A chorus in support of better data, braided funding, serving vulnerable populations

By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, March 11, 2015

A chorus in support of better data, braided funding, serving vulnerable populations

This week, the federal government released a summary of responses to its Spring 2014 Request for Information (RFI) on Career Pathways. Nearly 150 responses from a diverse range of organizations were received in reply to the RFI, which was jointly issued by the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services.

Among the issues most frequently cited by respondents were several that National Skills Coalition has championed:

  • Data and evaluation: Respondents offered strong support for the importance of common definitions and (where appropriate) common measures across various federal human capital investment programs. In addition, respondents observed that states that have developed integrated data systems are well-positioned to implement career pathways initiatives. NSC’s Workforce Data Quality Campaign offers an array of resources on these and other data-related issues.
  • High-quality, well-coordinated partnerships: Respondents particularly emphasized the importance of leadership-level commitment, as well as dedicated staffing at the state and/or local level to ensure that coordination among partners is able to occur. Also noted was the value of well-informed individuals who can advise on how to braid complex federal funding streams. NSC discussed this issue in our own response to the Career Pathways RFI.
  • Reaching hard-to-serve populations: Numerous respondents had suggestions for how to ensure that career pathways programs are accessible to immigrants, low-skilled youth and adults, and other hard-to-serve populations.  NSC most recently addressed this issue in our recommendations to the White House Task Force on New Americans.

The summary notes that some of the recommendations put forth by respondents to the RFI are already beginning to be addressed. In particular, in the time since the RFI comment period closed in June 2014, Congress enacted the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and the White House released its Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity report. Both the legislation and the report contain elements that will advance the issues described above.

In addition, one issue highlighted by NSC and other respondents was partially addressed by Congress in the so-called “CRomnibus” appropriations bill passed in December 2014. This was the “ability-to-benefit” provision of Title IV of the Higher Education Act. This provision allows students lacking a high school diploma or its equivalent to access federal financial aid if they are enrolled in an eligible career pathway program and can demonstrate college readiness.

NSC is gratified to see the depth and variety of organizations adding their voices to this important policy discussion. We look forward to continued conversation on career pathways issues as WIOA implementation moves forward.