Apprentices push for investments in work-based learning on Capitol Hill

  ·   By Jessica Cardott
Apprentices push for investments in work-based learning on Capitol Hill

“People are afraid to go to the doctor,” Jeffrey Bond shared during a meeting at National Skills Coalition earlier this month. “But when you have a community health worker to pick you up at your house and go with you, it’s so comfortable for the client that they begin to trust the health system.”

Jeffrey works at Philadelphia FIGHT, a comprehensive health services organization for people living with HIV/AIDS and those at high risk.  He is one of five apprentices* from across the country that attended an NSC fly-in this April to talk to Congress about how work-based learning programs kickstarted their current careers. Jeffrey’s apprenticeship program involved 150 hours of classroom training at Temple University, coupled with on-the-job training through Philadelphia’s 1199C Training & Upgrading Fund. While training, the labor-management partnership in charge of the training provided stipends for transportation and other necessities to minimize barriers to completion.

The apprentices were invited to DC with their employers and their training providers to offer Congress a full picture of how and why business-led training partnerships work for both industry and workers, and strengthen communities in the process. Jeffrey, now a Re-entry Senior Specialist working with people coming home from prison, explained why his fit with the job for which his apprenticeship prepared him was a success; “I’ve been there, so I knew to have patience with them, talk to them, try to build rapport, build relationships…if you don’t build relationships, you don’t know their mind, you don’t know their mentality, so you really can’t help them.” The apprenticeship was able to translate his existing skill set into a career that supports the health and safety of some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens.  

The small group of partners at the fly-in hailed from a wide-range of geographic areas, as well as industries; representatives from automotive manufacturing, hospitality, construction, and healthcare shared with policymakers on Capitol Hill their experience building quality training programs that get workers the skills businesses need. The range of voices allowed Hill staff to see how work-based learning can create opportunity outside of traditional apprenticeship settings, in different regions, and in pursuit of different ends.

“The apprenticeship program gave me an opportunity to keep succeeding,” Jeffrey said. “I was committed to success and being gainfully employed and right after completing the program, I was employed full-time.” Since his recent graduation from the program, Jeffrey has been promoted twice and is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree.

*Advocates were either apprentices or participated in a similar work based learning program.

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Business Leaders United

Two National Skills Coalition-backed higher education bills land in the Senate

  ·   By Katie Brown
Two National Skills Coalition-backed higher education bills land in the Senate

Yesterday, we reached a crucial milestone in our effort to modernize the Higher Education Act. Two bills that will work hand-in-hand to make higher education work better for students and employers were introduced in the Senate—the College Transparency Act and the Jumpstarting our Businesses to Support Students (JOBS) Act.

The goal of the College Transparency Act is to provide students with complete information about the success rates of all postsecondary programs—including those that are short-term—while the JOBS Act would expand federal financial aid to those short-term programs that are proven to be high-quality; a move that is supported by 86 percent of Americans. Together, these bills will give students, parents, employers and policymakers peace of mind when it comes to ensuring access and quality of postsecondary programs across all lengths and disciplines.

These bipartisan bills have been met with broad support across multiple stakeholder groups. 10 state higher education systems have signed onto a letter supporting these measures—which are in line with National Skills Community College Compact. Additionally, both bills are supported by several national organizations, including the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Advance CTE, Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT), Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Jobs for the Future (JFF), National Council for Workforce Education (NCWE), and Young Invincibles.

A recent Business Leaders United poll of small and medium-sized businesses showed that small and medium-sized businesses overwhelmingly support more investment in skills training with 66% supporting making user-friendly data available so that employers can see which post-secondary programs are giving students the skills they need for existing jobs (CTA) and 64% supporting making federal financial aid available to anyone seeking skills training, not just those seeking college degrees (JOBS).

NSC continues to advocate for the inclusion of these complementary bills in any comprehensive Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization put forth by the House and Senate.


Visit our action center and download our fact sheet on the JOBS Act

The bipartisan JOBS Act led by Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) would modernize our nation’s higher education system by extending needs-based federal Pell grants to students enrolling in high-quality, short-term training programs offered by community and technical colleges. In today’s economy, 80 percent of jobs require some form of education or training beyond the high school level. Additionally, over half of all jobs can be classified as “middle-skill”—meaning they require more than a high school diploma but not a college degree. This demand for skills has driven more students, including non-traditional students, into the postsecondary education system than ever before, with the goal of getting the skills they need to compete in today’s economy.

Despite this well-documented need for skills, most federal financial aid made available to postsecondary students through the Higher Education Act (HEA) is reserved for programs that are at least 600 clock hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. This policy is at odds with the realities of today’s postsecondary education landscape, where many students, including workers looking to increase their skills, seek to enroll in sub-degree programs—such as those related to pipefitting, manufacturing and the electrical trades—that can lead to industry-recognized credentials. In fact, community college leaders have pointed out that the lack of federal financial aid for quality noncredit and short-term programs is preventing them from fully meeting the needs of students and employers.

To address this inequity, Senators Kaine (D-VA) and Portman (R-OH) introduced the JOBS Act once again this Congress, which would:

  • Expand Pell grant eligibility to students enrolled in quality short-term education and training programs offered by public institutions of higher education that:
    • Are at least 150 clock hours over 8 weeks of instruction;
    • Provide training aligned with the needs of employers in a state or local area;
    • Are offered by an eligible training provider as defined by Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA);
    • Award program completers with an industry-valued credential;
    • Satisfy any applicable prerequisites for professional licensure or certification;
    • Have been evaluated by an accrediting agency for quality and student outcomes; and
    • Connect to a career pathway when applicable

NSC applauds Senators Kaine and Portman for working to modernize our nation’s higher education system and make it work better for students and employers.

College Transparency Act

Senators Warren (D-MA) and Cassidy (R-LA) and Representatives Mitchell (R-MI) and Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced the College Transparency Act—a bipartisan bill aimed at helping students, policymakers, educators and employers make informed decisions when it comes to postsecondary education.

Currently, the HEA prohibits the Department of Education from collecting data on all postsecondary students. The Department’s existing College Scorecard only includes students receiving federal aid in the calculation of key metrics, like post-college earnings. This presents an incomplete picture of how well higher education and training programs are serving students.

The College Transparency Act proposes to overturn the outdated prohibition on data collection while putting a number of safeguards in place to protect student privacy. More specifically, the bill:

  • Overturns the ban on student-level data collection in the Higher Education Act;
  • Creates a secure, privacy protected student-level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) using strong security standards and data governance protocols;
  • Accurately reports on student outcomes including enrollment, completion and post-college success across colleges and programs;
  • Leverages existing data at federal agencies and institutional data by matching a limited set of data to calculate aggregate information to answer questions critical to understanding and improving student success;
  • Protects all students by limiting data disclosures, prohibiting the sale of data, penalizing illegal data use, protecting vulnerable students, prohibiting the use of the data for law enforcement, safeguarding personally identifiable information, and requiring notice to students and regular audits of the system;
  • Streamlines burdensome federal reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions;
  • Provides information disaggregated by race, ethnicity and Pell Grant receipt status to identify inequities in students’ success;
  • Requires a user-friendly website to ensure the data are transparent, informative, and accessible for students, parents, policymakers, and employers; and
  • Feeds aggregate information back to states and institutions so they can develop and implement targeted, data-informed strategies aimed at supporting student success.

The College Transparency Act represents broad consensus among students, colleges and universities, employers, and policymakers that a secure, privacy-protected postsecondary student data system is the only way to give students the information they need to make informed college choices.  National Skills Coalition looks forward to working with the sponsors of CTA to advocate for this important legislative change.

Posted In: Federal Funding, Work Based Learning
Senator Baldwin, Reps. Bonamici, Ferguson, Davis and Guthrie reintroduce PARTNERS Act

Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Susan Davis (D-CA) and Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Senator Tammy Baldwin today introduced Promoting Apprenticeship with Regional Training Networks for Employers Required Skills (PARTNERS) Act of 2019. The bill would establish a grant program to support the creation and expansion of industry and sector partnerships to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop work-based learning programs and supports to ensure workers have access to and succeed in these programs.

Work-based learning programs can address business demand for workers and workers’ skills needs. For small- and medium-sized companies, however, there are often challenges to starting or running these programs. Businesses and communities across the country master these challenges by working together in industry or sector partnerships that bring together multiple employers in a targeted industry with the workforce, education and human service systems to aggregate skills demands across firms and identify training and employment strategies that meet those shared needs.

Under the PARTNERS Act, industry and sector partnerships would receive grants of up to $500,000 for two years. Recipients would convene necessary partners and coordinate a set of business services to help small- and medium-sized businesses develop and run work-based learning programs. Partnerships would also coordinate worker support services to improve worker retention and success.

Business engagement activities could include:

  • Assistance navigating registration process for apprenticeship;
  • Connecting businesses with education providers to develop classroom instruction to complement on-the-job learning;
  • Development of curriculum design of the on-the-job component of a program;
  • Service as employer of record during a transitional period for participants entering work-based learning programs;
  • Providing training to managers and front-line workers to aide in their provision of mentoring or training to work-based learning participants;
  • Recruitment of individuals to participate in the work-based learning programs, particularly individuals receiving additional workforce and human services.

Support services that help keep workers on the job could include:

  • Connecting participants with adult basic education;
  • Connecting participants with pre-work-based learning training, including through pre-apprenticeship programs;
  • Providing connections to transportation and child care services;
  • Developing mentorship opportunities; and
  • Providing tools, clothing, and other required items necessary to start employment.


National Skills Coalition applauds all four Representatives and the Senator for their leadership in expanding access to work-based learning and apprenticeship programs, consistent with the proposals outlined in NSC’s recent brief, Partnering Up: how industry partnerships can bring work-based learning to scale. We look forward to working with the members of Congress to advance this important legislation.

Posted In: Work Based Learning
Local, industry-driven partnerships critical to expanding work-based learning in the U.S.

Today, NSC released a new brief, Partnering Up: how industry partnerships can bring work-based learning to scale. The report outlines the importance of local, industry-driven partnerships between workforce, education, and human services systems and stakeholders to scale work-based learning strategies like apprenticeship.

Work-based learning programs can address business demand for workers and workers’ skills needs. For small- and medium-sized companies, however, there are often challenges to starting or running these programs. Businesses and communities across the country master these challenges by working together in industry or sector partnerships that bring together multiple employers in a targeted industry with the workforce, education and human service systems to aggregate skills demands across firms and identify training and employment strategies that meet those shared needs.

These partnerships address several barriers businesses face in expanding apprenticeship. Among other things, partnerships:

  • Foster and create a community of business leaders engaged in a common goal of upskilling a local workforce in a strategic way that benefits the broader community;
  • Help businesses work together to design curriculum and benchmarks of the on-the-job component of a program or circulate best practices as well as training front-line workers and managers to aid their provision of mentoring or training.
  • Link businesses with available subsidies, tax credits, and other incentives available to companies starting or expanding programs to ease financial barriers, particularly for small firms and for companies hiring workers with barriers to employment;
  • Recruit participants for the work-based learning programs, particularly individuals receiving additional workforce and human services, and identify pre-employment or pre-apprenticeship training needs, access integrated education and training that can ensure success in later work-based learning pathways and leverage the spectrum of training options available under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act;
  • Connect to and provide subsidies for transportation, child care services and other support services that ensure the broadest pipeline of workers not only have access to work-based learning but succeed in these programs; and
  • Provide tools, clothing, and other required items workers need to start employment.
  • Tailor training, support, and employment opportuni­ties to the region in which businesses operate – both in response to local demand and as an outgrowth of local relationships. 


Groups like the Healthcare Industry Partnership in metro Atlanta, Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center Training (OMIC Training) in Portland Oregon, UpSkill Houston in Texas, and the Advancing Manufacturing Partnership in Indiana all bring together businesses, community organizations, labor partners, policy makers and representatives from the workforce, education and human services systems to support workforce development and work-based learning.

To bring partnerships like those featured in the brief to scale, the report makes several recommendations for federal and state policy makers:


  1. Target Technical Skills Training Grant program funds to industry partnerships to expand work-based learning, consistent with the PARTNERS Act
  2. Provide federal support for state investment in local, industry-driven partnerships with a focus on expanding work-based learning
  3. Integrate industry and sector partnerships into upcoming reauthorizations of education and safety net programs


  1. Utilize state sector partnership policies to expand work-based learning
  2. Leverage WIOA planning to integrate work-based learning into state sector partnership policies
  3. Ensure that sector partnerships’ work-based learning priorities align with and leverage other state training efforts across workforce, education and human services agencies
Posted In: Work Based Learning, Work-Based Learning

Pre-employment training and affordable childcare key to broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

  ·   By Melissa Johnson and Katie Spiker
Pre-employment training and affordable childcare key to broadening the apprenticeship pipeline

Policymakers seeking to increase the number of apprentices should focus their investments in pre-employment training like pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care, according to a new brief by the National Skills Coalition, Broadening the Apprenticeship Pipeline.  

Apprenticeships and other forms of work-based learning can help address the nation’s skills gap, but the U.S. falls far behind competitor nations in using work-based learning to train workers for in-demand, middle skill jobs. To address this underutilization and expand the pipeline of workers with access to work-based learning, U.S. policy should better support pre-apprenticeship programs and affordable child care that help women, parents, and other underrepresented people succeed.

For people who have historically had less access to apprenticeships, like women, pre-apprenticeship programs provide a valuable on-ramp that lays the foundation for success. Underrepresented workers without adequate industry experience often need the occupational skills training, exposure to job sites, and engagement with industry leaders that pre-employment programs provide before they reach the skill level necessary to enter work-based learning programs.

But, training alone may not be enough to ensure success. Significant child care costs can make participation in unpaid pre-apprenticeship programs nearly impossible for parents – nearly a third of the workforce. Pre-apprenticeship programs that provide both training and access to child care can open the door to an apprenticeship pathway for a broad range of workers. Once in an apprenticeship, child care continues to be an important support for ensuring participant success since starting wages are lower than those apprentices can expect to make once they’ve completed their program.

The Moore Community House Women in Construction (WinC) program illustrates the importance of child care to pre-employment and work-based learning participants. WinC is a pre-apprenticeship program in Biloxi, Mississippi, that trains women for apprenticeships and nontraditional career pathways in construction, skilled craft trades, and advanced manufacturing. In 2016, the program received a grant from the state — funded with federal dollars Mississippi receives through its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) state grant — to offer child care to participants and graduates, and a separate grant from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Strengthening Working Families Initiative (SWFI) to support child care as a retention tool for participants after graduation. Since 2016, WinC enrollment has nearly tripled from nearly sixty women per year to about 180 women per year.

To build on the success of WinC and broaden the apprenticeship pipeline across the nation, this issue brief includes recommendations for both federal and state policymakers. Specifically, Congress and the states should:

  1. Maximize the use of TANF to support pre-employment and child care for work-based learning participants;
  2. Improve alignment between the workforce system and TANF and SNAP recipients; and
  3. Create new work-based learning support funds on both the federal and state levels.


Posted In: Work Based Learning, Work-Based Learning, Mississippi