2023 Workforce Wins: SkillSPAN Leads on Advancing Equitable State Skills Policies

By Erin Sheehan, September 11, 2023

In partnership with National Skills Coalition (NSC), SkillSPAN fights for state skills policies that help people get jobs that reflect their career aspirations, help business find skilled workers, and help states build strong, inclusive economies. SkillSPAN, NSC’s Skills State Policy and Advocacy Network, is the first and only national network of multi-stakeholder coalitions that develop and promote skills policies. The 20 coalitions in SkillSPAN are led by independent organizations who convene multi-stakeholder groups of skills advocates to advance a shared skills policy agenda with the support of NSC.

As fall approaches, many SkillSPAN coalitions are reflecting on spring and summer policy wins, finishing out busy legislative sessions, and planning for 2024. This blog highlights a small portion of SkillSPAN achievements in the first half of the year.

SkillSPAN Coalitions are Making College Work

Throughout the first half of 2023, several SkillSPAN coalitions advanced policy priorities to make college work for working people and businesses.

  • Michigan SkillSPAN successfully advocated to lower the age of eligibility for Michigan Reconnect, which offers tuition free certificate and degree programs at MI’s community and tribal colleges, from 25 years old to 21. This win builds on previous advocacy efforts to increase wrap-around supports for Reconnect students and to increase funding for the program, moving Michigan one step closer to offering debt free financial aid.
  • Indiana SkillSPAN worked with state legislators to pass HB 1160, which enables colleges to establish pilot campus navigator programs. The coalition leveraged their January 2023 report on educational attainment in Indiana to push for this policy win.

Digital Equity @ Work Remains a SkillSPAN Priority

  • In Colorado, SkillSPAN convened a group of adult education providers to help pass SB 7, an adult education bill with a focus on digital equity. The bill adds a digital literacy component to the basic education offered in adult education programs. This addition supports Colorado in its efforts to build a digital skill foundation for all its residents and is in line with NSC’s Digital Equity @ Work recommendations.
  • NSC also supported several SkillSPAN coalitions, including Louisiana and North Carolina, in weighing in on their states’ Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program and Digital Equity Act state plans.

SkillSPAN Primed to Advocate for Investment in People-Powered Infrastructure

State governments have begun to receive funds from federal infrastructure laws aimed at rebuilding our nation’s roads and bridges, fighting climate change, expanding broadband, and upgrading public transit, utility, and energy systems. As federal money flows to states, SkillSPAN coalitions are primed to emphasize the necessity of investing in people in order to meet these goals.

  • The Wisconsin SkillSPAN lead organization, WRTP/BIG STEP, convened a coalition of advocates to focus on the workforce development needed to successfully expand broadband in WI. The state Public Service Commission selected the coalition, known as the Wisconsin Broadband Workforce Coalition, to lead the state’s workforce development planning efforts. Placing workforce experts at the center of the planning process is a major step forward in training a diverse, multi-generational workforce to power WI’s broadband infrastructure.

SkillSPAN Networks Lead on Creating an Equitable, Resilient Workforce System

SkillSPAN is leading the conversation on new policies and implementation strategies that can create an equitable, resilient workforce system that works for the people and businesses that need it most.

  • SkillSPAN partners in Illinois were tapped to join Governor Pritzker’s Commission on Workforce Equity and Access. In April 2023, the Commission authored recommendations to create a more accessible, inclusive, and responsive workforce development system.
  • In Massachusetts, HD 1421 and SD 954 aim to expand access to state workforce data and improve data systems infrastructure. These bills were introduced by the state’s SkillSPAN coalition to better understand the employment outcomes of individuals served by the state’s publicly funded workforce system with hopes to support more equitable workforce outcomes. MA SkillSPAN recently testified on the bills with hopes to continue moving this legislation forward.

What’s Next?

Throughout the rest of the year, NSC and SkillSPAN will continue to advance policies that increase access to high-quality skills training. Be on the lookout for NSC’s upcoming publication, Building the Future Workforce a playbook designed to provide guidance for states to invest in a people-powered infrastructure. To keep up to date on our work, sign up for our newsletter or register to attend the 2023 Skills in the States Forum in November 2023. The Forum convenes state and local leaders from across the country to highlight new policy innovations and discuss how state networks are expanding economic opportunity and racial equity for workers while boosting local businesses.