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A galvanizing moment: Census 2020 provides new opportunity to invest in skills

  ·   By Amanda Bergson-Shilcock,
A galvanizing moment: Census 2020 provides new opportunity to invest in skills

The 2020 Census is around the corner. The first census enumerators will begin gathering data in rural Alaska just four weeks from now in January 2020, while Americans nationwide will receive Census mailings beginning in March. The stakes are high: In FY 2017, the US government relied on Census-derived data to distribute more than $1.5 trillion in funding to states, localities, organizations, and individuals.

One area isn’t getting as much press, but is equally important: The role of the Census in prodding policymakers to take action on skills issues.

In particular, the upcoming Census provides skills advocates with a galvanizing moment to help policymakers grasp the importance of investing in digital literacy and other foundational skills. In the near term, policymakers can take action on skills as part of broader Census engagement efforts; in the longer term, investments in skills should be a key part of any Future of Work policy agenda.

The Census and skills: Connecting the dots for state and local policymakers

While many states and localities are busy setting up Complete Count Committees and otherwise hustling to fund outreach and ensure that hard-to-count communities are included in the Census, relatively less attention has been paid to the skills needed for the Census. These fall into two categories:

  • Skills needed by individuals who are responding to the Census
  • Skills needed by individuals who are seeking jobs with the Census Bureau as enumerators or other frontline positions


Skills advocates can educate local and state policymakers about both kinds of upskilling needs among their constituents. For the general public, traditional literacy and digital literacy skills are important to ensure that families can complete Census forms accurately and be included in the count. For jobseekers, traditional literacy and digital literacy skills are necessary to be eligible for the hundreds of thousands of enumerator and other Census jobs available through the spring and summer of 2020.

Why does the Census require digital literacy skills?

For the first time, the US is pursuing an internet-first Census. That means that typical households will receive three mailings – an invitation to respond, a reminder letter, and a postcard reminder -- inviting them to self-respond via the official Census website. Only if households fail to respond to the first three mailings will they receive a paper form in the fourth mailing from the Census Bureau.

(While online responses were an option back in the 2010 Census, they were not the default. This time around, online response is framed as a default for almost all households. Individuals can also call in by phone to respond, though this option is often avoided by respondents because it can be time-consuming.)

Online responses can be submitted via laptop or desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone. 

What can skills advocates ask policymakers to do?

There are some steps that advocates can take immediately. These are outlined below. In 2020, National Skills Coalition will be releasing a new data analysis of digital literacy skill gaps and an expanded set of policy recommendations as part of our overall Future of Work agenda.

At the state and local level:

  • Introduce state-level legislation or an administrative policy mirroring the federal Digital Equity Act (see below). Investing in digital skill-building helps ensure that all adults have the ability to participate in important civic requirements such as the Census, while also equipping them for a labor market that increasingly demands digital skills even for entry-level positions – such as Census enumerator jobs.
  • Provide resources and technical assistance for adult education programs that serve Census respondents and jobseekers. Existing state investments in adult education vary widely. All states should consider increasing investments in programs serving adult learners, including professional development to help adult educators themselves build the digital fluency needed to equip learners with necessary skills. In terms of technical assistance, California has led the way in issuing an array of programmatic materials including curricula and other Census materials for adult education programs. Advocates can also take advantage of Census resources from the National Coalition for Literacy and the American Library Association to educate policymakers and service providers alike.


At the federal level:

  • Co-sponsor and support the Digital Equity Act, recently introduced by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and colleagues. This legislation, now under consideration in Congress, would create two new federal grant programs to support digital literacy. States would be required to develop digital inclusion plans that outline how partners such as nonprofit organizations, workforce and adult education providers, and libraries would help to ensure that all state residents have equitable access to digital skill-building opportunities. 
    • The legislation would include:
      • A $125 million formula grant program, distributed to all states
      • A $125 million discretionary grant program, distributed only to states that win a competitive proposal process

  • Increase investment in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). Currently, Title II funds programs serving approximately 1.5 million adult learners each year -- including classes in adult basic education, adult secondary education (also known as high school equivalency), and English language acquisition. Digital literacy is mentioned as an authorized activity under WIOA, although there is no dedicated funding for such classes. Funding WIOA at its full authorized level is a vital component of helping individuals build digital literacy skills.

 

Posted In: Higher Education Access, Federal Funding, 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:

Federal

  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

State

  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

States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

  ·   By Jenna Leventoff,
States should count apprenticeship completions towards postsecondary attainment goals

In recent years, the federal government has invested significantly in registered apprenticeship programs because they are proven to be an equitable pathway to a good job. Since they allow students to learn while they earn, they can help upskill workers while allowing for broader participation amongst non-traditional students and people with barriers to employment, who may not have the financial resources to stop working and pay tuition while they train for a new career. For these reasons, a new paper by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, “Counting Registered Apprenticeship Completions” calls upon states to include registered apprenticeship certificates within their postsecondary attainment goals and collect data about these programs in order to measure progress.

By explicitly including registered apprenticeship certificates within postsecondary attainment goals, states can signal to the public that registered apprenticeships are a valid pathway to a good career. It also provides incentive to state policymakers to pass policies that make registered apprenticeship programs more prevalent.

Just over half of states collect the individual-level data they need to understand which residents have enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs, which industries those apprenticeships are in, and the demographic characteristics of those who completed their apprenticeship and earned a certificate. The rest of the states may not have an accurate method of knowing how many of their residents have enrolled in and completed registered apprenticeship programs, and how those completions help equitably address the skills gap.

This paper details how Iowa, a state whose registered apprenticeship programs are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, and Washington, a state who administers its own registered apprenticeship programs have collected individual-level data on registered apprenticeship completers.

Posted In: Data and Credentials, Work-Based Learning, Iowa, Washington, Workforce Data Quality Campaign

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

NSC announces Work-Based Learning Academy state teams

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch,
NSC announces Work-Based Learning Academy state teams

National Skills Coalition is pleased to announce the five state teams that have been selected to participate in our 2018-2019 Work-Based Learning Academy: Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Washington. Through the Academy, state teams will advance state policies to expand work-based learning opportunities for low-income communities. Teams will work together with faculty advisors and participate in peer-to-peer learning.

Work-based learning helps workers build new skills while earning a paycheck. Through work-based learning models like apprenticeship, the skills that workers build can translate into higher wages and industry-recognized credentials. Work-based learning is an issue of increasing interest among state policy leaders, spurred by federal investment, attention to apprenticeship by the previous and current Presidential administrations, and state-level technical assistance projects. While some states have adopted policies to support apprenticeship, few have policies aimed at expanding work-based learning opportunities for low-income adults and out-of-school youth. Expanding work-based learning to these communities would allow low-wage workers to advance to good jobs and help employers train a skilled workforce.

Some state teams will work on state programs to support work-based learning intermediaries. Intermediaries can help employers establish apprenticeship and work-based learning programs; they also serve as the connection point between business, education and training programs, and workers to streamline services and increase capacity to serve more people. Other teams will focus on state polices to provide support services, like childcare, transportation, and career navigation, to help people succeed in work-based learning.

The selected five state teams are:

  • Connecticut 
    • Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s Education and Workforce Partnership
    • Connecticut Department of Labor
    • Capital Workforce Partners
    • Connecticut State Colleges and University System
    • Connecticut Technical Education and Career System

 

  • Illinois
    • Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership
    • Associated Builders and Contractors
    • Young Invincibles
    • Chicago Jobs Council
    • Harold Washington College

 

  • Indiana
    • Indiana Institute for Working Families
    • Indiana Department of Workforce Development
    • REAL Services Inc.
    • United Way of Howard County
    • Indiana Family and Social Services Administration

 

  • Oklahoma
    • Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development
    • Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy
    • Dell
    • Oklahoma City Black Chamber of Commerce
    • Oklahoma Association of Community Action Agencies

 

  • Washington
    • Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
    • Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges
    • Construction Center of Excellence


Teams will be partnered with faculty advisors who are experienced in their field of interest. The Academy’s faculty advisors are:

  • Earl Buford, Partner4Work
  • Susan Crane, SkillUp Washington
  • Mark Kessenich, Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership
  • Pat Steele, Central Iowa Works
  • Matt Williams, Mississippi Low-Income Child Care Initiative


The Work-Based Learning Academy will begin with a kick-off event in Milwaukee, WI on June 5-6, which will include a site visit at Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership. The Academy will run from June 2018 – June 2019. If you are interested in learning more about the Academy or NSC’s work on work-based learning in the states, please contact state network manager Rachel Hirsch at rachelh@nationalskillscoalition.org.

Posted In: Work-Based Learning, State Initiatives and Academies, Washington, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, Connecticut

NSC announces call for applications for new Work-Based Learning Academy

  ·   By Rachel Hirsch
NSC announces call for applications for new Work-Based Learning Academy

National Skills Coalition with be launching a Work-Based Learning Academy to support up to five state teams in developing state policy proposals and advocacy strategies to expand work-based learning to low-income communities.

Work-based learning is an issue of increasing interest among state policy leaders. While some states have adopted policies to support apprenticeship, few have policies aimed at expanding work-based learning opportunities for low-income adults and out-of-school youth.

NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy will focus on helping state teams develop and advance state-level policies in the following areas:

  • State grant programs to fund work-based learning intermediaries or opportunities to modify existing state sector partnership grant programs to help partnerships become work-based learning intermediaries
  • State policy guidance to help local workforce development boards use WIOA out-of-school youth funds to support intermediaries that can broker work-based learning opportunities and services for out-of-school youth
  • State-established support fund to provide support services such as case management, child care, transportation, and other assistance to low-income people to prepare for and succeed in work-based learning and other policy mechanisms for aligning child care, transportation, and apprenticeship training funds
  • State-level financial incentives to help employers establish new apprenticeship programs and hire apprentices from low-income communities
  • Tuition waivers for apprentices’ postsecondary classroom instruction and a requirement that such instruction articulate with certificates and degrees


Applications for participation are now being accepted and are due by March 1, 2018. The Academy will officially launch in May and run until June of 2019. To apply and learn more, please download the full application here.

NSC will also be hosting a webinar on our recently released Work-Based Learning Toolkit. In addition to an overview of the toolkit and a federal policy update, this webinar will feature Pat Steele of Central Iowa Works and Anne Kilzer of the Minnesota Workforce Council on apprenticeship initiatives in their states. The webinar will occur on February 20th at 1:00pm EST. Register for the webinar here.

Posted In: Work-Based Learning
NSC releases state policy toolkit on work-based learning for out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults
Many states have enacted policies to increase the scope of work-based learning that combines instruction at a worksite with classroom learning.  Few of these state policies, however, focus on low-skilled populations of out-of-school youth or disadvantaged adults. NSC’s scan, for example, found that among the 14 states that have policies supporting pre-apprenticeships or youth apprenticeships, all 14 states target in-school youth. While disadvantaged adults may be among those who benefit in the 26 states that have work-based learning policies that support adult training, very few of these policies specifically target disadvantaged adults.
 
NSC’s new policy toolkit focuses on state policies designed to make work-based learning more widely available and successful for disadvantaged populations. The toolkit also emphasizes policies to make work-based learning more available and effective for small- and medium-size employers. The toolkit concentrates on work-based learning that combines instruction at a worksite during paid employment with classroom education, and that culminates in an industry-recognized credential. Workers in paid work-based learning programs obtain skills and credentials while earning a wage. This is especially important for disadvantaged individuals with immediate financial needs.
 
The toolkit contains:
  • An explanation of the key policies that support the growth of work-based learning for out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults;
  • Examples of current state policies and local practices that expand work-based learning for out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults; and,
  • A legislative template for state work-based learning policies that target out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults.

Policymakers and advocates can use this toolkit to:

  • Inform decisions on establishing or expanding state policies that support work-based learning;
  • Learn from other state and local community examples; and
  • Develop legislation that establishes or expands work-based learning.

The toolkit presents five policy components:

  • A grant program to fund work-based learning intermediaries;
  • A support fund to aid disadvantaged populations engaged in work-based learning or preparing for work-based learning;
  • Grants for small employers to assist with the cost of starting and managing new apprenticeships;  
  • A tax credit for employers employing apprentices, with an enhanced credit for apprentices from disadvantaged populations; and,
  • A tuition waiver for apprentices’ postsecondary classroom instruction, and a requirement that this instruction articulate with certificates and degrees.

NSC recommends that a state enact all five components to establish a robust policy of supporting work-based learning for out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults.
Posted In: Work-Based Learning, Skills Equity

Fifty-State Scan of State Work-Based Learning Policies

  ·   By Bryan Wilson,
Fifty-State Scan of State Work-Based Learning Policies

Across the country, employers are reporting a skills gap for middle-skill jobs that require some form of post high school education or training but not a bachelor’s degree. Employers report there are insufficient numbers of job applicants with the occupational/technical skills required for open middle-skill positions and that too many applicants lack critical “soft skills,” and have no relevant work experience. State policymakers have heard employers’ concerns and are seeking solutions.

One key strategy for filling these skill gaps is work-based learning programs like apprenticeship and career and technical education with a worksite component — programs that blend worksite and classroom learning to prepare workers with the skills employers need. This dual model of training has a long tradition of proven effectiveness. Yet, the scale of workbased learning, especially paid work-based learning, is limited in the United States.

Recognizing the value of work-based learning and the opportunity to spread work-based learning to more populations and sectors of the economy, states have adopted policies to help increase the scope of work-based learning opportunities.

National Skills Coalition (NSC) has scanned the fifty states and the District of Columbia to identify the policies that states have in place to support work-based learning that includes paid employment. Through the scan, NSC finds that:

Thirty-five states have a policy in place to support work-based learning.

  • Fourteen of these states have an expansion initiative that directs resources for state staff or other organizations to support the growth of work-based learning.
  • Eighteen of these states provide a subsidy to employers who participate in work-based learning.  Ten provide a grant or reimbursement to employers, and ten provide a tax credit. (Two states provide both.)
  • Fourteen of these states have a policy supporting pre-apprenticeships or youth apprenticeships.
  • At least eleven of these states have another type of policy to require or fund work experiences for secondary students that include paid work-based learning.
  • Nine of these states have a policy subsidizing postsecondary classroom instruction for apprentices.


The scan explains each type of work-based learning policy, identifies which states have work-based learning policies in place (including descriptions of those policies) and reveals which states have opportunities to adopt new policies. 

Posted In: Work Based Learning, Work-Based Learning, Skills Equity