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New report makes the case for partnerships between businesses and community colleges

In today’s economy, the demand for skilled workers is greater than ever before—with approximately 80 percent of jobs requiring candidates to have some form of education or training beyond the high school level. However, employers across the country in in-demand industries are not exclusively looking to hire individuals with four-year degrees. In fact, over half of all jobs available today are “middle skill”, meaning they require training beyond high school but not a college degree.

In an effort to connect more individuals with the skills they need to succeed in the labor market, employers across a range of industries have been partnering with community college leaders, community-based organizations, workforce development boards (WDBs) and a range of other stakeholders to remove barriers to success and provide flexible career pathways for millions of Americans. These collaboration models, often referred to as sector partnerships, can lead to the increased availability of up-to-date curriculum, professional development, and support services—including transportation, child care, and basic skills instruction—for individuals looking to build marketable skill sets.

Despite the value of these partnerships, Congress has not invested in them at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the TAACCCT grant program in FY2014. In a new publication, National Skills Coalition calls on Congress to consider increasing the federal investment in sector partnerships—specifically in the context of a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. 

Additionally, the paper urges Congress to consider supplementing targeted grants for industry partnerships with other policy initiatives, such as those embodied in NSC’s Community College Compact—in order to truly make higher education work for students of all ages and backgrounds. This new publication is also consistent with the proposals highlighted in our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda—which was released in 2016 and updated earlier this year.

The paper makes the case for this proposal by detailing the history of bipartisan support for community college-industry partnerships, describing the positive impact they have on students and employers, and highlighting effective industry partnerships in three states, including:

  • North Baton Rouge Industrial Training Initiative (NBRITI) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
    • NBRITI is a partnership between ExxonMobil and Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) that provides North Baton Rouge residents with access to an intensive, short-term training program designed to fast-track them to success in welding, pipefitting, or the electrical trades.

  • M-Powered in Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • M-Powered is an award-winning training program that prepares Minnesotans for manufacturing careers. This program—which was formed by the Precision Metalforming Association, Hennepin Technical College and a community-based organization known as HIRED—primarily serves the unemployed, underemployed and veterans.  

  • Mopar Career Automotive Program (CAP) in Sugar Grove, Illinois
    • Waubonsee Community College in Illinois joined forces with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the National Coalition of Certification Centers to establish a Mopar Local CAP training site. This program provides advanced training to students and prepared them to work as Level 1 Automotive Technicians upon graduation.


Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota

WDQC infographic features states’ college scorecards

  ·   By Rachel Zinn
WDQC infographic features states’ college scorecards

While Congress debates the appropriate role for the federal government in helping students get information about college, states are stepping up to provide important data on postsecondary education outcomes.

A growing number of state websites show information about postsecondary program costs, graduation rates, average debt, and average post-program earnings. These websites are designed to help students, families, and workers make decisions about colleges and careers.

In some states, publicizing this information is required by law. A new infographic from Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), a project of National Skills Coalition, highlights state legislative models.

Minnesota, for example, has a law that requires colleges to report data to the state. Using this data, state agencies created the Graduate Employment Outcomes tool. It shows hourly wages one, two, and four years after graduation, as well as industries and regions of employment for graduates by school, degree, and major. Agency leaders conduct outreach to high school to help counselors and students use the tool.

To get information about what happens to graduates in the labor market, states match student records reported by colleges with data about employment and wages collected as part of the Unemployment Insurance program. This data matching allows a more accurate picture of graduates’ employment than alumni surveys.

WDQC encourages states to develop scorecards showing postsecondary education program results in its State Blueprint. In addition, the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) at National Skills Coalition works intensively with selected states (California, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island) to develop scorecards and other data tools.

The U.S. Department of Education currently provides a College Scorecard for all schools nationwide, and Congress is considering whether to require this type of effort in law. The bipartisan Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, proposed in both the House and Senate, would mandate federal student data system, data matching, and reporting on education and employment outcomes.

 
Posted In: Data and Credentials, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, California, Mississippi, Ohio, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
Collaborating to Help New Americans Succeed in Community College: An Example from Minnesota

What happens when a nonprofit organization learns that its immigrant graduates are struggling to pass required courses in their program of study at the local community college? For one Minnesota organization, the answer included: Work with the college to design and implement robust transitional supports.

In this post, we take a look at an innovative partnership between the International Institute of Minnesota and Saint Paul College.

About the Partner Organizations

Founded nearly 100 years ago, the nonprofit International Institute of Minnesota (IIM) serves approximately 3,000 immigrants and refugees each year via refugee resettlement, education and workforce training, and other services. For the past twenty years, those offerings have included a Medical Careers Pathway program to prepare immigrants for entry-level healthcare positions.

The nearby Saint Paul College (SPC) is a two-year community and technical college. Since its inception in 1910, SPC has served urban residents, underrepresented students and immigrants new to the city. Today, students of color comprise 61% of SPC’s overall enrollment, and an estimated 40% of all students are New Americans.

The Challenge

Immigrants who graduate from the Certified Nurse Assistant programs at IIM or Saint Paul College are often interested in continuing their education in the college’s Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) program. Achieving the LPN credential will allow them to advance their careers and increase their earning power.

Yet despite this keen interest from participants, the partner organizations found that many prospective LPN students were struggling to succeed in prerequisite classes and/or were unprepared for the required Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) entrance examination. Discouraged, some left the college before even beginning their LPN studies.

The Intervention

To better prepare participants for the transition from IIM’s Medical Careers Pathway program to the credit-bearing healthcare programs at SPC, the partners identified two interventions they wanted to pursue:

  • Provide an effective TEAS test preparation course.
  • Implement bridge and support classes for the LPN prerequisite courses at Saint Paul College, with a particular emphasis on classes that have been a barrier to immigrant students’ success: biology and psychology.


Bridge classes
are defined as a 3-4 week pre-class provided to participants before they start a college-level class.

Support classes are held in conjunction with regular subject-area classes in topics such as biology or psychology. They are hour-long classes held just after the subject-area class, during which participants can go over the material that was covered that day in the earlier class.

The Results

The first TEAS prep class was offered in Fall 2015. Twenty-eight students, three-quarters of whom were immigrants, participated. The class met 13 times during the semester, for three hours per session.

Comparison of students’ TEAS test scores pre-and post-class showed a marked improvement following their participation in the prep class. Results were particularly strong in science, where the overall average score rose from 35% to 63%. Two-thirds of students who submitted their TEAS exam scores to the IIM team were admitted to the Licensed Practical Nurse program. 

The bridge and support classes have been even more successful, with students enthusiastically asking if similar resources are available for other subject-area classes. The success doesn’t come as a surprise to IIM Executive Director Jane Graupman: It’s consistent with IIM’s previous organizational learning. “[Years ago] we found that our students were struggling with the human-body systems class – it’s a gateway to any medical job you want. Our students were either failing it or getting a C,” she explains. “We got [state] funding from Minnesota’s FAST-TRAC to do a bridge class to human-body systems, and then to do a support class afterward. Every single student who went to the bridge and support class got an A or a B in the [regular] class.”

Intriguingly, it is not just immigrant students who see the value in bridge and support classes. “We also have American-born students who participate,” says Graupman. “They tell us they could not have passed without them.”

The Learning: Key Determinants of Success

Several factors have been particularly relevant to the success of the partners’ efforts. They include:

  • Prioritizing the navigator role. “IIM has always had a navigator” as part of its programs, says Graupman. Helping participants to navigate educational options, find support for life issues, and obtain employment have all been key navigator responsibilities. In IIM’s partnership with Saint Paul College, helping students to figure out course sequencing and financial aid has been crucial to fostering their success.  “We know that when people get in to hard classes, they have to scale back on their working hours so they can concentrate on their studies,” explains Graupman. “So it’s especially important that navigators can help them access scholarships to support them as they study.”
  • Leadership buy-in. The President of Saint Paul College is himself an immigrant, and a strong supporter of the College’s partnership with IIM, says Graupman. “He totally gets it, he knows what we do and why it’s important. But it’s not just upper management,” she clarifies. “I got to do a keynote address to the whole college. That was vital.” Embarking on this type of partnership with a nonprofit community-based organization was a significant step for the College, she says, and it was important that staffers at all levels understood the impetus. “We’re both serving New Americans, but our organizations have distinct areas of expertise and experience,” she explains.
  • Institutional expertise. Here, Graupman’s own history at IIM played a role. As a young staff member, she pioneered the agency’s first contextualized healthcare education program more than two decades ago.  By the time the partnership with Saint Paul College came to be, IIM had a long history of successfully iterating effective program models. “In the nonprofit world, we love pedagogy,” says Graupman. “We’re always tinkering with it – are my students getting it? Do I need to change things?”
  • Enlightened self-interest. Getting partners to the table isn’t just about having a common sense of mission, collective organizational priorities, or even shared students.  Potential partners often need to see how collaboration can help them meet requirements or mandates they already face. In this case, student retention was a compelling factor for the College, says Graupman. “They were already focused on how to help students persist and graduate successfully, and we were able to make the case for how our partnership could help improve retention rates.”


The Next Steps

The partners are already exploring ways to deepen and extend their collaboration, including via:

Adding additional classes: IIM staff are now talking to Saint Paul College staff about developing bridge and support classes for other subject areas where immigrant students may face challenges, including dosing and English composition.

Strengthening departmental connections: The IIM team is also working to build on Graupman’s earlier keynote address to ensure that each of SPC’s relevant departments are familiar with the partnership. “Just this week, we sat down with the nursing department to explain what we’re doing with the College,” says Graupman. “It can be hard in a big institution, because sometimes the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.” While such focused outreach can be time-consuming, the payoff is significant as additional College staff members become familiar with and enthusiastic about the partnership.

Building new connections:  In 2015, Graupman was invited to join the board of the Friends of Saint Paul College Foundation. Her new role further solidifies the connections between SPC and IIM.

Enabling data-sharing: “We’re talking about how to have a data-sharing agreement that protects students’ privacy,” says Graupman. “We want to be able to follow our students and see how they do over the long term,” after they graduate from IIM’s services. “The data piece is important,” she adds, “I would recommend that anybody who is contemplating a project like this think through what data they’re going to want to have access to, and get the agreements in place.”

Read more about the IIM-SPC partnership.

The IIM-SPC collaboration was supported in part via the Building Community Partnerships to Serve Immigrant Workers (BCPIW) initiative, convened by the National Council for Workforce Education and funded by the Ford Foundation and the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Previous posts on the Skills Blog highlighted BCPIW programs in Pasadena (CA) and Westchester (NY).

*Photo courtesy of International Institute of Minnesota 

Posted In: Immigration, Minnesota

Minnesota WDQI's Recent Accomplishments

  ·   By Alessia Leibert,
Minnesota WDQI's Recent Accomplishments

I am proud to announce a series of accomplishments the Minnesota Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) team and its partners have made over the last four months. These accomplishments are:

  • Enhancements to our Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) tool: We have added data about 141 higher education institutions in the state to our Graduate Employment Outcomes (GEO) tool, which enables students to determine employment and wage outcomes for various programs of study. This allows users to make comparisons across specific schools, awards, and majors. Thanks to this upgrade, the GEO tool has become the primary feedback reporting mechanism for higher education institutions to access key information on training program performance, including: (1) hourly wages 1, 2, and 4 years after graduation; (2) industries of employment for graduates by school, degree, and major; (3) region of employment for graduates by school, degree, and major; (4) the share of graduates employed full time and year-round 2, 3, and 4 years after graduation; and (5) the share of graduates who re-enrolled in a post-secondary program after graduation. This week, we launched a series of web-based training sessions for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) staff to help them use the GEO tool for educational program planning and program improvement purposes.

  • WIOA ETPL Reporting and Forthcoming Tool: Minnesota is able to use its WDQI database to meet the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act’s (WIOA) reporting requirements for the Eligible Training Provider List. The database allows Minnesota to track employment outcomes for training participants, including participants who are not enrolled in WIOA programs. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development's (DEED) Labor Market Information Office, in collaboration with the Workforce Development Division, and Information Technology division, are working on a project to display program outcomes for each employment provider through DEED’s Career Profile tool. Users will be able to search for ETPL-listed educational opportunities and find matching occupational opportunities, or search for occupational opportunities and find matching ETPL-listed educational opportunities. We expect the project to conclude the summer of 2016.

  • Data Linkage with Driver License Records: In December 2015, DEED finalized a data sharing agreement with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Driver and Vehicle Services allowing DEED to acquire Driver License records, including driver’s date of birth, gender, and zip code. DEED has already successfully linked driver’s records to employment records, and plan to share this data with our partners at the Minnesota Statewide Longitudinal Education Data System (SLEDS), so that they may ultimately assess the employment outcomes of high school graduates who do not enroll in post-secondary institutions.

  • Dashboards for Policy Makers: Outcomes data from the GEO tool have been added to the Minnesota Dashboardfor use by policy makers to track progress in key areas. In addition to displaying the same aggregate outcomes available on the GEO tool, the dashboard displays graduate employment outcomes broken down by race and ethnicity. This new indicator is of particular interest to policy makers, as Minnesota is committed to close the well-documented racial gaps in income, education, and employment.

  • New Research: Minnesota has used data from our WDQI database to publish a number of new research studies, available here. Recent reports include: "Racial Disparities in Wage and Employment After Graduation," and "Making Sense of Labor Market Returns to Higher Education for Older Graduates."


Minnesota is proud that we are able to use our data to inform relevant stakeholders and promote evidence-based policy changes. 

Alessia Leibert is a Research Project Manager at Minnesota's Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and a WDQC advisor. 

Posted In: Minnesota, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Erick Ajax named 2016 Skills Champion Award winner

  ·   By Nicky Lauricella Coolberth
Erick Ajax named 2016 Skills Champion Award winner
NSC’s annual Skills Champion Award recognizes a member whose exceptional organizing and advocacy efforts have moved the skills agenda forward in their state or in Washington, D.C. over the past year. This member embodies the Coalition’s mission to seek an America that grows its economy by investing in its people, so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.
 
This year, Erick Ajax, Vice President and Co-Owner of E.J. Ajax and Sons, became the first NSC employer partner to receive the Skills Champion Award. He was honored for his outstanding work to ensure our country’s policymakers invest, aggressively and effectively, in the skills of America’s workers.
 
Erick has worked with National Skills Coalition for a decade, serving on the original NSC Leadership Council. He is a founding member of Business Leaders United and currently serves on its Executive Committee.
 
Erick has been an outstanding advocate for effective workforce policies, particularly those that leverage and build upon private sector investments, all while leading a successful company and sector partnership in Minnesota. E.J. Ajax invests over 5.5% of its annual payroll in employee education, and believes strongly in the value of employer-led partnerships to prepare workers for jobs within his industry. Erick is a founding board member of M-Powered, a Minnesota-based manufacturing sector partnership.
 
Over the last decade, Erick has helped to raise the visibility of the skills gap, sector partnerships, and the need for federal skills policy to be informed by small and mid-sized employers. In addition to seeding and informing dozens of media pieces locally and nationally over the years, he has successfully cultivated Senator Franken (D-MN) as a skills champion in Congress. He has hosted the Senator for site visits at M-Powered, engaged in joint press activities with the Senator, and was his guest at the State of the Union. Ultimately, Erick helped to inform the Senator’s Community College to Career Fund Act, which is based on the successful sector partnerships that he visited in Minnesota.
 
Posted In: Minnesota, Business Leaders United

NSC summer tour: Workforce innovation across the United States

  ·   By Yuri Chang, Christina Lindborg-Pena, Ashley Shaw
NSC summer tour: Workforce innovation across the United States

National Skills Coalition has taken to the road this summer. Our staff got to see firsthand how the issue areas we have been working on are progressing in different states, and to meet people who have been tirelessly engaging in these efforts.

NSC would like to thank everyone we met during our visits for sharing their time and insight, and for allowing us into their busy workspaces! 

Demand-driven postsecondary education in St. Louis:

Chief of Staff Rachel Unruh, National Field Director Jessie Hogg Leslie, Workforce Data Quality Campaign Director Rachel Zinn, and Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships Director Scott Ellsworth visited two workforce training centers to learn how federal policies such as HEA, Perkins, and WIOA can better support employer-driven training. The group first visited the St. Louis Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Program, led by NSC leadership council member Dr. John Gaal of the Carpenters’ District Council of Greater St. Louis & Vicinity. The apprenticeship program is a partnership between management and labor, preparing at-risk youth and other non-traditional populations for careers in the construction sector. The group then visited St. Louis Community College’s Center for Workforce Innovation. In addition to the Center’s pre-employment training program with Boeing, staff learned about how STLCC has leveraged four rounds of TAACCCT grants to align federal funding streams, partner with employers in targeted industries, revamp developmental education, and collaborate more effectively with other community colleges in the state. Leaders of the TAACCCT initiatives discussed how short-term, non-credit Pell and more resources for postsecondary Perkins/Career & Technical Education could help them sustain and scale the innovations they’ve fostered as a result of the time-limited TAACCCT grants.

 

Sector partnerships and youth in New York City

CEO Andy Van Kleunen, Chief of Development and Strategic Growth Sarah Oldmixon, Federal Policy Director Kermit Kaleba, and Field Coordinator Ashley Shaw visited organizations focusing on youth workforce development strategies, with a particular interest in learning more about sector partnerships and work-based learning models that serve youth and young adults. Their first stop was Per Scholas, New York City’s largest and oldest professional IT workforce development program. Per Scholas offers a series of free, multi-week professional IT job training courses and career development and placement services, and has trained more than 4,5000 students since 1998. The group then visited Comprehensive Development Inc. (CDI), a non-profit that prepares youth and young adults for future careers and life through free academic, career-readiness, and social services. CDI serves 3,500 NYC public high school students and alumni through a network of partner schools including the High School for Health Professions and Human Services, and organizations such as the New York Alliance for Careers in Health. The group finally visited the Heckscher Foundation for Children, which provides grants to youth-serving organizations in the fields of education, family services, child welfare, health, arts and recreation.

 

Data systems, career pathways, and WIOA planning in the Twin Cities

State Policy Director Bryan Wilson, Senior State Policy Analyst Brooke DeRenzis, and Rachel Zinn and Christina Lindborg-Pena of Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) traveled to Minnesota to learn about data systems, career pathways, and WIOA planning.  They first met with the Minnesota Office of Higher Education and Department of Employment and Economic Development personnel who demonstrated recently developed data tools that prospective students and job searchers can use to shape their career paths. The team next visited the Project for Pride in Living (PPL) Learning Center to learn about their FastTRAC career pathway program. PPL prepares people for jobs in the human services sector by partnering with others to combine adult education, occupational training, career counseling, and support services. The crew then headed to the Anoka County Workforce Center, a point of resource for career pathways programs, adult basic education and other education opportunities, WIOA employment and training services, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Employment and Training, childcare and medical assistance, and more. To cap off the tour, NSC staff had the unique opportunity to join a monthly meeting of the Minnesota Workforce Council Association (MWCA) Operations Committee. The meeting provided NSC staff with a chance to hear about different perspectives on WIOA implementation throughout the state.

 

Immigrant integration and adult education in Philadelphia

Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, Business Manager Melanie Pinkert, Communications Associate Yuri Chang, and Office Manager Tabitha Bennett visited the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians to learn about services that promote immigrant participation in the area’s political, social, and economic life. The Welcoming Center is a centralized employment and referral center that connects jobseekers to employers, and provides English language classes, job and life skills training, small business support, and legal advice. The group learned how the Welcoming Center utilizes strategic partnerships with numerous regional organizations such as government agencies, service providers, employers, business associations, and trade unions to connect immigrants to economic opportunities. The group met with several program directors and sat in on a contextualized English language, life skills class.  NSC is working to increase resources for effective, employment focused ABE/ESL at the state and federal levels.

Posted In: Immigration, Sector Partnerships, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Higher Education Access, Adult Basic Education, Career Pathways, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Data and Credentials, Sector Partnerships, Missouri, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania
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
Workforce Data Explained: Data Empowers Students in Minnesota

In this video, Alessia Leibert, Research Project Manager at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), discusses how data empowers students. This is the second in a series of short videos by WDQC, highlighting how states are using education and workforce data to advance their skilled workforce and better align with industry demand.

  • Graduate Employment Outcomes tool, which informs prospective students, their parents, and other stakeholders about career prospects in Minnesota. DEED and the Office of Higher Education created this searchable tool to show employment outcomes for Minnesota's post-secondary school graduates. The website also provides snapshot graphs that display annual median earnings by program level up to four years after graduation from a postsecondary institution in the state. Minnesota received a U.S. Department of Labor Workforce Data Quality Initiative grant to facilitate longitudinal analysis by linking administrative postsecondary and workforce data.
     
  • Career Profile tool, which allows students and job seekers to research occupations by region in Minnesota.
     
  • WDQC’s survey of Minnesota in 2014: Mastering the Blueprint

     

See WDQC's other videos in the Workforce Data Explained series on YouTube.

Posted In: Minnesota, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

Skills strategies included in more governors’ budget proposals

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
Skills strategies included in more governors’ budget proposals

Over the past few months, governors have unveiled their spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year or biennium. Several of these budget proposals include support for strategies to close the skill gap. Since our blog on governors’ budgets last month, we’ve reviewed additional budget proposals that address strategies like sector partnerships, career pathways, and job-driven training.

Proposals by first-time governors in Pennsylvania and Maryland include support for existing state sector partnership programs. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf proposed $11.6 million for the state’s Industry Partnerships program – a nearly $10 million increase over the current funding level. Despite proposed cuts in other areas, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s FY 2016 budget maintained $4.5 million for the state’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program, which supports skills training developed by industry partnerships.

Governors in Minnesota, Connecticut, and Rhode Island proposed increased investments for career pathways. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s “Pathways to Prosperity” proposal would provide $12 million in the FY 2016-17 biennium to support career pathways programs that integrate remedial education with industry-focused skills training to help individuals with barriers to work find and keep family-supporting jobs. Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy’s FY 2016-2017 biennium budget proposal includes $1.5 million per year to expand the I-BEST program, which provides adult education in tandem with occupational skills training.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo’s proposed FY 2016 budget includes new investments to expand high school students’ pathways to postsecondary credentials and degrees. A proposed $1.3 million for Prepare RI would allow high school students to concurrently earn college credits at no cost and $900,000 would lay the foundation for an accelerated high school-to-associate degree pathway informed by industry partners. Governor Raimondo also proposes new performance measures to focus existing workforce development funds more keenly on demand-driven training.

While Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker did not propose significant increases to workforce development funding in FY 2016, he signed an executive order establishing a Workforce Skills Cabinet chaired by the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development to coordinate state agencies around the goal of closing the skill gap.

Governors’ budget proposals are now under review by state legislatures. Check NSC’s skills blog later this spring for updates on state budgets and legislation.

Posted In: Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Minnesota, Connecticut, Rhode Island
Manufacturing Company Becomes Model for Fighting Long-Term Unemployment

Tackling the issue of long-term unemployment is currently on the nation’s mind. The White House awarded almost $170 million earlier this week in “Ready to Work Partnership” grants that are designed to prepare long-term unemployed individuals for attaining jobs. Where the Jobs Are, part one of a four-part series by USA Today, illuminates the importance of widening the career pipeline in order to fill the significant and growing demand for middle-skill workers.

At the forefront of the national movement to take on long-term unemployment is Business Leaders United (BLU) Executive Committee member Erick Ajax, a model employer for recognizing America’s untapped talent pool. Erick recently participated in a small roundtable conversation with Vice President Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Perez to discuss ways U.S. companies can support the hiring of long-term unemployed individuals.

Erick is co-owner of E.J. Ajax, a precision manufacturing company located near Minneapolis. Since January 2014, 76% of the new hires at E.J. Ajax were previously long-term under- or unemployed. From single parents, returning veterans, youth offenders and first-generation immigrants, success stories of E.J. Ajax’s hiring practices have captured the interest of the national media. USA Today featured E.J. Ajax alongside Vice President Biden and Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs; in the video, Erick tells the reporter that the global competition isn’t what keeps him up at night.

“I know we can go toe-to-toe with any company in the world. But having people that have the right skill set…that wakes me up at 3 o’clock in the morning.”

For Erick, finding skilled workers is a top priority, which was why he and several of his competitors approached Anoka Technical College five years ago to create a training program. The coalition of employers was able to procure nearly $1 million in donations to launch the Precision Sheet Metal Academy. Also featured on USA Today is E.J. Ajax employee Emily Cramble, a single mom who entered their apprenticeship program and is now earning twice what she made at the job she lost in 2008.

"If we go to one of those schools and say we need a program to train the five new people we hired, they're going to laugh at us 'cause there's no way they can develop a program, buy the equipment, hire instructors, get the floor space for five people," Ajax told USA Today. "But if we get 10 companies and we're training 50 to 100 per year, that's a sustainable model."

To date, the program has put over 300 people to work and boasts a 98% employment rate.

Through their need for skilled employees, E.J. Ajax also became involved with M-POWERED and HIRED, career pathways programs that help returning veterans, first-generation immigrants and youth offenders gain credentials and apprenticeships. Programs like these don’t just meet the needs of employers, but clearly the needs of workers as well. You can learn about past M-POWERED trainees Davie Dchaenzer, a former youth offender, and Jose Chavarria, a former Marine—both of whom are now E.J. Ajax employees.

Photo Credit: USA Today

Posted In: Minnesota, Business Leaders United
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