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

DOL releases guidance on “industry-recognized” apprenticeship programs

  ·   By Katie Spiker,
DOL releases guidance on “industry-recognized” apprenticeship programs

On July 27th, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued Training and Employment Notice (TEN) 03-18, Creating Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs to Expand Opportunity in America, which outlines the process that will allow trade associations and other non-governmental entities to certify apprenticeship programs as meeting industry standards.

In July 2017, President Trump issued an  Executive Order to Expand Apprenticeship in America (EO), which called for the establishment of an alternative system of industry-recognized apprenticeships that would not require direct approval by a government entity. The proposed process is intended to make it easier for businesses to gain approval for new programs while also supporting the development of quality assurance standards in industries where apprenticeships are not well utilized.  

In the TEN, DOL provides insight in to the process by which a non-governmental entity, like a business association or non-profit intermediary, will be able to qualify as a certifier of industry-recognized apprenticeships and advises organizations interested in playing a certifier role to prepare to submit proposals to DOL. The guidance largely adheres to recommendations from the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion, established under the July 2017 EO and whose work culminated in a report to the President earlier this summer.

Distinctions between IRAP and Registered Apprenticeship

Under current law, the U.S. Department of Labor or a state agency registers apprenticeship programs, documenting that the structure of the program’s on-the-job learning, classroom instruction, mentoring and safety components meet certain standards such that successful completion of the program will earn workers a journey-level credential marking their expertise in a certain occupation. These programs are subject to regulations describing the types of occupations for which apprenticeship can be used, structure of training and expertise apprentices need to earn under 29 C.F.R 29 and to detailed rules to promote Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) under 29 C.F.R. 30. Most apprenticeships in the U.S. are – and have been – in the construction industry, with occupations in manufacturing, utilities and transportation sectors also utilizing the training strategy. Occupations in industries like health care, retail, IT and financial services use registered apprenticeship with more frequency in recent years.

The state or federal government oversight required to register a program imbues upon its sponsors certain benefits – several states provide tax credits for registered programs, others support tuition costs and community colleges. Registered programs are automatically eligible to be added to a state’s Eligible Training Provider List (ETPL) under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which is intended to make it easier for training providers running apprenticeships to access federal workforce funds. Registered programs are also required to report less information on participants for which they use workforce funds, in part a recognition that an apprentice is, from the first day of a program and unlike other training programs, an employed worker. Congress has also appropriated nearly $250 million in recent years to DOL to support expansion of registered apprenticeship.

The guidance draws explicit and implicit distinctions between registered apprenticeship and industry-recognized:

  • Industry-recognized apprenticeship cannot be used in the construction industry or for military apprenticeships;
  • Industry-recognized apprenticeships will not be automatically eligible for the ETPL;
  • Industry-recognized apprenticeship program participants will not be considered apprentices under Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws; and
  • The guidance includes a vague catch-all that these programs are ineligible for “other statutory benefits” which presumably includes access to Congressionally appropriated funds targeted to registered programs under 29 C.F.R. 29.

Requirements for Certifiers of Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Programs

Most of the guidance focused on the role and responsibility of an entity who certifies that the industry-recognized program meets industry needs. More detail is expected in draft regulations this Fall, however the guidance provides general insight into the direction in which DOL is likely to go in those regulations.

To qualify as a certifier, an organization or consortia will have to show:

  • Sufficient expertise in and engagement with a sector to serve as a qualified certifier. Future regulations will presumably offer a definition of what reaches the level of sufficient expertise, but DOL does recognize that there will likely be multiple certifiers within industry sectors.
  • Ability to provide public information on the programs certified, number of completers of a program, those participants pre- and post-program earnings, length of a program, and “post-apprenticeship employment rate.” The TEN cites to data collection required under WIOA and under rules applied to Registered Apprenticeship as models of necessary information certifiers should be prepared to release.
  • Quality of certified programs, defined as programs including a paid work component, structured on-the-job training, mentorship, training related instruction – with a focus on providing college credit for that instruction – the award of an industry recognized credentials, safe workplaces and “equal employment opportunity.”
  • Several procedural components of their capacity as a certifier such as well-established procedures for certifying programs and impartiality and independence from undue influence in doing so.

NSC supports a focus on paid, high quality work-based learning programs and the collection and dissemination of data on outcomes for participants in these programs and many components in the TEN are consistent with NSC recommendations.

Upcoming regulations, expected this Fall, offer DOL an opportunity to expand on this guidance in a few important ways:

Enable a local focus: While portability is an important component of industry-recognized credentials, NSC encourages DOL to focus on the role local industry partnerships can play in certifying programs that meet local workforce need, particularly through the inclusion in the process of small and medium-sized businesses. The bipartisan PARTNERS Act would support industry partnerships between representatives from the workforce and education systems, multiple businesses and community organizations to expand access to work-based learning. NSC encourages DOL to emphasize the importance of engagement with both national companies and local businesses in establishing the context for “industry-recognized.”

Require disseminated, disaggregated data: NSC supports the alignment of data measures with WIOA performance metrics and the requirement that certifiers release the data on participation and retention for apprentices after completion of their program. We also encourage DOL to require certifiers to collect and make publicly available disaggregated data on these metrics.

Ensure meaningful equal employment opportunity in industry-recognized apprenticeship: DOL defines a certifier’s role in ensuring EEO as requiring sponsors to engage in outreach and recruitment strategies to “diverse” populations, adhering to existing EEO laws, and designating a person with responsibility for monitoring these efforts. These are all important components to ensuring equity in apprenticeship but are far from sufficient. Given task force recommendations that regulations governing EEO in registered programs do not apply to industry-recognized and the absence of explicit application to programs in the TEN, industry-recognized programs will likely not be required to meet the standards required by 29 C.F.R. 30. The rules in this section were recently updated to require more targeted analysis of potential workers in an apprenticeship program, with a focus on how programs are creating equal opportunity for women, people of color and people with disabilities. Integrated and intentional EEO requirements from the formation of the new industry-recognized apprenticeship system could help prevent the inequities that currently plague registered apprenticeship, where only seven percent of apprentices are women and where people of color earn significantly lower wages and complete programs and significantly lower rates than white men.

In addition to meaningful EEO requirements, NSC encourages DOL to require certifiers to ensure that apprentices have access to and success in apprenticeship programs by working with sponsors to provide workers access to supports like child care, transportation and pre-apprenticeship training. The bipartisan BUILDS Act would provide support for services like these that help a diverse set of workers succeed in apprenticeship.

Establish quality control mechanisms for certifiers: Upcoming regulations also offer DOL the opportunity to provide a detailed mechanism for enforcing certifier requirements. NSC encourages DOL to include enforcement and monitoring mechanisms that enable accurate and continuous evaluation of certifier efficacy in meeting the needs of both businesses and workers in upcoming draft regulations, expected this fall.

Next steps on Industry-Recognized Apprenticeships

Interested entities can submit to be qualified as a certifier “shortly”, which is likely to be after the release of draft regulations providing more insight on the rules governing industry recognized apprenticeships. DOL is currently accepting comments and statements of interest in becoming a certifier at

While DOL does not describe funding availability in the TEN for certifiers, earlier this month the agency announced a call for applications for $150 million in funds to support the expansion of industry recognized system. Partnerships between educational institutions and business associations or consortia of businesses are eligible for that funding, for which applicants will help businesses set up and run industry-recognized apprenticeship programs. Applications are due October 16th, 2018. DOL also released almost $1 million in funding available to community-based organizations to provide technical assistance to help expand women’s access to apprenticeship and non-traditional occupations through the latest iteration of the Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations (WANTO) grants. WANTO applications are due August 16th, 2018.

NSC will continue to work with our partners across the country and Apprenticeship Forward national partners to provide DOL and Congress with recommendations to implement high-quality apprenticeship programs that meet business demand and worker need.

Posted In: Work Based Learning