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August Newsletter | Unlocking Opportunity: Register Now for the 2023 Skills in the States Forum!

2023 Skills in the States Forum

Early bird registration is now open for the 2023 Skills in the States Forum! Each year, NSC convenes workforce leaders like you to engage in cross-state learning and networking. This year’s Forum will take place in Baltimore, Maryland on Nov 16-17 and will include a SkillSPAN pre-meeting on Nov 15. During the event, attendees will be able to share, learn, and ask questions concerning their plans for 2024 state legislative and administrative advocacy, especially those issues in line with NSC’s four campaigns.

Key topics to be covered include:

  • Defining and enhancing job quality

  • Centering the voices and experiences of workers

  • Advancing racial equity in workforce development

  • Expanding access to digital skills

NSC is offering a limited number of travel stipends to partners who may need assistance attending the Forum. Applications for the stipends are due August 25.

Workforce News and Insights

States Have Put Almost $4B Into Short-Term Credentials (Work Shift): A first-ever analysis from HCM Strategists provides new insights on the momentum of short-term credentials as a skills training strategy in states. Findings include:

  • 28 states have invested in 59 different short-term credential initiatives with a focus on their ability to boost employment and local economies. 11 of these initiatives used federal pandemic relief funds to quickly upskill unemployed workers.

  • 23 state-led initiatives include some equity component, with a majority targeting low-income populations. However, beyond basic income-restrictions for programs, the research found that states haven’t done much to ensure funding serves communities with the greatest need. One example that has stood out is Connecticut’s CareerConneCT Portal, which is being developed in partnership by the state and several entities including Connecticut SkillSPAN co-lead, Capital Workforce Partners. CareerConneCT provides free training for high-demand careers specifically targeting populations that are underrepresented in the overall workforce, including Black and Indigenous residents, people with disabilities, opportunity youth, and women.

  • 5 states have added short-term credentials to their state’s funding formula. This includes recent reforms to community college financing in Texas (supported by Texas SkillSPAN and BLU), which revised funding allocations to be measured against specific outcomes of student success.

Federal Update

Appropriations: Before heading out for August Recess, the House and Senate Appropriations Committee released separate bills to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and related agencies for the 2024 fiscal year. NSC’s analysis of the funding bills includes deep insights on each version and what it means for our network. The high-level takeaways are:

  • The House bill makes extensive cuts to workforce programs including a large cut to adult activities under WIOA Title I.

  • The Senate bill keeps funding levels for critical workforce programs mostly flat.

  • While both bills fall short of our network’s policy priorities, including People-Powered Infrastructure and Digital Equity @ Work, it is critical that advocates urge their Senators and Representatives to support legislation that funds workforce programs at no less than the Senate bill’s levels. NSC partners can use our sign-on letter to reach out to members of Congress.

JOBS Act and Gainful Employment Regulations: NSC’s Making College Work campaign includes a tenet to provide affordable and accessible pathways for workers to attain high-quality credentials. This blog provides an update on two areas of federal policy related to this tenet that have significant implications for our network. First is the JOBS Act, which would expand the Pell Grant to include high-quality short-term training programs (see our network letter to the Senate HELP committee), and second is the Higher Education Act’s gainful employment regulations, which focus on accountability metrics for federal financial aid program eligibility (see our network letter to the Department of Education).

NSC Resources

The Non-Degree Credential Quality Imperative: State leaders are eagerly prioritizing credentials as a strategy for upskilling and reskilling individuals to meet increasing job demands. However, all credentials are not created equal, and many do not lead to good jobs and family-sustaining wages. NSC’s latest report charges policymakers to invest in high-quality non-degree credentials. We share insights on the work we’ve done with states to define, measure, and track quality, and offer takeaways for how to advance quality assurance so leaders can be certain their programs are effectively preparing people for meaningful careers.

Reflections on NSC’s Racial Equity Learning Group: In 2021, NSC began convening a cohort of SkillSPAN and BLU leaders from six states (CA, IN, MA, NY, NC, OH) with the goal of learning how to apply a racial equity lens to skills training policy and advocacy. Members participated in virtual and in-person peer learning sessions and were provided individualized coaching to help advance their efforts. Our blog highlights the cohort’s accomplishments, including:

  • North Carolina SkillSPAN coordinated with the state’s Division of Digital Equity and Literacy to incorporate metrics related to race and income in evaluations of current digital equity grants.

  • Massachusetts SkillSPAN formed a racial equity subcommittee, which adopted NSC’s definition of racial equity and to apply the lens developed in this learning group to their budget advocacy.

  • Ohio SkillSPAN worked with BLU partners to collect disaggregated data on the benefits cliff and leveraged the findings to develop a report advocating for quality jobs.

Workforce News and Insights

Community Partners are Vital to the CHIPS Act’s Childcare Requirements (The Century Foundation): Semiconductor manufacturers seeking $150 million or more in CHIPS subsidies must include plans to provide childcare to workers. This piece shares how this rule is an opportunity for partnerships between manufacturers and CBOs, and the role states and localities have in making it happen.

As a reminder, NSC network members can add themselves to the Department of Commerce’s CHIPS teaming partner list, which helps funding applicants connect with other stakeholders in their communities who are ineligible to apply on their own but can support strong project outcomes

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