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February Newsletter | NSC Skills Summit: Shaping Our Economic Future | May 13-15, Washington DC

Registration Open for NSC's Skills Summit

NSC’s Skills Summit will take place May 13-15 in Washington, DC, bringing together thought leaders, innovators in the field, inside-the-beltway experts, and decision makers. Attendees will glean insights on issues paramount to shaping our economy, like racial equity, job quality, the impact of AI, and other emerging factors. The actionable policy information explored during the event will be applied to visits with policymakers on Capitol Hill and in the White House, where attendees can also share their own expertise and insights from the ground

Early-bird registration for the Skills Summit is now open, along with applications for stipends to share this opportunity with staff from community-based and other high impact organizations that serve communities of color and/or workers seeking economic mobility. Please share the event information and stipend opportunity with your networks! Note that stipend applications are due by Sunday, February 25

SkillSPAN Spotlight

As part of the Digital Texas Coalition, the Texas Works Coalition (TWC) joined partners from across the state in securing $1.5 billion for the Texas Broadband Infrastructure Fund. TWC advocated for the passage of HB9, which created the Fund and established the state’s commitment to provide matching funds to federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) investments. The Digital Texas Coalition then led a public education campaign to ensure voters approved of the proposition. Resources to support this work include a media toolkit and a webinar, “Broadband on the Ballot: Taking Action on Prop 8 ”. Voters’ approval of the Fund reinforces the public’s interests in digital equity and broadband expansion. While workforce development is not explicitly named as a required use of the fund, the law encourages the state broadband office to apply stakeholder input in its allocations.

The opportunity to provide stakeholder input is a strong one for TWC as its members have actively engaged with state leaders over the last three years on the need for skill building commitments as part of the state’s efforts to expand connectivity. This includes advocacy that previously secured state investments of $3.75 million to strengthen digital skill building. TWC’s efforts demonstrate that there are several paths to embedding skills training into states’ broadband and connectivity conversations.

NSC Resources

Presentation on WIOA: NSC’s Erin Sheehan recently presented on Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reauthorization to the Northeast Ohio Workforce Coalition, the first regional affiliate of the Ohio Workforce made up of workforce stakeholders from the Cleveland area. The goal of the presentation was to provide coalition members with an update on the WIOA reauthorization process, NSC’s analysis of the House bill including strengths and shortcomings, and opportunities for advocacy at the federal level. SkillSPAN leads who are interested in similar presentations to their members are encouraged to reach out to the NSC team

Case Study: Machinists Institute: Based in Washington state, the Machinists Institute provides education and training for pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships, and certifications for individuals pursuing a career in several industries, including manufacturing. To date, every graduate of the Institute has been a person of color, with roughly a quarter of graduates being women. This is in part because the Institute works alongside community-based organizations who refer participants to the program from immigrant, refugee, and Latino communities. The Institute also focuses on student success and is committed to removing barriers to participation. This is best reflected through the Institute’s success in sourcing funds from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries and the Washington State Department of Commerce to support the development of an on-site childcare center that will be geared towards providing childcare during non-traditional hours to better suit the needs of participants. This case study is one of four shared in NSC’s People-Powered Infrastructure state policy playbook. SkillSPAN members are encouraged to explore the policy recommendations and examples laid out in the resource to identify strategies that all states can advance to cultivate a strong, diverse, and multigenerational infrastructure workforce

Federal Update

Short-Term Pell: At the end of 2023, the House Workforce and Education committee advanced the Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act – legislation that aims to expand Pell Grants to short-term, high-quality programs. This is a major step forward for enacting legislation to expand Pell Grant eligibility for students enrolled in short-term education and training programs. Often these students face challenges in accessing financial assistance to pursue their education. Notably, the legislation includes for-profit institutions in the list of eligible providers and codifies the gainful employment high school earnings metric: an earnings threshold for each state based on median high school earnings (which is estimated to be approximately $25,000 nationally). Programs may lose eligibility to federal financial aid if graduates typically do not exceed the wage threshold. NSC’s Government Affairs team will continue to monitor the bill and notify partners of advocacy opportunities.

NSC Capitol Hill Briefing: In partnership with the National Institute of Civil Discourse, NSC hosted a briefing for Congressional staff and education stakeholders on February 15 regarding the workforce imperative driving conversations related to short-term Pell. The briefing plays an important role in continued federal advocacy around expanding the Pell Grant and featured new informed public opinion polling around the issue including which quality measures the public is in support of.

Workforce News and Insights

Four Strategies the Good Jobs Challenge Can Implement to Increase Black Employment (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies): In 2022, the Economic Development Administration located within the Department of Commerce awarded $500 million in grants to 32 industry-led workforce training partnerships across the country, with the goal of placing 50,000 Americans into high-quality jobs in emerging sectors. Grantees include Iowa SkillSPAN lead coalition, the United Way of Central Iowa. This piece lays out the strategies grantees can leverage to expand access and opportunity for people of color into meaningful career pathways. These recommendations are relevant for all workforce development efforts and include implementing robust data collection that allows for reporting of disaggregated participate-level outcomes data, analyzing job placement data alongside labor market data to monitor and prevent occupational 4 segregation, and collaborating with public assistance agencies to expand access to economic mobility for those leveraging SNAP, TANF, and other services.

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