Top 5 Issues for 2015: Workforce Development

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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Job-Driven Training
Job training and education programs play a critical role in closing the gap between the skills businesses need in today’s workforce and the skills current job seekers bring to the table. Not only do job seekers build on existing competencies through job-driven training programs, but they also learn new skills and bring home a paycheck. Policymakers are looking at ways to ensure all stakeholders include best practice elements of job-driven training, including working with employers to determine hiring needs, offering on-the-job training, internships and apprenticeships, utilizing data to drive accountability, promoting seamless transitions between educational entities and creating regional partnerships among American Job Centers, education institutions, labor and nonprofit organizations.

Reduce the Skills Gap with Career Pathways
One strategy to reduce the gap between the skills employers want and the skills potential employees have is to implement a system of career pathways to support and enhance workers’ transitions from an educational institution into the workforce. These pathways include cross-agency partnerships built around alignment of K-12 and postsecondary education, workforce development programs, employers and community services. Components include education curricula and instructional strategies that provide real world application, awarding academic credit for knowledge and past experiences, offering multiple entry and exit points so workers can advance in a particular field, and offering industry-recognized credentials and high quality certificates. Policymakers also will be exploring ways to engage business and education to determine skill requirements for jobs, the potential for stackable credentials so job seekers can obtain a degree in line with labor demands, and ways to provide community-based counseling and support services so workers create individual career plans and have support to pursue them.

Alignment of K-12, Postsecondary Education and Workforce Development Systems
To create a well-educated, skilled workforce, all stakeholder groups must work collaboratively. The first step to developing an aligned system is to have all constituents unite to create shared goals and outcomes followed by an analysis of existing policies, programs and resources. Some policies and programs may need revision to ensure they are working toward the same purpose. Because data and information are critical to the implementation of education and training programs, states can examine their longitudinal data systems to ensure they track students from entry into education through postsecondary education and into the workforce. Policymakers also may want to encourage business leaders to become more involved in education outcomes for all students to ensure college- and-career-readiness.

Community Services for Hard-to-Employ
Adults facing a broad range of potential barriers to employment have been identified as “hard-to-employ” and need community support to help them overcome obstacles to sustainable employment. Many face challenges such as a criminal background, lack of a high school diploma, illiteracy, poor technology skills, poor English or mental and physical health conditions. For many, the cost to enter postsecondary education is prohibitive or they may have family responsibilities that stop them from obtaining training and a credential. Policymakers can work to develop community-based services so these people can successfully complete training, get hired and stay in jobs. States need to develop specialized screenings, assessments and interventions to identify the hard-to-employ and assist in the transition to work. Communities can then work to provide alcohol, drug and mental health treatment, services for the disabled, adult education programs and a network of wraparound services to meet needs.

Employment of Veterans
Some veterans experience difficulties with the transition to civilian life. Veterans and separating service members may need support to learn about employment resources and expertise or to protect their employment rights. Policies such as awarding credit for training and experience, career exploration and job skills for unemployed veterans and training veterans to fill high-demand jobs will be priorities for some states in 2015. Business leaders should be involved to assist with on-the-job training, apprenticeships and work-study programs to build on veterans’ unique skills sets. Higher education also needs to develop an institutional understanding of the mental, physical and behavioral health needs of veterans, as well as to address barriers to success as veterans return to obtain credentials, certificates or a degree leading to employment.

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