National Skills Coalition hosts first Skills in the States Forum

By Silvia Vallejo, November 02, 2016

On October 17-18, nearly 100 workforce advocates from 20 states and D.C. gathered in Detroit, Michigan to take part in NSC’s first Skills in the States Forum. The purpose of the event was for participants to engage with peers and share ideas on how to move skills policies forward in their states.  

The two-day event kicked off with a plenary discussion on state policies for skills equity, where speakers shared ideas on how to expand access to skill building for underserved populations in their states. The discussion was led by NSC Senior State Policy Analyst, Brooke DeRenzis; Emily Price of So Others Might Eat in D.C.; Sarah Labadie of Women Employed, Illinois; and Dr. Corey Wiggins of the Hope Policy Institute in Mississippi. Another highlight from the event was a discussion on Detroit’s economic recovery and how government agencies, nonprofits, and businesses are collaborating to help workers strive in the City’s growing job market. The plenary, moderated by Chauncy Lennon of JPMorgan Chase, featured Wanda Stokes, Director of the Michigan Talent Investment Agency; Jason D. Lee, CEO of Focus:HOPE; and Jeff Donofrio, Detroit’s Director of Workforce Development and Executive Director of the Mayor’s Workforce Development Board.

Participants also had a chance to dive into the topic of investments in skills policies, with a plenary where Jessica Fraser of the Indiana Institute for Working Families; Jerry Rubin from Jewish Vocational Services Boston; and Debra Jones of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office shared budget challenges in their states and best practices for working with partners to address them.

At the forum, NSC launched a series of policy toolkits meant to help states develop and enact “skills equity” policies that expand equitable access to middle-skill training, credentials, and careers – particularly for those who have faced barriers to economic opportunity. The toolkits, which include model legislation, are designed to 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 cover policies on  job-driven financial aidSNAP E&Tstackable credentialsalignment, and integrated education and training.

The toolkits fueled a robust discussion on the best ways to influence state policies during a set of concurrent sessions. Workforce Data Quality Campaign also lead a conversation on workforce data policy. During these sessions, participants had the opportunity to discuss a state skills policy issue and possible strategies for advancing it.

In addition to the plenaries and discussions, participants broke out into smaller groups to engage with peers from other states on advocacy tactics and how to expand opportunities for people to enhance their skills, credentials, and careers, and ultimately, their families’ financial well-being.

A special thanks to our steering committee who helped organize the forum. The five-member committee included: Andrew Bradley from Indiana Institute for Working Families; Julie Brown from Dan River Region Collaborative in Virginia ; Melissa Johnson, Georgia Budget and Policy Institute; Alice Pritchard, Connecticut State Colleges and Universities; and Carrie Thomas, Chicago Jobs Council. In addition to the steering committee, the forum was made possible with help from our funders W.K. Kellogg FoundationJPMorgan Chase, and the Joyce Foundation.

To view materials from the forum, please visit the events section of our website here