Part of the Middle-Skill Solution  

Michigan is home to approximately 652,000 immigrants, who comprise almost 7 percent of state residents.  As a result, they make up a vital role in Michigan’s labor market. This role will continue growing as the immigrant population increases; already, the share of immigrants in the state’s population has increased by 74 percent from 3.8 percent in 1990 to 6.6 percent today.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) responded to the growing importance of the state’s immigrant workforce by establishing the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA) by executive order in 2014. A primary role of MONA is to build and strengthen relationships between immigrant workers and the state’s public workforce system.

The demand for middle-skill workers is anticipated to remain strong in Michigan, with 50 percent of new job openings expected to be at the middle skill-level. In order for Michigan to capitalize on this demand and draw on the full talents and abilities of their residents, the state will need to invest in the skills of native-born and immigrant workers alike.

Learn more in our new fact sheet: Middle-Skill Credentials and Immigrant Workers: Michigan’s Untapped Assets

Posted In: Immigration, Michigan, Maryland

Michigan Breaks New Ground in Workforce Services for New Americans

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock
Michigan Breaks New Ground in Workforce Services for New Americans

National Skills Coalition Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock traveled to Michigan in November for two briefings with state and local workforce staff. The briefings focused on effective strategies for serving jobseekers who are immigrants and/or English language learners.

The trip was sparked by an invitation from two state officials:  Karen Phillippi, Deputy Director of the Michigan Office for New Americans (MONA), and Stephanie Beckhorn, Senior Deputy Director for Workforce Development at the Michigan Talent Investment Agency (TIA).

Michigan is one of just a half-dozen states nationwide to have a state-level initiative focused on the integration of immigrant residents. Governor Rick Snyder (R) established MONA in 2014 via executive order. The office is led by Director Bing Goei.  In the nearly four years since MONA’s launch, the agency has implemented several skills-related initiatives, several of which are detailed below.

Lloyd Conway, Program Specialist at TIA, moderated the November briefings. A major theme of Amanda’s remarks was that program and policy interventions that address barriers faced by immigrants can also be valuable in serving other jobseekers, such as veterans or those who are returning from incarceration. Michigan has sought to serve these and other populations through a variety of efforts focused on so-called “structural unemployment.”

Amanda provided background context on the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and requirements for serving English language learners under the legislation. She also shared skills policy examples from other states and localities, including Seattle’s use of Community Development Block Grant funds to support its Ready to Work program, and several states’ use of SNAP Employment & Training resources to support skill-building. Finally, attendees learned about NSC’s state policy resources on Skills Equity issues, including 50-state scans and policy toolkits.

Attendees at the briefings included staff from Michigan’s newly launched Refugee/Immigrant Navigator program, described below.

Launching Refugee/Immigrant Navigators at Local Workforce Centers

In Summer 2017, MONA used WIOA Title I Governor’s Reserve funds (sometimes called discretionary funds), paired with some state funding, to establish new Refugee/Immigrant Navigator positions in collaboration with four local workforce boards and community partners. The Navigators are modeled on an earlier state program that provided similar services to jobseekers with disabilities.

The four pilot locations include Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, and Kent counties. The locations were selected due to their relatively high concentration of refugee and immigrant Michiganders.

Navigators function as a kind of “air traffic control” for jobseekers, helping identify which publicly funded programs they qualify for and how to access them. Some participants are enrolled in WIOA Title I workforce services, while others pursue Title II adult education services or still other employment-related resources.

Michigan is the second state to use WIOA discretionary funds to support Navigators for this population, following California.

Expanding Adult ESOL Models

MONA funded five innovative adult English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) pilot programs during 2017. Each program received a one-year grant of approximately $50,000. Funding came from the Governor’s office. The intent of the pilots was to provide in-demand English learning services that could reach under-served populations and could not easily be funded using existing state or federal ESOL funding.

Among the models funded were a contextualized ESOL program for the construction industry that also allows participants to earn an OSHA safety certification and forklift license.

Smoothing Pathways to Occupational Licensure

MONA is housed within the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees licensing for dozens of professions and other occupations in the state. Michigan has been recognized as a national leader in helping immigrants with foreign credentials learn how they can pursue licensure in the United States.

Among MONA’s achievements are publishing a series of licensing guides to help applicants navigate the path to licensure. An initial 11 guides were developed in collaboration with the nonprofit Upwardly Global. To date, the state has now published more than 40 guides for occupations ranging from cosmetologist to accountant to mortuary science to respiratory therapist.

Assisting Immigrant Professionals to Return to their Fields

MONA’s Michigan International Talent Solutions (MITS) program provides direct assistance to immigrant jobseekers who have credentials from abroad. In addition to career coaching and job-placement assistance, MITS provides eligible candidates with an opportunity to improve their English language skills using an online tool from Education First.

As appropriate, MITS participants can also receive up to $6,000 in “re-skilling” assistance that allows them to pursue short-term training that will prepare them to use their international experience in a US context. Re-skilling vouchers can be used at US institutions such as community colleges or private training providers. Examples include training in QuickBooks software for bookkeepers or accountants, training in AutoCAD for architectural professionals, and numerous other opportunities. 

Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Michigan

Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

  ·   By Sapna Mehta
Governors unveil 2017 workforce proposals

Governors across the nation are proposing new measures to increase middle-skill training.  Among the most common proposals are state support for apprenticeships and new investments in community college training, including free tuition. 

California Governor Jerry Brown proposed an additional $150 million for grants to support community colleges to develop and implement “guided pathways programs, an integrated, institution-wide approach” to improve student success.  The Governor also proposed utilizing $923,000 in federal funds to expand existing apprenticeship programs and create new programs in non-traditional and emerging industries.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan proposed $41 million for the Going Pro Program, a job training program that focuses on in-demand occupations in advanced manufacturing, construction, information technology and healthcare. The Governor also spoke of the need to work with legislators and the private sector to increase the number of registered apprenticeships in the state.

Governor Brian Sandoval of Nevada proposed a $21 million investment in career and technical education programs at the state’s four community colleges. 

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf requested $12 million in new funding to establish the Manufacturing PA initiative – a partnership between the Department of Community and Economic Development, research universities, community colleges, and other training providers to foster growth and innovation in manufacturing.  Of the $12 million, $5 million is for a manufacturing training-to-career grant program, which would facilitate partnerships between manufacturers and community colleges and technical providers, to link job training to career pathways through programs such as apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and paid internships. The Governor also proposed $4 million to expand apprenticeship opportunities, including grants for employers of up to $2,000 for each registered apprentice.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin proposed a $5 million increase in state funds and a new $5 million program for the Department of Workforce Development to make grants to the Wisconsin Technical College System for in-demand certification programs for high school students. The Governor also proposed $5 million for a registered apprenticeship program.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan proposed the Student Debt Relief Act, which would allow “Marylanders to deduct one hundred percent of the interest paid on their student loans from their state income tax return.” Additionally, as part of the Governor’s $5 million 2017 Maryland Jobs Initiative, he proposed opening six new P-TECH high schools, and funding to support students currently enrolled in existing schools.  P-TECH schools partner with employers and colleges to provide secondary to postsecondary pathways in STEM.   The Jobs Initiative also includes a $3 million investment in cyber job training grants, modeled after Maryland’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) workforce training program.  The Governor also announced a $1 million investment in Maryland Partnership for Workforce Quality, to encourage employers to invest in employee training.   

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker proposed the $4 million Learn to Earn program, which would offer scholarships for training and certificates in certain fields, as well as transportation and child care subsidies to make it easier for people to attend the trainings.

Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island proposed $2 million for the Community College of Rhode Island Westerly Job Skills Training Center, which prepare students for jobs in advanced manufacturing in partnership with employers, and $2 million for the state’s TechHire initiative for training in technology related fields.  The Governor also proposed free tuition for two years at the state’s public colleges: University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island.  Additionally, she proposed expanding P-TECH high schools.  

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb proposed investing $2 million to create regional Jobs Ready Grants to help incumbent workers earn in-demand credentials or certificates.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe proposed a budget enhancement of $1 million for the New Economy Workforce Credential Grant Program, which supports 124 different training programs at Virginia’s Community colleges.  The Governor also proposed requiring community colleges to award college credit for apprenticeships and other related programs, expanding access to in-demand credentials for non-traditional students. 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed the Excelsior Scholarship Program, a “last-dollar scholarship” to provide free tuition at the state’s public two- and four-year colleges to residents earning up to $125,000 annually.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed tuition-free community college education for all adults without a post-secondary degree.  Currently, adults without post-secondary degrees can attend Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology tuition-free through Tennessee Reconnect, and only recent high school graduates can apply for “last-dollar scholarships” to attend the state’s community colleges through Tennessee Promise. Funding for the new adult scholarships would come from the state’s lottery proceeds.

Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed piloting the Accelerated Completion of Technical Studies program, which would provide financial support to low-income students pursuing associate degrees at community colleges for in-demand jobs.  This is modeled after a similar successful program at the City University of New York.

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas proposed free tuition at two-year colleges and technical schools for high school students who enroll in high-demand fields, such as computer science or welding.  The grants, known as Arkansas Future Grants, would be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  They would be paid for by repurposing $8.2 million in general revenue funds from other workforce and higher education grants.

Posted In: Arkansas, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nevada, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin
National Skills Coalition hosts first Skills in the States Forum

On October 17-18, nearly 100 workforce advocates from 20 states and D.C. gathered in Detroit, Michigan to take part in NSC’s first Skills in the States Forum. The purpose of the event was for participants to engage with peers and share ideas on how to move skills policies forward in their states.  

The two-day event kicked off with a plenary discussion on state policies for skills equity, where speakers shared ideas on how to expand access to skill building for underserved populations in their states. The discussion was led by NSC Senior State Policy Analyst, Brooke DeRenzis; Emily Price of So Others Might Eat in D.C.; Sarah Labadie of Women Employed, Illinois; and Dr. Corey Wiggins of the Hope Policy Institute in Mississippi. Another highlight from the event was a discussion on Detroit’s economic recovery and how government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses are collaborating to help workers strive in the City’s growing job market. The plenary, moderated by Chauncy Lennon of JPMorgan Chase, featured Wanda Stokes, Director of the Michigan Talent Investment Agency; Jason D. Lee, CEO of Focus:HOPE; and Jeff Donofrio, Detroit’s Director of Workforce Development and Executive Director of the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board.

Participants also had a chance to dive into the topic of investments in skills policies, with a plenary where Jessica Fraser of the Indiana Institute for Working Families; Jerry Rubin from Jewish Vocational Services Boston; and Debra Jones of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office shared budget challenges in their states and best practices for working with partners to address them.

At the forum, NSC launched a series of policy toolkits meant to help states develop and enact “skills equity” policies that expand equitable access to middle-skill training, credentials, and careers - particularly for those who have faced barriers to economic opportunity. The toolkits, which include model legislation, are designed to help states bridge their skills gap, help people train for in-demand occupations, and help businesses find the skilled workers they need to succeed. The toolkits cover policies on  job-driven financial aidSNAP E&Tstackable credentialsalignment, and integrated education and training.

The toolkits fueled a robust discussion on the best ways to influence state policies during a set of concurrent sessions. Workforce Data Quality Campaign also lead a conversation on workforce data policy. During these sessions, participants had the opportunity to discuss a state skills policy issue and possible strategies for advancing it.

In addition to the plenaries and discussions, participants broke out into smaller groups to engage with peers from other states on advocacy tactics and how to expand opportunities for people to enhance their skills, credentials, and careers, and ultimately, their families’ financial well-being.

A special thanks to our steering committee who helped organize the forum. The five-member committee included: Andrew Bradley from Indiana Institute for Working Families; Julie Brown from Dan River Region Collaborative in Virginia ; Melissa Johnson, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute; Alice Pritchard, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities; and Carrie Thomas, Chicago Jobs Council. In addition to the steering committee, the forum was made possible with help from our funders W.K. Kellogg FoundationJPMorgan Chase, and the Joyce Foundation.

To view materials from the forum, please visit the events section of our website here

Posted In: Skills Equity, Michigan

Leadership Spotlight: Bill Rayl

  ·   By Yuri Chang
Leadership Spotlight: Bill Rayl

Bill Rayl, a member of National Skills Coalition's Leadership Council, is the Executive Director of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association, a not-for-profit association dedicated to improving the manufacturing climate of south-central Michigan by providing tools and resources for continuous improvement and success. Bill participated in the Skill2Compete Michigan Campaign's efforts to focus greater attention on creating training opportunities for middle-skill jobs, which make up the largest portion of jobs in the state’s labor market.

In the interview below, Bill discusses how involvement with NSC has helped to advance JAMA's mission. He also shares his take on ways to close the middle-skill gap in manufacturing and create pipelines to earning family-supporting wages.

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

I’ve done a bunch of jobs over my career, many of which no longer exist today due to technology, so I’m much attuned to the need for continually upgrading skills to stay competitive in the labor market. My current position as Executive Director of JAMA is what led to my involvement in workforce development. Not long after I joined, the local community college was phasing out its manufacturing programs due to under-enrollment and a perceived lack of demand for these programs. JAMA then began to engage in serious conversations about ways we could promote and ensure skilled trades training. Over the course of the next year, JAMA brought 70 to 80 area manufacturers to the table to develop what has become the Academy for Manufacturing Careers Skills Trade Training Program, which JAMA manages.

What brought you to your position as executive director of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association, and what do you feel has been your most meaningful accomplishment?

What brought me to JAMA was its dedication to making a real, positive impact on manufacturing in the region. We want to help manufacturers succeed and grow in a proactive way. The most meaningful accomplishment that I think I’ve had is bringing the Academy for Manufacturing Careers and other education components of JAMA to fruition in terms of getting the academy launched and training hundreds of people. We do a lot of training for adults including four-year apprenticeship programs and customized training. Our adult program targets short-term issues of employers who need skilled workers today. We also work with youth and we have programs all the way down to kindergarten. For us, that’s a long-term workforce engagement strategy.

A recent success is our partnership with the local school district and community college. We’re launching an early middle college manufacturing-specific high school program through which students can graduate with not only a high school degree, but also with an associate’s degree. Graduates will also have the opportunity to enroll in a school-to-registered apprenticeship with an employer and have potential for full-time employment. If we can give young students the opportunity to see themselves with a bright future, then we’re going to get some of the best and brightest to come to us in manufacturing. What we’re most passionate about is developing that pipeline and engaging kids at every level with career exploration and skill-building.

The manufacturing industry has been experiencing a significant middle-skill gap. What steps need to be taken in workforce development to ensure a robust U.S. manufacturing industry?

Tackling the middle-skill gap requires a comprehensive and regional approach; industry, education and workforce development have to work together to pool and align resources and create sector strategies. We need to bring all potential players to the table and figure out how they can help achieve the end goal: to create opportunities for all workers to make family-sustaining wages. We want people working towards making our communities more productive, rather than feeling the need to move elsewhere in order to have a good future for themselves and their children. We need to reach out into the K-12 system instead of waiting for students to finish high school to figure out ways to fit graduates into our workforce.

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

NSC is a broad and powerful platform for communicating and spreading information through the system, from the grassroots to the federal level. The connections with the individuals involved with NSC and all of the advocacy work that they do—I bring that back to the state of Michigan in working with our partners and all the other folks we connect with. There have been many meetings where the information that has been provided through NSC has helped move things forward regionally and at the state level.

I draw from diverse workforce backgrounds through my work with JAMA and through my connections to Michigan business communities, associations and manufacturing councils. Because Michigan was so hard hit during the economic downturn, we were in a sense at the forefront of the battle. We had to come up with all kinds of creative ways to put things together, and I strive to bring those experiences and perspectives to my work with NSC. It is a two-way, mutually beneficial process for me to be involved in NSC because it helps me do my job, which ultimately means I’m helping companies be more successful.

What encouraged you to engage with NSC at such a meaningful level as a member of NSC’s Leadership Council, and why should others consider doing so?

I first attended one of NSC’s Skills Summit and from there became more and more involved. The more engaged I became with NSC, the more value I saw in my involvement. Not only was I able to provide an additional voice and contribute to the work NSC does, I found more value to what I did on a day-to-day basis back here in Michigan. That really encouraged me to take the next step in joining NSC’s Leadership Council and continue to engage with NSC at the highest level that I possibly could. I certainly encourage anybody else to really consider engaging with NSC at any level the opportunity allows, because your organization will benefit greatly from it.

Posted In: Michigan
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