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New report charts path to reemployment for workers left behind by nation’s pandemic response

The recent health crisis - and unprecedented, rapid job loss associated with it - has illuminated how unprepared the United States is to help workers who lose their jobs reskill to prepare for and successfully enter new employment. Policy responses to the current crisis – while critical – have fallen short of addressing challenges workers and businesses face. In a new report, National Skills Coalition outlines an aligned, comprehensive, reemployment accord to respond to current challenges and prepare for an inclusive economic recovery that addresses prior policy shortcomings and moves all workers and businesses towards success in the 21st century.

This path forward, outlined in A 21st Century Reemployment Accord, includes four key pieces:

  1. Expand access to skills training by making workers who lose their jobs eligible for a Dislocation Training Account, providing up to $15,000 in public funds to invest in training through an apprenticeship program, with a community organization or at a community or technical college. Studies suggest financial concerns are the largest barrier to workers succeeding in training. Reskilling for jobs of the twenty-first century will require short and longer-term training, frequently outside of traditional degree programs, yet today’s workers are often unable to access public funds to support training for quality non-degree credentials.

  2. Launch a federal “Reemployment Distribution Fund,” providing access to income support, through robust unemployment insurance and wage-replacement subsidies, that mitigate the financial impact of job loss on workers, their families, and communities. An initial investment of $20 billion as well as sustainable funding, should empower states to draw down funds to cover the length of training and job search necessary for workers to access a job of the twenty-first century. A first step for Congress to accomplish these goals would be to expand Trade Adjustment Assistance to cover a far larger set of workers, such as those who lose their jobs permanently due to automation.

  3. Create a network of “Twenty-First Century Industry Partnerships” among businesses, education providers, the public workforce system, and community organizations to ensure the significant public and private investments necessary to respond to worker dislocation caused by technological changes in the workplace align with employment opportunities in in-demand industries. Industry and sector partnerships are a best practice across the country but need to be expanded to more industries in more local areas to reach the scale necessary to respond to challenges associated with technological change in the workplace. This expansion will mean a dedicated federal investment.

  4. Maximize eligibility for and access to other support services under existing federal programs for workers during the reemployment process. Barriers to accessing childcare, transportation, and other support services — such as eligibility that doesn’t permit workers to access subsidies while in training programs, underfunding that leads to long waiting lists, or the fact that our social safety net programs reach too few people — make it harder for workers to succeed in training programs necessary for reemployment. To maximize retention and success in a new job, these services should be available to workers during the transition period in a new job, as well. Any federal response to job loss caused by technological change needs to provide workers with access to comprehensive, robust support services that improve worker success and retention.

The new report is the second in several publications National Skills Coalition is releasing this summer detailing recommendations for an inclusive and equitable economic recovery from Covid-19. Read the full brief for more detail on how to modernize reemployment to serve workers and businesses.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Career and Technical Education, Work Based Learning, Future of Work
Digital literacy skills are necessary for an equitable economic recovery from Covid-19, new report finds

A new report from National Skills Coalition provides recommendations for policymakers on how to ensure that businesses and workers have the digital literacy skills needed for an equitable recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and recession. In-demand careers increasingly require digital literacy skills, including essential frontline occupations such as home health aides and janitors. For many occupations, digital skills are now entry-level competencies for new hires and incumbent workers alike. Digital skills investments must help to build broad-based foundational skills as well as more occupationally specific skills needed for the workplace.

The new brief, Digital Skills for an Equitable Recovery, is the first in several publications National Skills Coalition will release this summer detailing recommendations for an inclusive and equitable economic recovery from Covid-19.

While digital skill gaps exist in every industry and every demographic group, workers of color are disproportionately affected, in large part due to structural factors that are the product of longstanding inequities in American society. As public policy decisions have played a key role in forming skill gaps, including those that are racially inequitable, they must now be an integral part of the solution. Thus, Digital Skills for an Equitable Recovery outlines key recommendations for federal policymakers, as well as a new definition to describe occupational digital literacy and problem-solving skills.

Read the full report today.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning

The 4 Workforce Issues Congress Must Address in the Next Stimulus

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
The 4 Workforce Issues Congress Must Address in the Next Stimulus

Over the past 5 months, Congress has passed three Covid response packages, the House has advanced a fourth (the HEROES Act), and the House and Senate have started their annual appropriations process. In each of these cases, Congress has undervalued skills training programs as an important element of both addressing our current crisis and its current and future economic impact.

As lawmakers negotiate what is likely to be the final coronavirus stimulus package this year, they must recognize that new jobs – and public investment in job creation – are a critical part of our response to the largest economic downturn in the past century. It will be necessary to ensuring employment opportunities for workers most impacted by the health crisis and its economic impact – people of color, those without a high school diploma, and those who were already disconnected from work or school prior to the downturn.

To fill those jobs, though, Congress will need to do something policymakers have yet to accomplish up to this point: adequately investing in skills so workers can access and succeed in in-demand careers.

Any Covid response package needs to include key investments necessary to helping workers reengage in the workforce, upskill, and be successful in these newly created jobs. Here are the four workforce issues Congress must address in the next stimulus package:

Issue 1: Reskilling workers who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 for industries that are hiring

While some of the 40 million workers who have lost their jobs over the past few months will return to the same job or industry once communities begin to reopen, a significant number of workers will need retraining to successfully transition to in-demand occupations in other fields. And, an overwhelming majority of workers recognize the value of – and prefer – short-term training programs to make this transition efficiently.

Federal funding for skills training has seen substantial cuts over the last two decades

Unfortunately, federal investments in skills training have been cut by nearly 40% over the last two decades. Our public workforce and adult and postsecondary education systems can help connect workers to this kind of training but need investments today to make that possible.

Solution: Congress must invest at least $2.5 billion each in formula grants for Adults, Dislocated Workers, and Youth under WIOA, at least $1 billion in our Wagner-Peyser Employment Services, and $1 billion each in both Career and Technical Education and Adult Education.

Contact your Representatives today and tell them to invest in our recovery NOW by investing in America's workers

Issue 2: Upskilling workers who are still on the job so they can maintain employment and advance in their industries

To address the current economic crisis and minimize further job loss associated with future economic impacts of Covid-19, we need to invest in keeping workers on the job and empowering businesses to upskill current workers with the digital and occupational skills necessary to succeed in 21st century careers.

Current WIOA Incumbent Worker Training is difficult to scale without adequate business engagement. We need industry partnerships that bring together businesses, education providers, the workforce system, and community organizations to build capacity for businesses to both be engaged in developing training offered by education providers and in training workers on the job.

Solution: Congress must invest $1 billion in a new Incumbent Worker Training formula fund that supports these industry partnerships to scale and empower incumbent worker training , as well as $1 billion in grants to support digital literacy skills for the 1/3 of our workforce who needs digital skills.

Issue 3: Adequately preparing workers for in-demand jobs by supporting partnerships between educators, community organizations, and local business

To address our unprecedented unemployment, empower businesses to safely and rapidly reopen, and ensure that workers with the greatest skills needs – who are also most likely to have lost their jobs during this crisis – have access to the kinds of programs that lead to family sustaining jobs, we need to support partnerships between education providers, community organizations, and the industry partners that are hiring.

Solution: Congress must invest $2 billion over the next four years to provide capacity for our country’s network of 1,050 community and technical colleges to better partner with businesses to rapidly upskill and reskill workers to meet current industry demands.

Issue 4: Connecting workers to long-term careers by training and deploying a contact tracing workforce to slow the spread of the virus

The U.S. is estimated to need 100,000 contact tracers to respond to our current crisis, a role that does not require a four-year degree. By connecting our workforce system with our public health system, we can train workers to fill those roles with a focus on workers from communities hardest hit by the current crisis – communities of color.

We need to invest public dollars in training workers, ensuring they have digital skills, and support services necessary to succeed in roles necessary to track and contain the spread of Covid-19. By connecting those workers to long-term employment once the current health pandemic subsides, Congress will both speed up an efficient, safe and effective reopening of our economy and address the disproportionate impact workers of color have experienced from this crisis.

Solution: Congress must invest at least $500 million in preparing, supporting, and advancing the careers of a contact tracing workforce.


Despite many opportunities to help workers access the skills they need during this pandemic, Congress has fallen short on investments that would connect them to family-supporting, in-demand jobs.

Without public pressure, the current – critical, but far from sufficient – proposals could be slashed to even lower levels in order to reach a bipartisan and bicameral agreement on a Covid response package. Members of Congress need to hear from workforce, education, labor, business, and other advocates today that investments in skills are necessary for an inclusive economic recovery.

Contact your Representatives today and tell them to invest in our recovery NOW by investing in America's workers

Posted In: Federal Funding

Listen to Skilled America Podcast Episode 8: Directing the Flow of Talent

  ·   By Rachel Unruh,
Listen to Skilled America Podcast Episode 8: Directing the Flow of Talent

Many of the nation’s water infrastructure assets are in urgent need of repair, maintenance and restoration. And according to the Brookings Institute, water occupations pay more on average compared to all occupations nationally… but water workers tend to be older and lacking in gender and racial diversity.

Juliet Ellis of SFPUC and Elizabeth Toups of JVS joined Skilled America to talk about their efforts – started long before the pandemic hit – to rethink the water utility workforce in the San Francisco Bay Area and how they're reshaping the workforce pipeline into a staple of the communities they serve.


Six states join NSC’s postsecondary policy academy

  ·   By Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield
Six states join NSC’s postsecondary policy academy

More than ever before, postsecondary education and training has become essential to the nation’s economic mobility and growth. State leaders have recognized the critical importance of postsecondary attainment in meeting equity and economic goals. Credentials are a key component of state postsecondary attainment goals and COVID-19 responses, helping workers obtain better jobs and serving to reconnect them to further postsecondary education and training opportunities.

In light of this, National Skills Coalition has been working with six state teams as part of our 2020-2021 Quality Postsecondary Credentials State Policy Academy: Alabama, Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia. Through the Academy, state agency teams will work together to advance a high-quality postsecondary skills strategy so more residents can attain quality credentials.

As part of the academy, which runs through summer 2021, state agencies commit to:

1)     Define quality non-degree credentials

2)     develop a policy agenda to increase the number of residents with quality credentials, and

3)     develop data policies to support such efforts.

The state teams are led by a Governor’s education and/or workforce policy advisor, the state higher education agency leader, and the labor or workforce agency leader, with membership drawn from agency leaders representing economic development, human services, elementary and secondary education, and the state community and technical college system. Some states also include external stakeholders, including policy advocates from SkillSPAN, NSC’s network of nonpartisan state coalitions expanding skills training for people through state policy changes.

Teams will work together along with ongoing support from NSC and will have opportunities to learn from subject matter experts and practitioner experts and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

The policy academy builds on the work NSC conducted in 2019 with twelve states to develop a consensus definition of quality non-degree credentials (NDCs). Read our Expanding Opportunities: Defining Quality Non-Degree Credentials for States report to learn more about the process.

The six states teams are working toward adopting the consensus criteria and developing processes to identify quality non-degree credentials. These include:

1)     Substantial job opportunities,

2)     transparent evidence of the competencies mastered by credential holders, and

3)     evidence of the employment and earnings outcomes of individuals after obtaining the credential.

Strongly preferred criteria include: stackability to additional education and training.

States teams have the flexibility to design the process that best fits their environment. To date, Alabama, Colorado, and Oregon have adopted the consensus quality criteria. A consistent nationwide definition would make it easier for workers and job seekers to find and sustain employment, by ensuring that credentials of value in one state are also recognized in other states.

For workers, a quality NDC definition and quality assurance systems can help save time and money by helping them understand their options and the likely employment and earnings outcomes associated with specific programs.

For businesses, a quality NDC definition and quality assurance system can make it easier to identify talent and address emerging skill needs.

For education and training providers, a quality NDC framework provides clear guidance on which credentials they should offer and how to think about designing new credentials or program offerings with an eye to both return on investment from students and maximizing alignment with labor market needs.

For state policymakers, a quality NDC framework can provide a range of options for improving economic opportunities for residents and businesses alike. Policymakers can use the definition to set clear targets for NDC attainment.

Establishing a quality NDC criteria can help align and support performance accountability under federal workforce and education laws. By adopting a quality NDC definition, states can protect against increasing equity gaps by ensuring people of color, women, those with disabilities, and other underserved populations are not steered toward low-quality NDCs.

In the next stage of the project, states will identify and advance policies that can support and scale attainment of quality credentials. These may include expanding state financial aid programs and other training funds to support the attainment of quality NDCs, expanding career counseling, expanding non-tuition supportive services, supporting the development of industry partnerships, expanding apprenticeship and other work-based learning models, and supporting stackable credentials, such as the development of career pathways models and adopting statewide policies for credit articulation.

States will also design and implement data systems and policies to track access to and completion of quality credentials and resulting employment/earnings outcomes. States will also collect and use demographic data, including race and ethnicity, to help the state see if postsecondary attainment and career success are available to all residents.

The Academy will run until June 2021.

If you are interested in learning more about the Academy or NSC’s work on quality non-degree credentials, please contact Senior Fellow Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield at amyellendb@nationalskillscoalition.org.

Posted In: Postsecondary Education