Addressing the Skills Gap and Building Our Future Workforce

We fully support LB 1079 and believe it will both build opportunity and effectively leverage resources for positive impact.

Improving the education and skills of our current workers is essential to our future workforce competitiveness. Nebraska faces a skills gap in the future and working families are a part of the solution.

[DDET LB 1079 Testimony] My name is Kate Bolz and I am an Associate Director of the Low Income Economic Opportunity Program at the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest law firm and advocacy organization focused on building full opportunity and equal justice for all Nebraskans. We fully support LB 1079 and believe it will both build opportunity and effectively leverage resources for positive impact.

Improving the education and skills of our current workers is essential to our future workforce competitiveness. Nebraska faces a skills gap in the future and working families are a part of the solution. 35% of our population does not hold a credential beyond a High School Diploma. The Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce projects that our state’s need for workers with an Associates Degree or higher will double by 2018. These demands will not be filled by High School graduates alone.

We must engage our current workforce and accelerate their degree completion in order to compete in a global economy.

Bridge Programs are training programs that lead adults into high-demand jobs. Bridge programs provide accelerated classes, hands-on training, and supportive services to move adults in need of adult education, English language learning, and/or developmental education into post-secondary coursework. Bridges are partnerships between human service agencies, adult education programs, and post-secondary institutions. They include three key pieces: contexualized courses (or courses that teach both basic skills and specific job skills), supportive services (like career coaching), and a curriculum defined in terms of skills needed to succeed in a high-demand industry.

A variety of states, ranging from Arkansas to Wisconsin, to Oregon and more have seen significant success with Bridge Programs. A nationwide survey of such programs found numerous positive outcomes, including attainment of credentials, increased likelihood to continue on in higher education, and increased earning potential.

I want to spend a few moments addressing some of the important details about the positive collaborative nature of Bridge Programs.

Collaborations in Bridge Programs is essential. This collaboration is clearly outlined in LB 1079. The partnerships are vital in two major ways: 1. partnerships among adult education providers, nonprofits, and community colleges contribute to educational success 2. collaboration allows for leveraging existing funding streams for improved results.

First, Nebraska’s educational leaders have a renewed focus on educational success and completion. Working learners with families have unique needs. The partnerships created by LB 1079 serve those needs and contribute to successful outcomes rather than unfinished degrees – especially for non-traditional students.

Second, LB 1079 provides preferences to programs that leverage local, philanthropic, and/or governmental funds. This approach of “braiding” funding streams helps to build positive outcomes with a variety of investments, in other words, we multiply our impact. For example, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) Employment and Training Program offers a one to one federal match for qualifying education and training services to public benefits recipients. The initial state investment will allow us to draw down additional federal dollars and create sustainable programs.

We respectfully urge you to advance LB 1079.[/DDET]

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