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Skills Summit 2020

The 2020 Skills Summit hosted 550 practitioners from forty-two states last week for its largest, most regionally and industry-diverse fly-in event in National Skills Coalition history. 

Every year, the National Skills Coalition throws its flagship event to bring local workforce leaders from postsecondary education, chambers of commerce, community-based organizations, labor, workforce investment boards, intermediaries, and others for deep dives into federal workforce policy to gear them up for a full day of meetings with their members of Congress on Capitol Hill.  

This year, in addition to the traditional content laying out our Skills for Good Jobs Agenda, NSC taped the first episode of our new podcast Skilled America! NSC’s Rachel Unruh facilitated a conversation about how skills training is factoring into the presidential election with Traci Scott from the National Urban League, Brian Turmail of Associated General Contractors of America, and Stephanie Martinez-Ruckmanfrom National League of Cities. We’ll be releasing the episode later this month, so stay tuned! 

Attendees were also offered opportunities to hear directly from Congressional staff on the latest news regarding work-based learning policy and the upcoming major reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, as pictured below.

Vetting the future of work

For the first time in NSC history, we had interactive vetting workshops for new policy proposals around the future of work. The breakouts were split into three content areas that attendees could choose from: Business Engagement, Re-Employment, and Digital Literacy. Findings from the sessions are being incorporated into the further policy development.

Partipcants discuss policy development for the future of work in business engagement

Summiteers heard Representative Stephen Horsford talk about his career supporting skills training and were first to learn about his introduction of the bipartisan SKILL UP Act.


John Pallasch and Casey Sacks, from the Department of Labor and the Department of Education respectively, shared their policy priorities for 2020 with NSC Managing Director Kermit Kaleba. Select video of Skills Summit 2020 plenaries can be found here.

Demystifying federal advocacy

In Skills Summit tradition, all attendees, whether first timers or veterans of federal policy advocacy, are given the tools to make an impact on Capitol Hill. They’re given time to work with their state delegation to discuss strategy, and those that are new to federal advocacy are offered a “boot camp”. Sixty percent of attendees at the 2020 event were first timers, so experts geared to up to demystify and empower attendees to speak their mind and make an impact with policymakers.  

Oregon delegation preps for the Hill

Awarding excellence

NSC was proud to acknowledge Alma Salazar from UNITE-LA as this year’s Skills Champion, an award given annually to a Coalition member whose exceptional organizing and advocacy efforts have moved the skills agenda forward in Washington, D.C. and embodies the Coalition’s mission to seek an America that grows its economy by investing in its people, so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper.

Alma accepts Skills Champion Award

In addition to our Skills Champion award, NSC elevates the contribution of other leaders throughout the country for their advocacy efforts. 2020 awards listed and pictured below: 

  • Taking Care of Business: Laura Ward, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce (TN) 
  • (Net) Working It: Earl Buford, Partner4Work (PA) 
  • Social Butterfly: Bishara Addison, Towards Employment (OH) 
  • Skills Firebrand: Robert Guzman, Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (IL) 
  • Power NAPper: Dr. Noemi Custodia-Lora, Northern Essex Community College (MA) 

A Hill to remember

Every year the Skills Summit culminates in a massive advocacy day on Capitol Hill with meetings scheduled by state delegation. In 2020, Skills Summit attendees visited over 185 offices to advocate for their shared agenda on February 5th.  



In addition to the delegation meetings, National Skills Coalition also held two briefings for attendees and Hill staff alike. The first consisted of a panel of community college representatives to talk about how the Community College Compact suite of bills would impact their respective students in their three respective states. Thanks to Erin Frasier (WA), Anthony Hancock (WV), and Kathy Weaver (LA) for sharing their expertise. 

The second briefing laid out an argument for why and how digital literacy will be a major consideration in policy regarding the future of workforce development, featuring new fact sheets on manufacturing and health workers.  Speakers included B. Jasmine Park from the American Institutes for Research, Priyanka Sharma from World Education/Digital US, Demika Alston from the ByteBack program, and Laura Vazquez from UnidosUS

Digital Skills and the American Workforce Hill briefing 

Special thanks to our generous sponsors at Walmart, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Strada Education Network, and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, without which none of this work would be possible.