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January Newsletter | Empowering Change: NSC's 2024 Skills Summit in Washington, D.C.

Save the Date: NSC's Skills Summit

NSC’s 2024 Skills Summit will take place May 13-15 in Washington, D.C.! Each year, hundreds of skills advocates from across the country come together to learn about critical federal skills policies and influence the direction of these policies through meetings with their state legislators on Capitol Hill and members of the Biden administration.

Early-bird registration for the Skills Summit is now open. Applications for stipends are also open and can be shared 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 February 25.

SkillSPAN Spotlight

As SkillSPAN leads and partners know, advocacy is not a linear process and often requires intentional relationship-building and knowledge-sharing in order to act on moments of opportunity. Last fall, the Michigan SkillSPAN coalition demonstrated their leadership in advocacy by working with NSC, Business Leaders United, and other NSC partners – including the Michigan Community College Association and the Michigan Manufacturers Association – to quickly gather signatures for comments directing the state to use federal investments towards digital skills training.

This collective action was prompted by the release of Michigan’s initial proposal on BEAD investments (Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment funds allocated to states through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law). In the proposal, the state set the expansion of broadband networks as their top priority for the $1.56 billion it expects to receive from the BEAD program. The plan also prioritized connecting unserved and underserved communities. NSC, in partnership with Michigan SkillSPAN, urged the state to make good on this commitment by investing in the efforts of community anchor institutions working to expand home broadband adoption and provide digital skills training.

Through its established relationships with key partners in the state, the Michigan SkillSPAN coalition successfully coordinated the collection of signatures to help NSC submit comments demonstrating the importance of allocating funds to both developing high speed internet networks for underserved populations and equipping residents with critical digital skills necessary to adapt and advance in their careers. NSC is available to work with SkillSPAN partners in other states to replicate this model to advance the policy planks in our Digital Equity @ Work campaign.

Workforce News and Insights

New York City’s Pre-Apprenticeship Programs Are a Lifeline for Underrepresented Workers (Capital and Main): Over the last decade, a patchwork of pre-apprenticeship programs for underrepresented women and workers of color have quietly transformed New York City’s infrastructure workforce. With the city poised to receive billions from the bipartisan infrastructure law, advocates see an unprecedented opportunity to build on efforts to expand an inclusive construction industry. This article explores how investments in NYC’s pre-apprenticeship programs will help transform and diversify the infrastructure sector.

New York City’s pre-apprenticeship priority aligns with NSC’s People Powered Infrastructure campaign, which includes a policy plank to expand access to skills training programs that provide women and people of color a meaningful pathway into high-quality trades jobs. More information on the ways states can leverage federal funds and state policies to support equitable pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs is available in NSC’s infrastructure playbook.

NSC Resources

Policy Action Lab brings state advocates together on financial assistance and supports: In November, NSC held its inaugural State Policy Action Lab, bringing together a host of community college, human service, workforce, nonprofit, and philanthropic organizations dedicated to finding solutions to cover the costs of college, support students holistically, and increase the completion of credentials that lead to quality careers. Attendees engaged in in-depth peer learning that deepened understanding of policy levers, funding streams, advocacy strategies, and implications for implementation. This was the first engagement in NSC’s new policy initiative, Expanding College & Career Possibilities (ECCP), which serves to provide a dynamic peer learning and policy action community for skills advocates in 20 states to engage with one another and access tailored technical assistance, research, and promotion. The priorities, opportunities, and goals of ECCP align with the policy planks under NSC’s Making College Work campaign.

BEAD Funding Comment Template: Advocates working to influence their state’s implementation of federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funds can use NSC’s new template to communicate how these investments can be used to support broadband workforce development and digital skills. The language included in this resource can be used to submit comments on state BEAD plans or initial proposals, as well as in informal communications with state broadband offices.

This is the second digital equity template NSC has developed for partners, following our Comment Template for State Digital Equity Plans. SkillSPAN leads and partners can use language from this template to adapt their own comments to state broadband offices or similar agencies to influence their State Digital Equity plans. The recommendations and insights in this resource can be shared informally even if the deadline for your state’s 3 comment period has closed; this spreadsheet outlines states’ comment processes in Column E. NSC is available to speak further with partners about these comments and other opportunities to advance the priorities in our Digital Equity @ Work campaign.

Federal Update

House WIOA Reauthorization Bill Introduced: In December, the House Committee on Education and Workforce introduced A Stronger Workforce for America Act (ASWA), a bipartisan reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). ASWA would modernize how workers access funding for training, expand the integration of digital skills, codify programs for partnerships between community colleges and industry, and offer new pathways for businesses to engage with the workforce system. The introduction of the bill illustrates the impact of advocacy efforts led by NSC’s network as policymakers are prioritizing policies to support the workforce and adult education systems. However, NSC’s analysis of the bill finds it doesn’t go far enough on authorizing funding levels necessary to enact these provisions and also misses the mark on the role industry partnerships play in scaling meaningful business engagement with the workforce system. Partners can reference NSC’s side-by-side chart for more information on the key differences between WIOA and ASWA.

Prior to the Committee’s release of ASWA, NSC and our partners at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, UnidosUS, and National League of Cities published shared priorities of WIOA reauthorization, including investments in industry-sector partnerships, digital skills grants, and data collection and analysis. While the bipartisan nature of this bill is a critical milestone on the path to reauthorization, NSC's government affairs team continues to advocate with policymakers to build on the proposed language and ensure future workforce legislation goes further both in policy and in funding levels to support the needs of workers and businesses. SkillSPAN partners can take action by contacting your member of Congress about the changes that workforce advocates want to see in WIOA reauthorization. We will continue to build on this advocacy in-person at NSC’s Skills Summit in May!

Workforce News and Insights

Infrastructure Resource Library (EARN Network): A new annotated guide offers resources, policy toolkits (including NSC’s state policy playbook), and research for state and local advocates working to leverage the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS and Science Act to advance job quality, equity, and worker power. Notable sections of interest to SkillSPAN partners include apprenticeship, equitable workforce development and Justice40, local hire, and project labor agreements. These topics also align with the policy planks under NSC’s People-Powered Infrastructure campaign

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