The National Skills Coalition (NSC) recently released a new report, Upskilling the New American Workforce : Demand-Driven Programs that Foster Immigrant Worker Success & Policies that Can Take Them to Scale, showcasing seven program models from New York, Minnesota, Oregon, and California. The examples provided illustrate a variety of effective approaches to serving immigrant jobseekers and adult English language learners. As such, the report serves as a practical resource for policymakers and others seeking to scale up innovative models.
Immigrants represent about 17 percent of the U.S. workforce. Some 54 percent of U.S. jobs are “middle-skill jobs” – “those that require more than a high school diploma, but not a four-year degree” – while only 44 percent of workers overall and even fewer immigrant workers are trained to that level. About 10 percent of the working-age population has limited English proficiency. Given this backdrop, the report meets an immediate need for information about model programs that help workers fill the workplace talent requirements.
Each of the programs showcased assists immigrants in acquiring the foundational and technical skills needed for middle-skill employment that provides family-sustaining wages. Examples vary from newly launched initiatives to decades-long established models, and come from nonprofit community-based organizations, worker centers, community colleges, and other education and workforce providers with deep experience in serving immigrant communities.
These include the following:
An electronics assembly training program that prepares immigrants and refugees to work in the aeronautics industry;
A green janitorial and energy management program that combines vocational English for Speakers of Other Languages (VESL) with job skills to equip immigrant janitors to work in LEED-certified buildings; and
A VESL program targeted at immigrant day laborers.
Those interested in launching similar programs in their own communities will find useful lessons in the report, including about the following:
The importance of demand-driven, evidence-based training programs that use tested models to prepare individuals for jobs that local employers need;
The availability of financial and other resources via key federal policies and programs, such as SNAP Employment and Training (see a related story in this newsletter edition), the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and Community Development Block Grants to support education and training programs; and
The opportunity to capitalize on visionary state policies, such as Minnesota’s FastTRAC program and California’s Adult Education Block Grant program, to serve immigrant workers.
To learn more about these new models, interested parties are encouraged to read the full report . To keep up with the latest news from the NSC, readers may wish to access the coalition’s blog .
SACRAMENTO—California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced the launch of both a new statewide #GoOpen initiative and Collaboration in Common, an online professional learning community and resource exchange platform for all California educators.
In joining the #GoOpen initiative, California becomes the sixteenth state recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its commitment to support school districts and educators transitioning to the use of high-quality, openly licensed educational resources.
California was recognized for its commitment to a statewide technology strategy that includes the use of openly licensed resources as a central component, developing and maintaining a statewide repository, and participating in a community of practice with other #GoOpen states and districts to share learning and professional development resources. More information on #GoOpen can be found at the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology Web site .
Accelerating Opportunity, begun in 2011, was designed as an integrated approach to encourage states to enroll students in credit-bearing career and technical education courses at local community colleges, while simultaneously helping them improve their basic education skills. According to the report, the “AO model focused on students who scored between the 6th- and 12th-grade level in basic skill areas but who expressed interest in earning technical credentials. In particular, AO was designed for adult education students who lacked high school diplomas or the equivalent.”
This final implementation report presents findings over the first three years of the initiative—in Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana—and provides an in-depth description of the process and lessons that emerged. The report identifies several specific elements for successful implementation, including the following:
Receiving state leadership and support;
Removing policy barriers;
Considering college institutional factors;
Utilizing partnerships both from within and outside the colleges; and
Providing both academic and social student supports.
The report findings may be of particular interest to state policymakers, colleges, and others planning for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) — which provides new opportunities for integrated career pathway development within states and colleges. For more information, interested parties are encouraged to read the full report.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants’ need for the education and training required to become economically self-sufficient is growing increasingly urgent. The vast majority of jobs in the future will require at least some education beyond high school, yet many SNAP participants have not reached this level of educational attainment. Without the skills to meet rapidly changing labor market demand, the chances of these SNAP participants for getting a good job and reducing their need for SNAP are extremely low. In fact, longer-term participants (those receiving benefits for 37 out of the past 48 months) are more likely to have less than a high school diploma as compared to their higher-educated peers.
The SNAP Employment & Training (SNAP E&T) program, a skills and job training program for SNAP participants administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), is a key resource States and their partners can utilize to help SNAP participants meet this urgent need for skills and better jobs. SNAP E&T has historically been under-utilized, but a renewed focus on the program amid greater urgency for job training for SNAP participants has created new momentum for States seeking to build bigger, better, and stronger E&T programs.
Funding is provided for SNAP E&T through a mix of federal grants. States receive annual formula grants to implement and operate the program; however, states, institutions, and other organizations may also receive a 50-percent federal reimbursement of non-federal investments in education and training expenses for SNAP participants. These training programs must be included in a state’s annual SNAP E&T plan that is submitted to FNS.
The policy brief also outlines the immediate opportunity of the SNAP E&T program and shares some tips and best practices to get you started. This brief is the first in a series on best practices in SNAP E&T, developed under the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service’s technical assistance project, SNAP to Skills. Subsequent briefs and other resources about the program will be posted on the SNAP to Skills website. Find out more about your state’s SNAP E&T program . To receive monthly SNAP E&T updates, sign up for the SNAP E&T Review .
Student access to robust digital tools is key to their success as 21st century citizens. Yet many students from economically disadvantaged families have limited access to these tools both at school and at home.
Students without home access to high quality broadband connectivity are at a disadvantage, unable to realize the full power of digital learning. Only 3 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools said that their students had the digital tools necessary to complete homework assignments, compared to 52 percent of teachers in more affluent schools, a discrepancy sometimes labeled the "homework gap."