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New Massachusetts and Missouri state 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 Massachusetts and Missouri.

Both states have growing immigrant populations and a high demand for middle skill workers, along with ambitious goals for postsecondary attainment for their residents. Given these growing populations,  immigrants will play a vital role in helping the states meet the demand for middle skill workers and respond to local industries’ talent needs.

In order for both states to achieve their postsecondary goals and to close their middle skill gaps, they will need to ensure that their career pipelines are inclusive of the many immigrants who are poised to benefit from investments in their skills: 24 percent of adult immigrants in Missouri and 22 percent in Massachusetts have not gone beyond high school in their education.

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

Massachusetts is home to approximately 1.1 million immigrants, who comprise almost 17 percent of state residents.  As a result, they play a strong role in Massachusetts’ 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 10 percent in 1990 to 17 percent today.

Massachusetts has set an ambitious goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of Commonwealth residents ages 25-34 years old with a college degree to 60 percent by 2020.  This goal will help focus efforts towards middle-skill opportunities and engagement.

The demand for middle-skill workers is anticipated to remain strong in Massachusetts, with 41 percent of new job openings expected to be at the middle skill level. In order for Massachusetts to capitalize on this demand and draw on the full talents and abilities of their residents, the Bay 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: Massachusetts’ Untapped Assets.

Missouri: Investing in Skills Training Will Help Meet the State’s Ambitious Postsecondary Goal

Missouri’s economy has a robust demand for middle skill workers, with more than half of all jobs (53 percent) being middle-skill occupations. This demand is expected to remain strong, with 48 percent of new job openings between 2014-2024 expected to be at the middle skill level.  Yet only 46 percent of Missouri workers have been trained to the middle-skill level. This presents an opportunity for the state to invest in skill building for both native-born and immigrant workers to assist with meeting the middle skill demand.

Missouri has also set an aggressive goal for postsecondary attainment. The state aims to increase the percentage of residents with a degree or high-quality certificate from 46 percent to 60 percent by 2025.  This ambitious attainment goal will help focus state policy and spending decisions towards middle-skill opportunities.

Immigrant workers represent an important element of the state’s labor market, and a potentially responsive pool of candidates for skill-building opportunities. Foreign born residents of the Show-Me State are much more likely to be of working age; over 80 percent are between the ages of 18-64 compared to 61 percent of native-born residents.  Missouri immigrants also have a slightly higher labor-force participation rate, at 66 percent compared to 63 percent of native-born adults. Policymakers can help ensure that these new workers can fully contribute to Missouri’s economy by investing in proven policies that prepare people with the skills local businesses need.

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


Posted In: Immigration, Adult Basic Education, Missouri, Massachusetts
White House highlights employer, municipal roles in refugee and immigrant integration

Two events last week highlighted the crucial role that municipal leaders and US employers can play in facilitating the skill-building and economic integration of refugees and immigrants.

First, the White House announced a Call to Action for the U.S. private sector to make new, measurable and significant commitments that will have a durable impact on refugees. 

The Call to Action is being issued as part of a suite of activities in advance of an international Leaders’ Summit being convened by President Obama this coming September. It is focused on generating new commitments in three impact areas: 

  • Education – Facilitating refugee children and young adults’ education by ensuring that refugee students can access schools of all levels and creating quality long-distance learning platforms and programs.
  • Employment – Increasing employment opportunities for refugees, supporting refugee entrepreneurship, and assisting refugees’ reentry into the workforce.
  • Enablement – Increasing humanitarian financing, strengthening infrastructure and access to resources needed for refugees to become self-reliant, and supporting countries taking new steps to welcome refugees or allow them to work and attend school.

The Call to Action highlighted fifteen founding companies that have already taken significant action on refugee issues both in the US and abroad, including support for English language, digital literacy, and employability skills. The companies are: Accenture, Airbnb, Chobani, Coursera, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase & Co., LinkedIn, Microsoft, Mastercard, UPS, TripAdvisor, and Western Union.

The second event brought approximately 150 local leaders to the White House to recognize their work in integrating immigrant refugee newcomers in their communities via the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign (BWCC). 

National Skills Coalition is one of the national partners for the BWCC, serving as a resource for policy questions related to workforce and adult education issues. NSC Senior Policy Analyst Amanda Bergson-Shilcock attended the White House event.

More than 50 American cities and counties have now joined the campaign, which formally launched last year. The White House released a report detailing “Bright Spots” in immigrant and refugee integration policies across dozens of the communities, including:

  • The City of Charlotte (NC), which in collaboration with its Immigrant Integration Implementation Team hosted a convening that showcased local companies with apprenticeship programs, and discussed how to incorporate immigrant workers in these programs.  
  • Welcoming Salt Lake (UT), which is working with employers to pilot onsite English classes for New American employees.
  • The City of St. Louis and St. Louis County, which work in partnership with the nonprofit International Institute of St. Louis (IISTL) to develop career pathways for immigrants and refugees, including through IISTL’s new International Institute Center for Career Advancement.

Attendees at the BWCC event were welcomed by Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council (DPC). Other federal officials addressing the gathering included: Leon Rodriguez, Director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services; Rohan Patel, Special Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs; and Felicia Escobar, also of the DPC.

Also speaking at the event was Rachel Peric, deputy director of the nonprofit Welcoming America, who noted the rapid growth of the welcoming effort: “Just a few years ago it was 10 cities, and now we’re at 50.” She added: “The question is not whether our communities will change… it is how we will make the most of that change in ways that will strengthen our civic fabric.”

The event concluded with a panel of federal officials, who described steps taken in their agencies to support refugee and immigrant skill-building and integration:

  • John Kelly of the Corporation for National and Community Service discussed the role of AmeriCorps/VISTA members in facilitating immigrant and refugee integration.
  • Juliet Choi of US Citizenship and Immigration Services emphasized the growing range of resources offered by USCIS to support naturalization and English language acquisition, including an online English and citizenship class locator.
  • Chris James of the Small Business Administration highlighted the SBA’s Made It In America initiative to support immigrant entrepreneurs.
  • Johan Uvin of the Department of Education emphasized the value of place-based strategies in supporting immigrants’ English language and skill-building. He referenced the administration’s prior Networks for Integrating New Americans initiative and offered a preview of a forthcoming effort to connect adult English learners to career pathways.
Posted In: Immigration, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah
10 states to participate in “SNAP to Skills” technical assistance project

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that 10 states have been selected to receive in-depth technical assistance as part of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture “SNAP to Skills” project. The selected states include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The effort, led by the Seattle Jobs Initiative, will help these states design job-driven Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T). States will participate in the project through September 2017. 

Over the past several years, National Skills Coalition has partnered with Seattle Jobs Initiative to promote skills-based SNAP E&T programs in the states. By combining education, training, and support services, SNAP E&T programs can expand opportunities for low-income people to move into family-supporting jobs.

With support from partners like the Annie E. Casey and W.K. Kellogg foundations, NSC has worked with SJI to share best practices and recommendations based on Washington State’s skills-based SNAP E&T programs. Together, we’ve produced numerous publications and webinars, hosted a meeting for 11 states interested in skills-based SNAP E&T, and provided technical assistance to four states looking to expand SNAP E&T partnerships with community colleges and community-based organizations. We’re now working together to identify opportunities for aligning SNAP E&T with broader state workforce development efforts under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).

The SNAP to Skills Project is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s effort to help SNAP E&T programs become more job-driven. In December 2015, the agency’s Undersecretary for Food Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon issued an official communication to state SNAP agencies promoting practices that help participants build the skills required by today’s job market.

NSC will continue to provide resources to partners in the field on how SNAP E&T programs can expand opportunities for low-income people to enhance their skills, credentials, careers, and ultimately, their families’ financial well-being. 

Posted In: SNAP Employment and Training, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee

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

White House Upskill Summit: summary and resources

  ·   By Andy Van Kleunen,
White House Upskill Summit: summary and resources

Last Friday, I attended the White House Upskill Summit, which brought together employers, labor unions, foundations, educators, workforce leaders, non-profits, and technology innovators on a topic very familiar to many of us—the need to do more to enable millions of front-line workers to advance into better paying jobs.   

For most of you, collaborating in your communities every day with working people and the businesses that employ them, this is a very familiar concept—but it is just starting to gain real currency here in Washington. And so I was very proud that out of the 150 participants at the White House summit, almost a third were NSC partners and allies. That’s further confirmation that our nation’s policymakers increasingly want to hear from you about these issues we care so much about.

The summit started with opening remarks from Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to the president. Other participating leaders in the Obama Administration included Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker.

Most of the summit was devoted to breakout sessions focused on ways that participants were already investing in the upskilling of front-line workers, through apprenticeships, on-the-job training, attainment of new credentials, employer provided education benefits, and the use of mentorship and supportive services.

I was pleased that so many NSC partners and allies took on leadership roles at the summit by making presentations or reporting out from the breakout sessions. And Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships (BLU), a national project of NSC and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, was a strong voice for small and medium-sized employers throughout the day.

The summit closed with an address from Vice President Joe Biden, who talked about this new focus on upskilling in the context of the broader goals laid out by his Job-Driven Training Action Plan from last year. That government-wide directive to improve the quality and alignment of all of our federal investments in people’s skills and employment had likewise been informed by the work of many of the NSC allies at the summit, and by many more of you who have been longstanding champions on these issues here in Washington. I think one of our BLU partners put it well:

“Like many other business owners, I want to continue to grow my company and the only way I’m going to do that is to find new solutions to bring in the skilled labor we need,” said Traci Tapani of Minnesota’s Wyoming Machine in an interview after the summit with Minnesota Public Radio. “The most exciting thing is it doesn’t just benefit businesses, it benefits the employee by giving them a pathway to a higher paying job in the future. Everybody really wins when you’re upskilling.”

I was impressed by the level of discussion, collaboration, and willingness to share challenges and opportunities faced by both business and labor in their efforts to upskill workers. Seeing our nation’s business and labor leaders be willing to come together to say that we as a nation need to be doing more to raise the skills and career prospects of our country’s front-line workers was heartening. This is far from an everyday occurrence, and I think this cooperation is a positive sign of things to come for the future of our skills movement.

In the days following the summit, some of the good work being done in the field by NSC ‘s partners and allies has been highlighted in the press. A selection of these news stories, as well as resources that were released in conjunction with the summit, can be found below.



Pictured: Photo 1 - Adine Forman and Lauren Chenven reporting on credentials; Photo 2 - Cheryl Feldman and John Gaal presenting on apprenticeship; Photo 3 - Stuart Bass, Deborah Rowe, and Kerry Gumm reporting on mentoring and support services

Posted In: Massachusetts, New York, Missouri, North Carolina

Governors propose new workforce initiatives.

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,

More than a dozen governors have announced new legislative and budget proposals to support workforce development efforts in their state. As state budgets recover from the recession, these governors are targeting middle-skill training for increased investments, including proposals to provide support for employer-led sector partnerships, to align the state’s workforce system, to make technical and community college affordable, and to assist the long-term unemployed back to work. Below are a few of these gubernatorial initiatives.

The governors of Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin have requested funding for new or enhanced programs for middle-skill training. Florida Governor Rick Scott proposed $30 million to train incumbent and unemployed workers for middle-skill STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering and math) and other high demand/high wage fields, and to provide scholarships for students. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker requested a $35 million enhancement for Wisconsin’s Fast Forward program to support dual enrollment programs between school districts and technical colleges that target high demand jobs; increase technical college capacity to eliminate waiting lists in high demand fields; and support programs helping people with disabilities enter the workforce.  

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett requested $5 million in additional funding for three middle-skill job training programs for employer-driven training, including services to people with disabilities. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon proposed a $4.5 million increase for the Missouri Works Training Program, a customized training program for employers. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad proposed tripling state funding for apprenticeships, and Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee requested a $500,000 enhancement from the state general fund for the state’s workforce investment system.  

Governors in Connecticut and Kentucky proposed new efforts to fill skill gaps in advanced manufacturing. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy proposed $25 million to create an advanced manufacturing fund to support workforce training and other assistance for employers. Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear proposed $24 million in general fund-supported bonds to build an advanced manufacturing training center to serve as a direct pipeline for high demand workers. 

Malloy also proposed measures to assist the long-term unemployed (LTU). He requested $3.6 million to establish a program to replicate Platform to Employment. The program provides five weeks of intensive job readiness training, behavioral health services, financial coaching, and eight weeks of subsidized work experience. Malloy also proposed legislation to prevent employers from screening out LTU applicants merely because they are unemployed.  

The governors of Ohio and Oregon introduced proposals to increase the alignment of their workforce development systems. Ohio Governor John Kasich proposed a single integrated state plan for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), Carl Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE), and Adult Basic Education. Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber requested legislation authorizing the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) to assist the governor in approving the plans of local workforce investment boards (LWIBs) and in establishing criteria for LWIB membership. The bill also authorized the SWIB to hold workforce agencies and LWIBs accountable for meeting performance goals.

Finally, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proposed funding to cover the cost of tuition for technical college students in high demand fields, and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam proposed free tuition for high school graduates if they attend a community college or college of applied technology.

NSC will continue to monitor and provide updates as these proposals move forward.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Career Pathways, Job-Driven Investments, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio, Oregon, Georgia