The Solar Foundation, an independent nonprofit with a mission to increase understating of solar energy, recently published its annual National Solar Jobs Census 2014 report.  The report found the U.S. solar industry created jobs at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the average employment growth for a second consecutive year.

Jennifer Burnett, Program Manager for Fiscal and Economic Development Policy, outlines the top five issues in fiscal and economic development policy for 2015,  including job creations strategies, state innovations in health care spending, public pension solvency, and federal funding uncertainty. 

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in workforce development policy for 2015, including job driven-training, reducing the skills gap through the use of career pathways, alignment of education and workforce development systems, services for the hard-to-employ, and veterans' employment.

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Through a mix of legislation and actions taken by governors, new initiatives are being launched in states across the Midwest to remove workforce barriers and to help get more disabled individuals into the workforce.

Registered apprenticeship programs combine structured learning with on-the-job training and upon completion, participants receive an industry issued, nationally recognized credential that certifies occupational proficiency. Program duration ranges from one to six years with a majority lasting four years.

The U.S. Department of Labor is now accepting applications from public and private partnerships to receive one of approximately 25 grants to expand registered apprenticeship programs in high-skilled, high-growth industries like healthcare, biotechnology, information technology and advanced manufacturing. The grants will be worth $2.5 million to $5 million each with a total of $100 million awarded.

This act extends certain basic labor rights and protections to domestic workers. Specifically, this measure prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against an individual employed as a domestic in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that individual's race, sex including gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, or marital status; applies the wage and hour laws to domestic workers except for individuals employed in domestic services on a casual basis and individuals providing companionship services for the aged or infirm; and adds definitions of “casual basis”, “companionship services for the aged or infirm”, and “domestic service” to the state’s wage and hour laws.

What if a middle-skills job—one that requires more education than a high school diploma but less than a four-year degree—could be a ticket to the middle class? It’s possible, experts say, but not enough state policymakers are taking the steps to help ensure the middle can grow. It’s going to take good data, innovative programs and the will to work together, experts say, but growing the middle class can be done.

In his 2014 State of the Union address, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage, from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. Although Congress did not pass minimum wage legislation in 2014, a number of states have taken action and others likely will address this issue in 2015. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that from 2013 to 2017, about 7 million workers will benefit from minimum wage increases enacted by state and local governments.1

Today the EPA released its proposed update to the air quality standards for ground-level ozone.  The proposal lowers the ground-level ozone standard from 75 parts per billion, where it’s been since 2008, to a range of 65 to 70 parts per billion.   EPA estimates most areas will be in compliance with the standard by 2025. 

A revised ozone standard of 70 to 60 parts per billion was recommended by the Clean Air Science Advisory Committee, a scientific panel that advises EPA in setting the national ambient air quality standards...

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