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Better Together: How adult ed/CTE collaborations benefit workers and businesses

Advocates can create new upskilling opportunities, meet local business needs, and streamline training costs by launching partnerships between adult education organizations and Career and Technical Education (CTE) providers. That’s the message of National Skills Coalition’s new policy brief, Better Together.

The brief highlights an example from the border city of El Paso, Texas. Local leaders at the Socorro Independent School District (ISD) have capitalized on opportunities under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to improve alignment between the adult education and CTE systems. Their work has been supported by officials from the Texas Workforce Commission’s Adult Education and Literacy program (AEL). 

On the ground in Texas: What one adult ed/CTE partnership looks like

The story begins in 2015, when Socorro ISD adult education leadership reached out to their peers in the district’s CTE program with an idea. Could the district’s adult education program use its own funds to pay high school CTE teachers to instruct adult learners in the evenings?

The idea was a hit. Soon, the providers had developed a plan for offering Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs in four high-demand careers. The CTE partners would provide technical instruction, classroom space, and oversee the use of laboratories and equipment. The adult education partners would fund instructional costs, pay for materials and textbooks, and ensure that the foundational-skills component of coursework was well integrated with the occupational training. From the state level, broad, flexible policy guidance from AEL gave the Socorro partners freedom and confidence in pursuing their collaboration.

Today, the program regularly exceeds its state targets for IET enrollment. In the most recent year, Socorro served 184 adult learners – more than double their target of 76 individuals. Participants can pursue training in security services; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); computer repair and maintenance; or a pre-apprenticeship electrician program.

Creative partnerships can seed IET innovation

IET is a proven model allows adults with reading, math, or English language skill gaps to build their foundational skills while simultaneously training for a specific occupation or industry. The model was first developed in Washington State, where it is known as I-BEST, and was formalized as a federal requirement in the 2014 WIOA legislation.

As the Socorro example shows, local communities can think creatively about how to implement IET programs. Looking beyond the WIOA-funded adult education provider world to collaborate with CTE partners can enable programs to offer training in occupations that require laboratory equipment or other resources that would be too expensive to purchase on their own. Similarly, partnering with CTE can make it easier to identify and contract with instructors who have industry experience and strong employer relationships.

In Texas, state leaders and other advocates have supported the development and implementation of IET models through the Accelerate Texas initiative, which pre-dated the federal WIOA legislation. Texas officials have also provided local adult education programs such as Socorro with opportunities to receive peer technical assistance and mentoring on topics such as IET and career pathways.

State and federal policies can facilitate strong partnerships

Skills advocates who are interested in replicating the Socorro example in their own states and localities can advocate for policies that will support such partnerships. For example:

  • Provide state policy guidance and technical assistance to spark ideas while allowing flexibility for local innovation. Guidance can detail a list of ways (beyond WIOA) that adult education partners can pay for IET; provide a roadmap for how adult ed providers can establish a Memorandum of Understanding with their local high school or postsecondary CTE program partners; explain how adult ed/CTE collaboration can ensure that IET programs are truly responsive to local business needs, and more.
  • Capitalize on federal policy mandates under WIOA and the Perkins Act to bring partners together to develop a shared strategic vision. States will be required to submit their WIOA and Perkins plans on a similar timeline in Spring 2020, making it easy for state officials to align planning processes and conversations.
  • Explore opportunities for how TANF and SNAP E&T can support upskilling. These key safety net programs are important tools for serving adults with foundational skills gaps. States can consider using some of these funds – as Texas does with TANF -- to support IET programs or similar efforts that will help adults transition off of public benefits.

 

Check out the full Better Together brief to learn more. Don’t forget about NSC’s prior publications, the IET 50-state Scan and State Policy Toolkit, for examples of state policies that go above and beyond WIOA requirements, and model language for drafting a policy in your state.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Career and Technical Education, Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act Implementation, Texas
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
Groundbreaking Project Releases Nationwide Earnings of UT System Graduates

The University of Texas (UT) System recently published aggregated data on the earnings of its graduates who move out of state. Enabled by a unique partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau’s Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) program, the project shows great promise for better information on the workforce outcomes of postsecondary programs and institutions nationwide. 

The UT System makes this information available to the public via its online tool, seekUT, which includes program level information by institutions within the UT System. The seekUT online tool now includes out-of-state as well as in-state data on graduates, showing their median earnings by program-level at one, five, and ten years after graduation, as well as their debt-to-income ratios. The tool also provides the percentage of students who pursue education beyond the baccalaureate level, and covers undergraduate, graduate, medical, and dental programs. Eventually, the project will release information disaggregated by U.S. region.

The addition of nationwide earnings data is important because graduates who move out of state for work tend to have higher earnings than those who remain in the same state where they earned their credentials. Moreover, graduate degree recipients tend to move out of state more than those who receive baccalaureate degrees. 

In order to produce the nationwide earnings information, researchers matched UT System student data with the LEHD's earnings data from states' unemployment insurance wage records and earnings data from the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management, with some exclusions. The project shows the ability of agencies to maintain stringent safeguards that protect privacy and maintain security around systems that match student data with information from other administrative records. This process could help to inform the creation of a national student-level data system.

Project leaders said this is the first time a postsecondary institution has collaborated with a federal agency to measure earnings outcomes that are more complete than what is currently available through the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. Unlike the Scorecard, UT System data includes non-federally aided students and shows the earnings of completers by program of study, rather than lumping together the earnings of completers and non-completers at the institutional level.

LEHD has been working with the Colorado Department of Higher Education and has been in discussion with other states to explore similar projects. The lessons learned from the UT System project will also inform the Census Bureau’s efforts to scale up other education research projects in the future.

LEHD is open to forming new partnerships with other institutions so they too can discover how their graduates fare in the workforce nationwide. LEHD provides more information about its methodology and data files, as well as contact information, on its Postsecondary Employment Outcomes project page.

Posted In: Texas, Workforce Data Quality Campaign, Wage records, Scorecards for students, Cross-state sharing, Graduate employment outcomes
New Texas and Arkansas 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 Texas and Arkansas.

While immigration settlement patterns differ substantially between the two states, in both cases, immigrant workers will be vital to helping the states meet their ambitious goals for postsecondary credential attainment and respond to local industries’ talent needs.

To accomplish these goals, states will need to ensure that their talent-development pipelines are inclusive of the many immigrants who are poised to benefit from investments in their skills: More than half of adult immigrants in Arkansas (62 percent) and Texas (63 percent) have not gone beyond high school in their education.

Arkansas: A Quickly Growing Immigrant Population Meets Aging Workforce

Arkansas is one of the nation’s fastest-growing immigrant destinations. The state has seen its foreign-born population quintuple in recent years, rising from just 1 percent of the population in 1990 to 5 percent today.

Immigrants in Arkansas are much more likely to be of working age: Fully 83 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 59 percent of native-born Arkansas residents. The relatively high number of elders in the native-born population also contributes to another notable difference: 68 percent of adult immigrants in Arkansas are in the labor force, compared to 57% of native-born Arkansas adults.

The state has recently established a significant goal for middle-skill credential attainment: By 2025, Arkansas seeks to increase the percentage of state residents with a postsecondary credential to 60 percent. Immigrants are certain to be an important component of the state’s future workforce pipeline.

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

Texas: A Big Population Meets an Ambitious Postsecondary Goal

As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas – and that is certainly true for immigration.  Texas has long been a magnet for newcomers from abroad, having been one of the “Big Six” destination states (along with California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York) for decades.

Today, Texas is home to more than 4.7 million immigrants, who comprise 1 in 6 state residents. The state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board has recently established an aggressive goal for postsecondary attainment. By 2030, the state aims to equip at least 60 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds with a certificate or degree.

In order to reach that goal, Texas will need to invest in skill-building for native-born and immigrant workers alike.

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

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Immigration, Arkansas, Texas
NSC’s Congressional briefing highlights effective adult education and upskilling policies

It was standing-room-only for National Skills Coalition’s recent Congressional briefing on adult education and upskilling. More than 65 Congressional staff and other attendees packed a Senate briefing room to hear from state leaders about effective policy approaches for helping American adults to build skills and advance in the workforce.

NSC Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock kicked off the briefing with an overview of the issues. Amanda explained the crucial role of federal policy in creating “on-ramps” that enable adults with basic skill gaps to access educational opportunities that equip them for middle-skill, family-sustaining jobs.

Choices that Congress makes in the coming months as key legislation is reauthorized will affect how many adults are able to pursue upskilling opportunities and how successful they are able to be, she said. Reauthorization for several major federal investments -- the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Higher Education Act, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – can be strengthened to better support upskilling.

Amanda thanked Senator Jack Reed (RI) for his office’s assistance in arranging the briefing, and for his longtime advocacy as a champion for adult education. NSC is a supporter of Senator Reed’s proposed CTE for All Act, which would foster tighter connections between Perkins Act programs and adult education programs.

Next, Amanda shared highlights from NSC’s recent Foundational Skills in the Service Sector report. The report found that approximately 20 million service-industry workers have limited literacy or numeracy skills. While some companies are investing in upskilling opportunities for their current employees, strong public policies are vital in bringing these isolated examples to scale.

Attendees then heard from three state leaders with robust experience in supporting adult learners and talent development initiatives:

  • Anson Green, State Director, Adult Education and Literacy, at the Texas Workforce Commission
  • Reecie Stagnolia, Vice President for Adult Education at the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and incoming Chair of the Executive Committee for the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education
  • Alex Hughes, Vice President for Talent Attraction and Retention at the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce


Anson discussed the pioneering work done in Texas to bring a wide variety of education and workforce investments under one roof. He shared an illustration from the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) that shows the numerous federal programs and investments that are being coordinated and braided together in the state. Anson also explored the important role of workforce data in evaluating performance outcomes and improving services to participants. A particular area of focus is better aligning Perkins Act postsecondary outcomes with Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act performance outcomes.

(View NSC’s policy recommendations for Perkins reauthorization.)

Next, Reecie shared his perspective on the needs and opportunities for adult learners in Kentucky, including a 1-page fact sheet on Kentucky adult education. The state has implemented a range of interventions designed to help adults with basic skill gaps to regain their footing and pursue middle-skill credentials. A key issue, he said, is the “benefits cliff” that many participants face when trying to transition from public benefits to employment. Improving public benefits programs to allow individuals to make a more gradual transition could help more people pursue labor-market opportunities.

(View NSC’s policy recommendations for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.)

Finally, Alex explained why the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce sees talent development as an economic development issue. “Ten years ago, the number-one question from businesses considering a relocation to Nashville was about real estate,” she said. “Today, real estate is number four or five – and finding a skilled workforce is number one.”

That is one of the reasons the Chamber has prioritized involvement in education and workforce-related policy advocacy at the state and regional level, she said. Among its areas of focus are supporting Tennessee Governor Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to help 55 percent of state residents attain a postsecondary credential by 2025.

(Learn more about the Nashville Area Chamber’s work in their workforce report, Strengthening the Middle Tennessee Region 2020: Building a Vital Workforce to Sustain Economic Growth and Opportunity, and their broader 2016 Vital Signs report.)

Both Anson and Reecie also delved into the issue of Integrated Education and Training (IET), a proven model for helping adults build basic skills such as reading and math while simultaneously training for a specific industry or occupation. Reecie discussed how his state is incorporating findings from the Accelerating Opportunity Kentucky (AO-KY) initiative into their broader services for adult learners.

Anson shared information about the widespread implementation of the IET model in Texas, and the two policy memos that the state has issued in recent months to help local adult education providers understand their options for implementing IET approaches. Both men emphasized the importance of IET and other contextualized programs that provide wrap-around support services to help adults persist and complete education and training programs.

Later this summer, NSC will be issuing a policy proposal related to career pathways for low-skilled workers under the Higher Education Act. Get a sneak peek at our thinking in the Upskilling section of our Skills for Good Jobs federal policy recommendations, published last November.

Posted In: Adult Basic Education, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas