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NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis
NSC state partners winning on skills training policies

Photo: Partners from Colorado Skills2Compete pictured with State Senator Rhonda Fields, State Representative James Coleman, and Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore.

As state sessions come to a close, NSC’s partners are stacking wins across the country with governors, legislatures, and state agencies. Partners in a dozen states are advancing policies that will make skills training more available to workers in their states.  

NSC has worked with these partners over the past year through key state initiatives including SkillSPAN – a first-ever nationwide network of coalitions working to advance skills policies that expand economic opportunities for workers and their families while boosting local businesses. Taken together, these partners are making college more available to working people, broadening the apprenticeship pipeline, and expanding support services to remove barriers to skills training. 

Making college more available to working people

  • Expanding Georgia’s HOPE scholarship to more young adults: NSC teamed up with SkillSPAN partner Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Atlanta CareerRise, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and the Atlanta Civic Site of The Annie E. Casey Foundation to call on Georgia’s policymakers to make the state’s scholarship program available to more adults in order to close the middle-skill gap. This session, Georgia’s General Assembly extended the time that college students can earn the HOPE scholarship from seven to 10 years after high school. 

  • Funding the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship: SkillSPAN partner the United Way of Central Iowa successfully advocated for investments in Future Ready Iowa initiatives, including more investments in state tuition assistance. The Iowa legislature provided $13 million in funding for the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship, which helps students –including adults –cover financial aid gaps as they earn credentials for high-demand jobs.  

  • Reconnecting adults to postsecondary education and training in Michigan: SkillSPAN partner the United Way for Southeast Michigan is supporting a bipartisan effort by Governor Whitmer and legislative leaders to launch Michigan Reconnect. The program, which is under consideration in both the Michigan House and Senate, would provide a tuition-free pathway to an in-demand industry certificate or associate degree for Michigan adults.  

  • Expanding resources to low-income community college students in Oregon: NSC and partners at Portland Community College testified to the legislature on Oregon’s new Pathways to Opportunity Initiative. The initiative expands federal, state, and local resources to provide supports like college success and career coaching and help cover costs like tuition, fees, books, bus passes, and food. The initiative builds on another Oregon policy win: the expansion of SNAP Employment & Training partnerships at all 17 of Oregon’s community colleges.  

  • Offering free community college training to SNAP students in Connecticut: Last fall, NSC partners at the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities expanded their partnership with the state’s Department of Social Services to offer free skills training at all 12 of the state’s community colleges for students receiving SNAP. This expansion reflects NSC’s prior technical assistance to help Connecticut shift to skills-based SNAP Employment & Training. 

Broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

  • Expanding apprenticeship in Illinois: Members of the Illinois team in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy, including Young Invincibles and SkillSPAN partner Chicago Jobs Council, successfully advocated for legislation that instructs the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to conduct a study on the potential expansion of apprenticeship programs in the state. The study must identify fields that support diverse and equitable apprenticeship growth and show how the state can better utilize different funding streams to support apprenticeship. The team also informed the Illinois Apprenticeship Expansion Program, a $2.5 million initiative to expand apprenticeship through regional intermediaries and navigators. 

  • Utilizing apprenticeship to shape the future of work in Texas: The Greater Houston Partnership, along with Educate Texas, supported the creation of the Commission on Texas Workforce of the Future. Codified by the Texas legislature, the Commission will develop recommendations to ensure Texas maintains its long-term global and economic competitiveness by ensuring the state is developing the qualified and skilled workforce. As part of its charge, the Commission must recommend ways to increase work-based learning, including opportunities for underrepresented workers and small and midsize companies.  

  • Raising awareness of work-based learning strategies in Oklahoma: Through our Work-Based Learning Academy, NSC is partnering with Oklahoma Works and others to host an Oklahoma Work-Based Learning Summit in June so that workforce and industry partners throughout the state can come together to learn about opportunities for expanding work-based learning. 

Expanding support services and removing barriers to skills training

  • Piloting an emergency support services fund in Colorado: The Colorado Skills2Compete Coalition successfully advocated for the state to create a fund to help cover the costs of support services like transportation, emergency child care, and work equipment for low-income people in skills training, job search, or at the start of employment. The Colorado legislature passed legislation to pilot the program with $250,000 in funding. 

  • Assessing workers’ childcare needs in Mississippi: NSC partners at the Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative convened workforce development and human services leaders to discuss how childcare and skills training can grow the state’s skilled workforce. Following the discussion, Mississippi agencies are planning to ask workers about childcare needs when they’re pursuing training at the state’s American Jobs Centers.  

  • Expanding training opportunities for people who are incarcerated in Tennessee: SkillSPAN partner Complete Tennessee supported increased investment in the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative, which provides education opportunities to people who are incarcerated. The state quadrupled its investment in the initiative to $1 million, which among other changes, will expand career and technical education and postsecondary education in correctional facilities.   

Investing in strategies to secure a strong economic future for all Californians

With California’s policymakers in midst of budget negotiations, SkillSPAN partner California EDGE Coalition and other leaders in the Skills for California network are working to ensure that the state’s 2019-2020 budget invests in workforce development strategies that increase equity and economic opportunity. The Governor’s May budget revision included $10 million to plan and develop a data system that could work across the state’s education, workforce, and health and human services programs and be used to close equity gaps. It also included increased investment for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs and the state’s High Road Training Partnership program, a sector partnership initiative of the California Workforce Development Board.  


Posted In: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Tennessee
Pre-employment training and affordable childcare key to broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

Policymakers seeking to increase the number of apprentices should focus their investments in pre-employment training like pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care, according to a new brief by the National Skills Coalition, Broadening the Apprenticeship Pipeline.  

Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning can help address the nation’s skills gap, but the U.S. falls far behind competitor nations in using work-based learning to train workers for in-demand, middle skill jobs. To address this underutilization and expand the pipeline of workers with access to work-based learning, U.S. policy should better support pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care that help women, parents, and other underrepresented people succeed.

For people who have historically had less access to apprenticeships, like women, pre-apprenticeship programs provide a valuable on-ramp that lays the foundation for success. Underrepresented workers without adequate industry experience often need the occupational skills training, exposure to job sites, and engagement with industry leaders that pre-employment programs provide before they reach the skill level necessary to enter work-based learning programs.

But, training alone may not be enough to ensure success. Significant child care costs can make participation in unpaid pre-apprenticeship programs nearly impossible for parents – nearly a third of the workforce. Pre-apprenticeship programs that provide both training and access to child care can open the door to an apprenticeship pathway for a broad range of workers. Once in an apprenticeship, child care continues to be an important support for ensuring participant success since starting wages are lower than those apprentices can expect to make once they’ve completed their program.

The Moore Community House Women in Construction (WinC) program illustrates the importance of child care to pre-employment and work-based learning participants. WinC is a pre-apprenticeship program in Biloxi, Mississippi, that trains women for apprenticeships and nontraditional career pathways in construction, skilled craft trades, and advanced manufacturing. In 2016, the program received a grant from the state — funded with federal dollars Mississippi receives through its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state grant — to offer child care to participants and graduates, and a separate grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) to support child care as a retention tool for participants after graduation. Since 2016, WinC enrollment has nearly tripled from nearly sixty women per year to about 180 women per year.

To build on the success of WinC and broaden the apprenticeship pipeline across the nation, this issue brief includes recommendations for both federal and state policymakers. Specifically, Congress and the states should:

  1. Maximize the use of TANF to support pre-employment and child care for work-based learning participants;
  2. Improve alignment between the workforce system and TANF and SNAP recipients; and
  3. Create new work-based learning support funds on both the federal and state levels.


Posted In: Work Based Learning, Work-Based Learning, Mississippi
Community college leaders from 10 states endorse fundamentals of NSC’s Community College Compact in letters to Senate HELP Committee

On July 16, 2018, leaders of 10 community college systems across the country—including those in Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Virginia—sent letters to Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and Ranking Member Patty Murray, urging them to modernize federal higher education policy to better reflect the needs of today’s community college students. The letters emphasize the importance of adopting a job-driven Community College Compact—a set of policy proposals developed by National Skills Coalition with the input of a range of stakeholders; including academic institutions, employers, community-based organization and workforce development boards.

In today’s economy, 80 percent of all jobs require some form of postsecondary education or training—a reality that has led to an influx of individuals enrolling in the higher education system with a different set of objectives than first-time, full-time students. Community colleges serve approximately 9 million students every year of all ages and backgrounds; most of whom can be classified as non-traditional. These individuals often work full or part time, are parents to dependent children, and/or fall in the age range of 28-40.

Given the significant role they play in preparing students for the workforce, community college leaders took the opportunity to outline their shared priorities and urge federal lawmakers to:

Eliminate the bias against working learners in need of federal financial aid

As our economy continues to change, more skilled workers are needed today than ever before. Approximately 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education or training, and more than 50 percent of jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they call for more than a high school diploma but not a four-year degree. As a result, many community colleges are aiming to increase access to high quality, short-term programs that lead to in-demand credentials. However, most federal financial aid available today is reserved for students who are enrolled in programs of study that are at least 600 clock hours over 15 weeks—an outdated policy that fails to account for the training needs of individuals in our 21st century economy.

Therefore, community college leaders urged lawmakers to consider legislation—such as the Jumpstarting our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act (S. 206) led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH)—that would expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in employer-approved programs that are at least 150 clock hours of instruction over 8 weeks.

Make higher education and workforce outcomes data comprehensive and transparent

Since higher education is becoming more closely linked with finding success in the labor market, data about the outcomes of postsecondary programs should be available to students, parents, employers and policymakers. However, as community college leaders noted in their letters, existing legal restrictions on the collection of student-level data continue to hinder the accessibility of this important information.

To help provide consumers with better data and relieve institutions of duplicative reporting requirements, community college administrators called for action on the College Transparency Act (S. 1121, H.R. 2434). Introduced by Senators Hatch (R-UT), Warren (D-MA), Cassidy (R-LA) and Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Polis (D-CO), this bipartisan bill aims to establish a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student level data network administered by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to which colleges would be able to safely and easily report their data. The data would then be available as a decision-making tool for current and prospective students—making it easier for individuals to improve their lives through education and training.

Ensure the success of today’s college students by strengthening support services

Due to the diversity of the student populations they serve, community college leaders recognize the growing importance of support services such as career counseling, childcare and transportation assistance. While states and higher education administrators across the country are working hard to implement career pathway models that provide nontraditional students with the services they need to succeed in the postsecondary education system, their efforts receive little support at the federal level.

To address this issue, community college leaders called for the consideration of the Gateway to Careers Act (S. 2407)—legislation introduced by Senator Hassan (D-NH), along with Senators Kaine (D-VA), Shaheen (D-NH) and Reed (D-RI). This bill would make federal funding available on a competitive basis to institutions that are working in partnership to serve students experiencing barriers to postsecondary access and completion.

Provide targeted funding for valuable partnerships between community colleges and businesses

Community college leaders work with industry stakeholders every day to provide high-quality training and academic instruction to future workers through sector partnerships. However, Congress has not invested in these partnerships partnerships at a scale that would sustain economic competitiveness since the expiration of the Trade Adjustment Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program in FY 2014. The purpose of the TAAACT grant program, which allocated $2 billion in funding to states from FY 2011-2014, was to increase the capacity of community colleges to address the challenges of today’s workforce through job training for adults and other nontraditional students.

Due to the proven impact of community college-business partnerships, community college leaders called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would increase the resources available for these collaboration models —such as the Community College to Career Fund Act (S. 2390). Introduced by Senators Duckworth (D-IL), Smith (D-MN), Kaine (D-VA) and Feinstein (D-CA), this bill would authorize competitive grant funding, allowing academic institutions and businesses to work together to deliver valuable educational or career training programs to students and workers.

The voices of these and other community college leaders across the country are undeniably important, as Congress looks to reauthorize the Higher Education Act for the first time since 2008. While the House and Senate have not passed Higher Education Act legislation this Congress, action is expected early next year. To view the letter, click here.

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Sector Partnerships, Adult Basic Education, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Virginia
Southern states must build a skilled workforce for a stronger economy

Southern states face a skills gap and must adapt to a new U.S. economy in which most jobs require training beyond high school, according to a new report from the National Skills Coalition and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and St. Louis, Building a Skilled Workforce for a Stronger Southern Economy.

Most of the jobs in the South are middle-skill jobs, requiring education or training beyond high school but not a four-year college degree. However, across the South, there are not enough workers trained to fill middle-skill jobs.

This middle-skill gap, however, isn’t insurmountable. Southern states could step up to the challenge of educating more of the region’s adults to close this gap. Focusing on grade school students alone won’t be enough to close the skills gap now. If each and every one of the South’s graduating high school students were to stay in the region and train for open jobs that require postsecondary education, there would still be unfilled positions.

Moreover, if southern states are going to close their skill gaps, they must provide more opportunities for all adults – including people of color – to access high-quality  education and training. More than four in ten Southerners are people of color. A skilled and thriving southern economy must be an inclusive economy.

To help states realize economic improvement, this report includes a roadmap of critical steps states may take to establish policies that could help them close their skills gaps. State policymakers could:

  • Use workforce development strategies, such as sector partnerships and work-based learning, as economic development tools capable of meeting industry needs.
  • Invest in communities to implement high-quality workforce development strategies at the local level.
  • Establish job-driven financial aid programs that are available to a wide range of students.
  • Form middle-skill training pathways and include comprehensive supportive services that enable completion.
  • Create state data systems that provide accountability on how training programs are helping residents with diverse needs get skilled jobs.

State policymakers could consider also easing their path to implementation of these steps by taking the following actions, which could help unite a broad set of stakeholders around a common plan for skills development:

  • Set a bold goal for increasing the number of adults trained for skilled jobs.
  • Create a cross-agency “Skills Cabinet,” and task agency leaders with working together to develop and implement a strategy for meeting the state’s postsecondary attainment goal for adults.

In addition to the roadmap, this report also includes examples of current policy from southern states, proving that these policy changes may be implemented in the region’s unique context. Residents, businesses, and state economies are counting on their leaders to examine these policies and take the appropriate steps that will help them thrive now and in the future. In conjunction with the launch of this southern-focused report, National Skills Coalition is launching its Southern Skills Policy Initiative. Through this Initiative, National Skills Coalition will work with teams in five states –Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas – to advance policies that can build a skilled workforce.

Over the next year, National Skills Coalition will work intensively with partners in Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to put forward state policies that help workers and businesses in those states to get the skills they need to compete:

In Georgia, we will promote policies that prepare more residents for skilled jobs by making it easier for people with low incomes to afford postsecondary training. Partner organizations include Center for Working Families, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Annie E. Casey Foundation Atlanta Civic Site, Atlanta Career Rise, and Metro Atlanta Chamber.

In North Carolina, we will conduct research and engage key stakeholders to build more equitable pathways and work-based learning opportunities for skilled careers for students and workers of color and other underserved populations. Initial partner organizations include North Carolina Justice Center, North Carolina Community College System, and Eastern Carolina Workforce Development Board.

In Tennessee,we will identify policies that address the non-academic and advising needs of working students so they can succeed in postsecondary training, as well as opportunities to promote apprenticeship, work-based learning, and postsecondary training that responds to industry needs. . Partner organizations include Complete Tennessee and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce.

National Skills Coalition will also work with partners in Mississippi and Texas in 2018 to support in-state discussions on apprenticeship and work-based learning.

In Mississippi, we will discuss policies that help more parents build their skills while supporting their families by providing child care assistance to workers in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Partner organizations include Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative and Moore Community House Women in Construction Program.

In Texas, we will discuss policies that expand apprenticeship and work-based learning opportunities for both adults and young people. Initial partner organizations include Educate Texas, Austin Community College, and the United Ways of Texas.

Through the duration of the Southern Skills Policy Initiative, NSC will create opportunities for partners from each state to share lessons learned with each other and other community leaders in the region.


Posted In: Georgia, North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas
National Skills Coalition hosts first Southern States Convening on Skills Policies

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted In: Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee
Aligning workforce programs with employer needs in Mississippi

On September 23, Mississippi held its first state Data Summit entitled, “Advancing the Use of Data for a Bright Mississippi Future.” The Summit was attended by approximately 175 people, including top state elected officials, and was hosted by the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

The impetus for the Summit was the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP), a project of National Skills Coalition (NSC).  With the support of JP Morgan Chase Foundation and USA Funds, SWEAP is directly assisting Mississippi and three other states (California, Ohio, and Rhode Island) in demonstrating how state policy makers can use cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with employer skill needs and help individuals advance to higher levels of credentials and employment.

In Mississippi, SWEAP is working with the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) at Mississippi State University in developing dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports.  (See here for more information on SWEAP and the three types of data tools.) Building on the work already accomplished by NSPARC with the State Longitudinal Data System and its web portal, LifeTracks, the SWEAP data tools will provide policymakers with new insights on how workforce and education programs can advance credential attainment and meet employer skill needs. The pathway evaluators, for example, will answer questions about what combination of programs and services produce the best credential and employment outcomes for which groups of people.

SWEAP is not about producing data for data sake, but for the purpose of improving policies and programs.  That is why the Data Summit was so exciting. The Lieutenant Governor was the keynote speaker. The Speaker of the House and Senate and House committee leaders also spoke. Each elected official displayed a personal knowledge of data systems for workforce and education, talked about how they use the data, and expressed their deep personal support for maintaining and building the data capacity of NSPARC and the state. The Governor, who could not personally attend, provided a videotaped introduction.

NSC State Policy Director, and SWEAP Director, Bryan Wilson was the featured speaker at the Summit reception.  Bryan also moderated the panel of legislative committee leaders who discussed: “What Does the State Legislature Need from Data for Education Policy, Workforce Policy, and Performance-Based Budgeting?” Bryan also presented at a session providing a deep dive into the SWEAP data tools and the policies that states can develop based on information from the tools. While the SWEAP tools will not be fully completed until 2017, state leaders are already considering how they will be able to use the new information. 

Given the success of the Data Summit, the Department of Employment Security and NSPARC hope to make it an annual event.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Mississippi

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
Workforce Data Explained: Data Attracts Business in Mississippi

WDQC interviewed Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, PhD, Director of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC), to learn how his institution uses data to inform employers about business opportunities and workforce dynamics, and spur economic growth in Mississippi. This is the fifth video in a series that showcases how states are using education, training, and workforce data to advance their skilled workforce. 

Background Information and Resources:

  • Located in Starkville at Mississippi State University, NSPARC developed and operates Mississippi LifeTracks. LifeTracks is a statewide longitudinal data system that provides information on the performance of educational institutions, the workforce, and the economy. 
  • NSPARC also supports Mississippi Works, which provides employment and economic information to business leaders and job seekers.
  • Mississippi is one of four states participating in the National Skills Coalition’s State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP), which provides technical assistance to states, including the development of data tools for policymakers with the goal of improving workforce development.
  • Read WDQC’s blog on how LifeTracks helps to inform Mississippi’s policymakers. Also visit WDQC’s Mississippi page for the latest news, publications, legislation, and progress assessed against WDQC’s 13-point Blueprint survey of state efforts to develop and use longitudinal data systems.

See other videos in the Workforce Data Explained series.

Posted In: Mississippi, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

NSC holds 2015 SWEAP state forum

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
NSC holds 2015 SWEAP state forum

On November 16 and 17 in Chicago, the National Skills Coalition held the 2015 State Forum of the State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP).  SWEAP is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with one another and with employer skill needs. Attending the forum were teams of officials from the four states receiving SWEAP direct technical assistance: California, Mississippi, Ohio, and Rhode Island.   

The 2015 Forum, organized by Bryan Wilson, NSC State Policy Director and Director of SWEAP, provided a deep dive into the development of data tools. The Forum focused on peer learning and advice from national experts. Keith Ewald from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services demonstrated the Ohio Workforce Success Measures Dashboard that shows the performance results of major workforce and education programs at state and sub-state levels using metrics similar to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act common measures. 

Mimmo Parisi, Director of The National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center at Mississippi State University, demonstrated how their LifeTracks system can function as a pathway evaluator identifying outcomes associated with participation in multiple programs.  Jill Leufgen of the Chancellor’s Office of California Community Colleges presented California’s LaunchBoard, showing patterns of participation in community colleges and the associated labor market outcomes.

Guests from Florida and Colorado, Duane Whitfield and Lauren Victor, explained their state’s approaches to analyzing the supply, demand, and gaps for skilled and educated workers. Kevin Hollenbeck from the Upjohn Institute talked about measuring and reporting program net impacts on employment and earnings, and the return on investment for taxpayers—metrics that can be used as part of state dashboards.  Derek Redelman from USA Funds and Whitney Smith from JPMorgan Chase, Global Philanthropy, funders of SWEAP, spoke about why they are committed to improving the data available to policymakers.

The four SWEAP states will take lessons learned from the Forum as they continue to develop the three types of data tools. In 2016, as the tools are developed, SWEAP will further engage state policymakers. The purpose of SWEAP is not to develop data for data’s sake, but to provide information policymakers can use to better align workforce and education programs with the labor market and enable more individuals to attain postsecondary credentials and higher levels of employment.  As SWEAP continues, NSC will share the lessons learned with other states through webinars and reports. 

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, California, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Ohio
SWEAP launches projects in Mississippi and Rhode Island

The State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP) held launch meetings in Jackson, Mississippi and Providence, Rhode Island in August. SWEAP, an initiative of the National Skills Coalition (NSC), supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and USA Funds, is demonstrating how state policymakers can use information from cross-program data tools to better align workforce and education programs with one another and with employer skill needs.

In Jackson, Andy Van Kleunen, NSC CEO and Bryan Wilson, NSC State Policy Director and Director of SWEAP, met with workforce and education leaders from the Office of the Governor, the State Workforce Investment Board, the Department of Employment Security, the Community College Board, and the State Data Clearinghouse. The meeting was hosted by Jay Moon, President and CEO of the Mississippi Manufacturers Association and Chair of the State Workforce Investment Board. Andy and Bryan talked with the Mississippi leaders about the SWEAP suite of data tools (dashboards, pathway evaluators, and supply and demand reports) and how these tools can provide state policy makers with information to guide the development of state policies. The goals of SWEAP Mississippi are to integrate and align education and workforce programs, improve workforce participation rates and reduce the skill gap for middle-skill jobs.

Also in Mississippi, in Starkville, Dr. Mimmo Parisi, Director of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC) hosted Bryan in meetings with NSPARC staff. NSPARC serves as Mississippi’s data clearinghouse and provides state-of-the-art data linking and analytics. NSPARC will provide data services for SWEAP in Mississippi.

In Providence, Rhode Island, Andy and Bryan talked about SWEAP with leaders from the Governor’s Workforce Board, the Office of the Commissioner for Post-Secondary Education, the Department of Labor and Training including the Workforce Investment Office and the Labor Market Information Division, the Department of Education including Adult Basic Education, and the Community College of Rhode Island. Andy and Bryan met with Rhode Island’s SWEAP steering group and talked before approximately 30 individuals attending the Career Pathways Advisory Committee (CPAC) of the Governor’s Workforce Board. The CPAC includes representatives of state agencies, local providers, and other stakeholders who are helping to design career pathway programs in Rhode Island.

The goals of the Rhode Island SWEAP Initiative are to: improve the state’s ability to collect and use data; advance better data-driven decision making, including identifying and evaluating career pathways for gaps and relevance; and inform the Governor’s Real Jobs Rhode Island initiative and the development of the State Plan for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

In addition to Mississippi and Rhode Island, SWEAP is providing technical assistance in California and Ohio. Over 150 individuals have attended the initial round of in-state meetings. The assistance will continue until the end of 2016, and will also include the sharing of lessons learned among the four states, and with others as well. 

Posted In: State Workforce and Education Alignment Project, Rhode Island, Mississippi