Fifty-state scans identify opportunity for states to pass skills equity policies

By Nicky Lauricella Coolberth, December 15, 2016

Middle-skill jobs that require education or training beyond high school but not a bachelor’s degree make up the largest share of the labor market. Employers looking to fill these middle-skill positions often voice concerns about their ability to find skilled workers. At the same time, limited access to skills training keeps too many people from filling good-paying jobs that can support families. Policymakers can respond to both of these issues by adopting a set of policies that expand equitable access to middle-skill training, credentials, and careers – particularly for those who have faced barriers to economic opportunity.

National Skills Coalition is advocating for states to adopt a set of policies that broadly expand access to middle-skill training, especially for those who have faced barriers to economic opportunity.  These “skills equity” policies are intended to remove barriers that, if addressed, will make it easier for low-income people to access and complete middle-skill training that leads to an in-demand credential and family-supporting job.

NSC has just completed a comprehensive scan of all fifty states and the District of Columbia to identify which states have skills equity policies in place. The scans find that: 

  • Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have established job-driven financial aid policies that provide financial aid to part-time students and those in middle-skill training programs;
  • Nineteen states have established stackable credential policies that support industry-recognized postsecondary “stackable” credentials that can articulate toward a higher level certificate or associate degree;
  • Twelve states have established alignment policies that enable low-income, low-skilled adults to follow pathways toward skilled careers by combining the key elements of integrated education and training; career counseling; support services; a high school diploma; training that leads to an industry-recognized, stackable credential; and industry engagement.

The scans explain each policy, identify which states have skills equity policies in place (including descriptions of those policies) and bring into sharp relief which states have opportunities to adopt new policies. 

The scans are companion pieces to previously released policy toolkits designed to help states develop and enact skills equity policies that can help states bridge their skills gap, help people train for in-demand occupations, and help businesses find the skilled workers they need to succeed.

The toolkits provide resources for policymakers and advocates to advance a skills equity agenda in their state. They describe each type of policy, explain why it’s important for states to adopt such a policy, detail components of the policy, offer examples from states, and provide legislative templates that advocates and state legislators can adapt.