National Skills Coalition works across the aisle to connect employers and jobseekers through apprenticeship

Organization summary:

National Skills Coalition is a broad-based coalition working toward a vision of an America that grows its economy by investing in its people so that every worker and every industry has the skills to compete and prosper. We engage in organizing, advocacy, and communications to advance state and federal policies that support these goals—policies that are based on the on-the-ground expertise of our members. More than 3,200 members, representing more than 1,400 organizations in over 43 states, comprise the broad-based membership of National Skills Coalition.

Overview of NSC's apprenticeship efforts:

53 percent of U.S. jobs are middle skill—requiring some postsecondary education and training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree—yet only 43 percent of U.S. workers are trained at this level. This disconnect limits economic growth as businesses across a range of industries cannot find the skilled workforce they need to take advantage of emerging opportunities. Millions of low-wage workers who could fill these better-paying positions with the right training also miss out.

Apprenticeship programs can meet the needs of both business and workers, and bridge this divide. Businesses gain a productive employee and can align training with the needs of the occupation and industry. Workers obtain skills and credentials while also earning a wage—meaning they aren’t forced to choose between pursuing an education and feeding their families.

Despite these benefits, the U.S. ranks far behind other developed countries in how we use apprenticeship. State and federal policies have not done enough to help businesses who have open positions to expand apprenticeship offerings at their companies, or to support access and success for a diverse set of workers—particularly those with low skill levels and barriers to employment.

In collaboration with our partners on NSC’s National Advisory Panels and through the work of participants in NSC’s Work-Based Learning Academy, we have developed policy proposals that focus on expanding apprenticeship to all businesses and to a diverse pipeline of workers, including out-of-school youth and adults with barriers to employment.

These policy solutions, captured in NSC’s federal Skills for Good Jobs Agenda and in our Work-Based Learning Policy Toolkit, have centered on five main objectives:

  1. Create a national network of local industry or sector partnerships to assist companies—including small- and medium-sized employers within the same regional industry—develop shared plans for hiring and training new workers through apprenticeship, consistent with the bipartisan PARTNERS Act and industry partnerships in Georgia.

  2. Re-tool federal and state tax credits to businesses and provide additional subsidies to targeted employers to better leverage private investment in apprenticeship training, as well as to assist smaller companies and non-profit employers in orientating new apprentices both through an updated Work Opportunity Tax Credit and building on tax credits offered in South Carolina.

  3. Update the concept of pre-apprenticeship and support services through an employment-friendly “work-based learning support fund” to prepare a broad pipeline of workers for apprenticeship opportunities. This means providing apprentices and their employers additional assistance to help them stay on the job and complete their training, consistent with the bipartisan BUILDS Act; in Mississippi, for example, some pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship participants can now receive childcare funding.

  4. Assist both in-school and out-of-school youth with connections to the workforce to make it possible for young people to become apprentices whether they’re in high school, graduated, or dropped out. We've supported this objective both through improvements to the newly reauthorized Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and through alignment with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, drawing on similar innovation happening in Illinois.

  5. Extend Pell grants and tuition assistance to working apprentices whose coursework currently does not qualify for federal college aid to make it easier for people who are working full-time tot afford coursework at community colleges that will help them complete their training without undue financial burden, consistent with the bipartisan JOBS Act and support available in states like Iowa.

Trends in apprenticeship:

Since 2015, the federal government has invested $665 million in apprenticeship, significantly growing the nation’s Registered Apprenticeship system, including $490 million in bipartisan Congressional appropriations across 2016-2019. Most of this funding has gone to states to implement innovative apprenticeship expansion efforts, and several states have built on this investment through new tax credits or further investment. In June 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeships in the U.S., which directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to implement a new Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program, still being implemented by DOL based on recommendations from a task force comprised of governors, labor leaders, industry association representatives, and business owners.

As policy makers from both sides of the aisle at both the state and federal levels continue to focus on expanding apprenticeship to new industries, businesses, and workers, NSC will continue to work with our partners across the country, and with our national partners in the Apprenticeship Forward Collaborative, to advocate for policies that support the expansion of programs that close the skills gap and meet business demand and worker need.