Opportunity Nation Working Group Highlights: Workforce Development

by Juanita Tolliver   •  


Just before the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their October Jobs Report, we convened our Workforce Development working group for a discussion about our collective effort to attain our goal of reducing the unemployment rate for all, lessons from the field and the challenges our Coalition members and network partners experience while conducting their work. Note that we emphasize “all” in our shared goal because while the national unemployment rate is currently below 5 percent, it’s disproportionately high for people of color, particularly for African Americans and Latinx.

We kicked off our recent conversation with a state of play about workforce development with updates on the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) at the state level from Bryan Wilson, Director of the Workforce Data Quality Campaign at the National Skills Coalition. Thanks to Erica Cuevas, Policy Manager at Jobs for the Future, we also heard updates about how organizations are advocating for the use of work-based learning experiences to prepare young people for today’s workforce. Here are a few highlights:

Since the new WIOA regulations went into effect, states have made extensive progress in establishing sector partnerships and statewide Integrated Education and Training (IET) programs to build career pathways, though there has been little progress at the state-level related to combined planning or WIOA’s newly implemented regulations that focus on re-engaging and investing in out-of-school youth. During the past three years, 32 states and DC, up from 21 states in 2014, have established sector partnerships — collaborations between industry leaders, academic institutions and community based organizations to develop talent pipelines.

The states that have made the most progress in establishing sector partnerships include Rhode Island, Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition, Colorado, North Carolina, California, Oregon, Wisconsin and Minnesota lead the pack when it comes to establishing statewide IET programs to build career pathways.

During our discussion, we also explored lessons from the field, and heard from Noah Halton, Director of Learning and Evaluation at Juma Ventures, an organization that’s leveraging social enterprises in their youth employment model, as well as from David Douglas, Co-Founder of Yolobe, a start-up that is connecting youth to job opportunities through technology.

Juma Ventures was ahead of the curve as it shifted its focus towards engaging opportunity youth a few years ago, but some of the challenges they’ve experienced in executing their work include aligning the training and coaching included in their new model to match the needs of the youth with whom they engage. Additionally, Yolobe highlighted the value of leveraging social capital and social media applications to connect with young people, while also noting the obstacles associated with comprehensive data collection at this stage of their work.

This fruitful discussion was an effective platform for information sharing and outlining coordinated action, and ere are a few ways that you can join our Coalition and network partners in action:

  • Attend our Youth Employment Convening in DC! Opportunity Nation is thrilled to partner with AT&T, Citi and the Joyce Foundation to host a convening on Youth Employment & the Value of a First Job — featuring an innovation lab! — on Wednesday, Oct 25, at 1:00 p.m. Click here to RSVP.
  • Review the Work-Based Learning Policy Toolkit – This toolkit provides resources to state advocates on policies for work-based learning that combines instruction at a worksite with classroom learning and focuses on out-of-school youth and disadvantaged adults. Contact Bryan Wilson, Director of the Workforce Data Quality Campaign at the National Skills Coalition with questions.
  • Discuss how states and organizations can more effectively engage out-of-school youth under the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requirements. Contact me for more information.
  • Learn about the Pathways to Prosperity Network, a network of high schools, community colleges and employers, all dedicated to re-envisioning how our education system partners with employers to prepare youth for success. For more information, contact Erica Cuevas, Policy Manager at Jobs for the Future.
  • Participate in our “matchmaking” efforts as we connect organizations with local businesses, academic institutions, and other institutions to help advance your work. Contact me for more information.
Juanita Tolliver Juanita leads the strategic expansion, engagement and mobilization of Opportunity Nation’s Coalition in a collective advocacy effort driving policy change and impact at the local, state and federal levels as Opportunity Nation’s Coalition & Advocacy Manager. Her full bio can be found here.

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