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.