Last month, Towards Employment was represented at the National Skills Coalition (NSC) annual Skills Summit, a conference that engages stakeholders from across the country in a national agenda to help build up our country’s workforce and the policy changes to make that possible. The National Skills Coalition brings together a broad-based coalition that believes in order to grow our economy we must invest in people – so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper. NSC engages in organizing, advocacy, and communications to advance state and federal policies that support these goals – policies based on on-the-ground expertise of members. Towards Employment is a member.
This year’s conference included deep-dives into key policy issues, including Welfare to Careers, Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning, Postsecondary Access & Accountability, Career Pathways, Postsecondary Partnerships, and achieving a Skills for Good Jobs Budget. Towards Employment was joined by others across the state of Ohio who represent a wide variety of roles in the workforce sector including human services and industry associations. As a State team, we met with 7 different Congressional offices about our work in Ohio and about the NSC 2018 Skills Agenda.
The Skills Agenda outlines 8 different areas where our federal government can take action to build up America’s workforce.
- Earn and learn strategies like apprenticeships
- Regional industry workforce partnerships that involve local employers
- Improving financial aid access
- Expanding eligible uses for Pell grants
- Attaching training as a tool to upskill adults on public assistance
- Integrating immigrants into our workforce
- Focusing investments on training for infrastructure jobs
- Creating a career pathways fund to support adults pursuing post-secondary education
Achieving the goals of this agenda would create more opportunities for Towards Employment participants and graduates. In particular, the creation of a careers pathway fund (number 8), would build on models like WorkAdvance to support the comprehensive menu of services needed to help someone succeed in a short term credential program and start and advance in a career (case management, career coaching and supportive services).
One aim of the Summit was to share the importance of investing in skills with Congressional Offices. This was accomplished by having representatives from over 30 states attend in-person meetings while building a social media presence. We know we made progress since the 2017 Summit because two bills have been introduced that align with NSC Skills Agenda recommendations.
- The first was introduced in the House called the BUILDS Act to support industry partnerships in transportation, construction, energy and other infrastructure industries. This is bi-partisan legislation co-sponsored by Ohio’s own Representative Tim Ryan.
- The second, introduced on the Senate side, is called the Gateway to Careers Act to help non-traditional students’ access career pathways by creating incentives for partnerships between community colleges and workforce organizations.
Although the 2018 Skill Summit is over, there is still more work to do. At Towards Employment, we will encourage our local delegation to support the Gateway to Careers Act, which reflects the career pathways fund recommendations and reflects lessons learned from NEO implementation of WorkAdvance. . As a part of the Ohio delegation to the NSC 2018 Summit, we are looking forward to continuing to engage with Congressional Offices in Ohio to promote this agenda, and other policies that support job seekers, students, and employers.