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Utah and Idaho explore immigrant career pathways; new fact sheets released

Note: The Idaho and Utah fact sheets linked below are being released in conjunction with Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. See also NSC’s 2016 fact sheet, Adult Education: A Crucial Foundation for Middle-Skill Jobs.

National Skills Coalition Director of Upskilling Policy Amanda Bergson-Shilcock recently traveled to Boise, ID, and Salt Lake City, UT for skills policy events with stakeholders in both cities. The focus: How immigrant advocates can collaborate with adult education and workforce officials to ensure that skills policies provide effective career pathways for workers at all skill levels.

Immigrant populations have more than doubled in both Idaho and Utah in recent years, demonstrating the growing role that immigrant workers can play in helping the states respond to local industries’ talent needs. The issue is of particular importance given the very low unemployment rates in both states.

Two new fact sheets were released in conjunction with the events. Both are part of NSC’s ongoing series on immigrants and middle-skill jobs:

Idaho: Connecting the Dots between Refugee Youth and State Postsecondary Goals

Idaho is home to approximately 98,000 immigrants, who comprise almost 6 percent of state residents. The state has recently set a goal for postsecondary attainment, aiming to increase the percentage of Idaho residents ages 25-34 with a college degree or certificate to 60 percent by 2025. Ensuring that state workforce and education policies are inclusive of immigrant and refugee youth will be important in helping the state meet its ambitious attainment goal.

In Boise, Amanda led two workshops hosted by the nonprofit Neighbors United. The first focused on career pathways for refugee and immigrant jobseekers. The second examined education and workforce issues facing refugee and immigrant young adults in particular. Stakeholders at both workshops included state officials, higher education partners, nonprofit service providers, and refugee youth themselves.

Also participating in the event were staff from the nonprofit Global Talent Idaho. The nonprofit’s collaboration with state refugee and labor department officials was spotlighted in NSC’s recent brief At the Intersection of Immigration and Skills Policy: A Roadmap to Smart Policies for State and Local Leaders.

Utah: A Variety of New Efforts to Boost Skills and Credential Attainment

Immigrants and refugees represent approximately 8 percent of Utah’s population, or 252,000 people. Immigrants in the state are dramatically more likely to be of working age: a full 85 percent are between the ages of 18-64, compared to just 57 percent of native-born residents. Utah immigrants also have a substantially higher labor force participation rate: 71 percent of adult immigrants are in the labor force, compared to 67 percent of native-born adults.

Utah has also established an aspirational goal for postsecondary attainment: By 2020, the state aims to increase the percentage of Utahns between 25-64 years old with a postsecondary degree to 66 percent. Given the relative youth of the state’s foreign-born population, investing in the skills of immigrants and refugees will be an important element of helping the state reach its goal. (Utah is also one of three states selected to participate in a new Task Force on Closing Postsecondary Attainment Gaps, led by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education.)

In Salt Lake City, Amanda led two discussions in collaboration with the nonprofit One Refugee. The first focused on policies and programs that support career pathways for young adult refugees and immigrants. The second explored strategies for measuring refugee integration using education and workforce data.

Stakeholders participating in the discussions included state and local workforce officials, nonprofit service providers, and faith community leaders. The events were hosted by OC Tanner, a corporate leader that supports refugee integration through employment. 

Separately, Amanda also met with Utah state legislators to brief them on occupational licensing and career pathway issues for immigrants and refugees in the state. Utah is participating in a national initiative on occupational licensing led by the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, and Council of State Governments.

In addition, both Salt Lake City and Boise, along with partners in Twin Falls, ID, were selected last year to participate in the Skilled Immigrant Integration Program (SIIP), a national technical assistance initiative led by the nonprofit WES Global Talent Bridge. National Skills Coalition served as a technical assistance provider for the SIIP project, and Amanda’s recent trip was conducted as part of the SIIP project.

Posted In: Immigration, Idaho, Utah

Utah Bill Bolsters Workforce Data

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
Utah Bill Bolsters Workforce Data

New legislation, UT SB 194, replaces Utah’s longitudinal data system, the Utah Data Alliance (UDA) with the Utah Data Research Center (UDRC). In doing so, this bill changes the system’s governance model, builds the state’s research capacity, institutionalizes inter-agency data sharing, and promotes data use.

SB 194 creates the Utah Data Research Center (UDRC) as a program within the Department of Workforce Services. Although Utah has long been a model for data governance, this bill shifts governance to a method that the Utah legislature believes will better suit its goals of unified decision making. The UDA was governed by a cross-agency council composed of individuals representing each agency contributing data. Under SB 194, however, UDRC will be governed by a director who can create a comprehensive vision and research agenda. The UDRC will still maintain a cross-agency advisory board, composed of representatives from K-12, postsecondary, career and technical education, workforce services, and health agencies.

In addition to implementing a new governance model, the bill increases the state’s research capacity by shifting research from individual agencies to the UDRC, and by allowing the UDRC to hire necessary staff. Previously, research was conducted by individual agencies, who had limited capacity to conduct research of interest to external stakeholders such as the legislature or the public.

Furthermore, SB 194 ensures the sustainability of the UDRC by mandating data submission from the State Board of Education, the State Board of Regents, the Utah College of Applied Technology, the Department of Workforce Services, and the Department of Health. Previously, these agencies contributed data voluntarily, and could pull out of the alliance for any reason.

Finally, this bill encourages greater data use by requiring the UDRC to create an “online data visualization portal” that will provide the public and others with access to linked, aggregated, and de-identified data. Users can query data, and view that data in a customizable way.

This law will go into effect on July 1, 2017. WDQC is pleased to see states institutionalizing strong data practices, and creating data governance policies that are best suited to their states. 

Posted In: Utah, Workforce Data Quality Campaign
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

States adopt new policies to close the skills gap

  ·   By Brooke DeRenzis

At least 15 states have enacted legislation in 2014 to close the skills gap. States increased access to career pathways, invested in job-driven training and sector partnerships, and set policies to coordinate activities and collect outcome data across education, workforce, and other programs.

Colorado and Iowa appropriated funds to support career pathway programs, while Alabama provided funding to local areas to align educational pathways with regional skills needs. Georgia, Indiana, and Tennessee all created or expanded tuition assistance programs that will help occupationally-focused students move along career pathways.

In addition to funding career pathways, states made a range of investments in job-driven training and sector partnerships. Connecticut created the Connecticut Manufacturing Innovation Fund, which can be used to support workforce training. Iowa created an apprenticeship training program, and Wisconsin funded grants to technical colleges to reduce training program waitlists in high-demand fields. Rhode Island’s State Senate passed a resolution directing the community college system to review and expand programs that provide credentials recognized by the state’s in-demand industries.  

Connecticut also appropriated funding to help the long-term unemployed.  The funds will be used to expand state-wide the Platform to Employment program offering support services, training, and subsidized employment.

Finally, several states adopted policies to align workforce and education programs with the labor market and to measure the outcomes of these programs. Alabama, Idaho, and Oregon passed legislation directing state agencies and institutions to coordinate workforce and education programs around state skill needs. Indiana and Utah established systems to measure and report outcomes across agencies. Iowa and Minnesota funded a system to report educational and employment outcomes for different workforce programs while Kentucky and Maine passed legislation to require postsecondary institutions to report on their education and employment outcomes.

To hear more about the actions state legislatures took in 2014 to close the skills gap, and the opportunities and challenges that NSC members had in advancing these policies during the legislative sessions, watch our 2014 State Workforce Policy Round Up webinar.

Posted In: Sector Partnerships, Job-Driven Investments, Sector Partnerships, Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin

State data legislation roundup.

  ·   By Michelle Massie,

This post originally appeared on the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC) website. Click here to learn more about WDQC.

WDQC has followed several state data legislative proposals. Here are some updates on those state actions:

On Monday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the House Enrolled Act No. 1003, which would bring together data from K-12 schools, colleges, the state’s workforce development agency and businesses to enable trend analysis and to help schools adapt to employer needs. Under the law, Gov. Pence would appoint an executive director to a new stand-alone agency to track and study longitudinal data. Oversight would be provided by the executive director and a committee of workforce and education state officials.

The law renamed the state’s longitudinal data system from the Indiana Workforce Intelligence System (IWIS) to the Indiana Network of Knowledge (INK). The new law also transferred administration and oversight of the longitudinal data system from the Indiana Career Council to a governance committee and an executive director appointed by the governor.

The governance committee would consist of: (1) the commissioner of the department of workforce development; (2) the commissioner of the commission for higher education; (3) the superintendent of public instruction; (4) a member representing private colleges and universities appointed by the governor; (5) a member representing the business community appointed by the governor; and (6) the INK executive director, who serves in an advisory capacity.

Indiana’s longitudinal data system currently integrates state administrative data, including higher education student enrollment and graduation records, employment and unemployment insurance (UI) wage records, UI benefit claims records, claimant demographics, additional geographic and demographic detail from the Indiana Department of Revenue, Trade Adjustment Assistance program data, Workforce Investment Act (WIA) participant data, Wagner-Peyser program data, and adult education records.

New Jersey
Last week, New Jersey lawmakers proposed a package of 20 bills designed to increase graduation rates, make schools more accountable and cut tuition.

Five bills in the package would require colleges to be held more accountable for their graduation rates, fee hikes, student debt rates and other statistics. Under one of the proposed pieces of legislation, state funding would be partially based on a public college's performance.

Of particular interest to WDQC, one bill would require the development of a comprehensive longitudinal statewide data system capable of retaining individual-level information starting when a student enrolls in pre-school through entry into the workforce to better inform education and labor policies.

New Jersey’s current partial longitudinal data system links information from when an individual enrolls in a public school through postsecondary but does not track an individual into the workforce. The newly legislated system will connect workforce and employment data with the administrative data systems of P-12 and postsecondary education in New Jersey. The law also requires the establishment of a P-20 Longitudinal Data System Task Force, which will develop policies and recommendations on matters such as data elements to be maintained in the system and the feasibility of collecting postsecondary education and employment data for inclusion in the system for individuals who graduated from a public secondary school in the state, and subsequently moved out-of-state.

Maine’s proposed “Know Before You Go” legislation recently advanced through the state legislature with unanimous support of the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future. The bill, LD 1746, sponsored by House Majority Leader Seth Berry would provide students and families with more information on employment and earnings outcomes for graduates of Maine colleges and universities as they make decisions about higher education. Policymakers may benefit as well as they use aggregate information to assess higher education needs and trends in the state’s job market. 

As amended, the bill would create a task force of 15 members to develop procedures around the maintenance and dissemination of the data, which is already held by the state Department of Labor and Department of Education. Next, the bill goes to the House floor.

Last week, Utah’s SB 34, Statewide Data Alliance and Utah Futures, passed the Senate and was sent to the governor. The bill proposed a Utah Education and Workforce Alliance, a consortium run by a governing board of business, education and government representatives. The goal would be to create a statewide data system with public education, higher education and workforce data.

The Utah Data Alliance, a consortium already focused on similar data, would be folded into the new alliance.

The bill would require the new alliance board to decide whether Utah Futures — a website to help guide high school students to make career and college choices — should be outsourced to a private company.


WDQC will continue to identify and publicize state actions that attempt to enhance their workforce data capacity.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, Utah