NSC partners engaging congress HEA and Perkins reauthorization

By Katie Spiker, January 27, 2016

In the past couple of months, NSC partners have engaged with a number of House and Senate offices to share their experiences in the member’s district or state that can help inform members’ action on upcoming legislation. These calls have featured a combination of NSC partners, training providers, community colleges, folks from local workforce development boards, employers, and workforce intermediaries, sharing common perspectives on the need for workforce education and training programs to meet the need of the members’ constituents.

Right now, the House and Senate have taken steps to move forward on two key reauthorizations relevant to NSC partners – the Higher Education Act (HEA) and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins). Much of the conversation around HEA has focused on lowering high education costs – such as expanding access to Pell grants – and on making programmatic outcomes more accessible to students. On Perkins, the committees with jurisdiction over the reauthorization (the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee) have asked for comments from stakeholders, including National Skills Coalition. Priorities from many key groups include an emphasis on aligning the law with requirements under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and expanding access to work-based learning opportunities for participants in Perkins programming.

NSC partners in Colorado – Sarah Heath from the Colorado Community College System, Lynn Vosler from Front Range Community College, and Kendra Prosper from Turning the Corner – talked with Senator Bennett’s Education staffer about how their programs could benefit from student’s access to Pell Grants for in-demand, short-term credential programs offered at the community college.

NSC partners from Massachusetts – Bill Hart and Dave Coffman from Massachusetts Community Colleges Executive Office, Dianne Gill from North Shore College, and Tracy Cahalane from Microline Surgical – spoke with Senator Warren’s Education staffer about how funding supporting community college and employer partnerships can ensure the best outcomes for the participants and for their future employers.

Sandy Kiddo from Mid-State Technical College and Earl Buford from the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board talked with Senator Baldwin’s staff about how the WIB and college both work with individuals who need further support to afford the kind of training that employers in their region need.

And DonaMarie Wilfong of Allegheny Health Network and Pam Streich from the North Central Workforce Development Board shared their experience on the costs associated with providing students with the high quality training they need in order to meet employer needs – costs currently covered in part by Perkins funding and tuition payments. Costs that prevent both the employers and the community colleges from offering these services to the number of workers employers need and the number of participants attempting to enter community college programs.

As members of the committees tasked with creating the policies to be passed as reauthorizations to HEA and Perkins, these members’ offices have been thrilled to connect with their constituents and to more deeply understand how the work done on Capitol Hill impacts the folks for whom the members work.

If you’d like to participate in an NSC organized constituent call with your member, we’d love to connect with you! You can email Katie Spiker or Ashley Shaw with NSC to find out next steps. And keep your eyes open on Twitter and Facebook for some of these partners and more sharing their experiences with calls with their members.