Insights assembled to connect young adults to employment

It is estimated that nearly 6.7 million young adults are out of school and out of work, and service providers are working hard to help these young adults secure employment. But little is known about what types of assistance help young adults access employment, what employment characteristics influence whether a job is a good fit for a young adult, and what opportunities service providers find and leverage in their work, both with employers and with young adult job seekers, to improve the odds that a young adult will succeed in work.

Connecting Young Adults to Employment, the latest report from the Workforce Strategies Initiative at the Aspen Institute, sheds some light on these questions. This report captures the insights of a variety of service providers helping young adults access employment and equipping them with the skills and connections needed to succeed in today’s labor market. The report documents the results of a survey in which close to 400 service providers, representing 340 organizations nationwide, described their experiences serving young adults. These providers offered valuable insights on:

  • What is considered a good employment outcome for their young adult clients;
  • Strategies for connecting young adults to good employment opportunities; and
  • Challenges in connecting young adult to good employment opportunities.

Connecting Young Adults to Employment also offers considerations for practitioners and policymakers seeking to assist the large and growing population of disadvantaged young adults pursuing meaningful connections to work in today’s labor market.

New national employer guidebook energizes work-based learning

walguidebookThe National Network of Business and Industry Associations released a guidebook for employers to understand and adopt work-and-learn programs, including modernized internships, apprenticeships and mentorships. Led by Business Roundtable and ACT Foundation, the National Network is a collaboration of 25 business organizations representing 10 economic sectors, and focuses on connecting the worlds of learning and work.

Work-and-Learn in Action: Successful Strategies for Employers highlights 15 real-life models, providing a blueprint to help companies implement similar strategies that improve workforce recruitment, training and advancement. [Read more…]

Getting a Head-start on WIOA: Missouri’s Statewide Launch Meeting for Sector Strategies

Our recent statewide launch event with leaders in the State of Missouri was a great kick-off to our deployment of sector strategies in the state, and an excellent jump-start for the upcoming implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  Article from Maher and Maher

Tucked away on the banks of the Lake of the Ozarks, about 130 professionals from the state’s workforce system and their partners from education, economic development, and workforce worked over two days to plan for advancing sector-based work in the ten economic regions of the state.

“I am always amazed to see folks from different silos come together around a common goal and witness them break down traditional walls in favor of creating new opportunities for the common customers we all have,” said Richard D. Maher, President & CEO of Maher & Maher. “With thinner budgets every year, our work is getting harder and more complex in a globally competitive world. The old ways of working are not going to get it done any longer, and the folks in Missouri clearly understand that. Although the goals of the session were to learn more about sector-strategies and plan to use sector-based approaches to guide the workforce system’s work, ultimately it is all about working collaboratively to help develop talent for high-yield sectors within regional economies – and that is really at the core of WIOA.”

Participants worked together in regional teams over the course of two days. The efforts started with an objective self-assessment around the Six Critical Success Factors that we’ve developed for world-class sector work, and continued with action planning around priorities for the development of sector strategies on a selected target sector. Skilled Maher & Maher facilitators were assigned to each regional team and will continue to work with regional and state leaders to advance each plan moving forward.

“We believe states need to take the lead on sectors as they consider how they are going to integrate around WIOA,” continued Maher. “Sector-based work requires collaborating, working regionally, and focusing on both job seekers and business. If you do sectors right, you’ll do WIOA right. States need to define regional economies and put policy in place, but the work and decisions happen regionally and locally – and that’s what our process is designed to foster and advance.”

Maher & Maher is a specialized change management and talent development consulting firm based in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. The Firm is currently involved in Sector-Strategy initiatives in multiple state and regional areas, as well as the contracted partner to USDOL-ETA for Sector Strategies and WIOA technical assistance. For more information about our services visit us at or call us at 1-888-90-Maher.

Learning While Earning is the New Normal

learningwhileearning-headgraphic-102815About 14 million college students are working, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (Georgetown Center). For the past 25 years, more than 70 percent of college students have been taking time from their studies to earn a paycheck. Learning While Earning: The New Normal examines these students who combine work with ongoing learning.

“Today, almost every college student works, but you can’t work your way through college anymore,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and the report’s lead author. “Even if you work, you have to take out loans and take on debt.”

A student working full-time at the federal minimum wage would earn $15,080 annually, which would not cover tuition and living expenses at most colleges.

Working and learning can result in better education and stronger career prospects for students, especially when they work in jobs related to what they study. However, working too much can reduce completion rates for low-income and first-generation college students.

In addition, the report finds:

  • One-third of working learners are 30 or older. These mature working learners are enrolled primarily to upgrade their credentials and, compared to young people, are more concentrated in career fields like healthcare and business.
  • More people are working full-time while in college. About 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week; 25 percent of all working learners are simultaneously employed full-time and enrolled in college full-time; and 19 percent of all working learners have children.

“We need much stronger connections between learning and work,” said Nicole Smith, chief economist at the Georgetown Center and a co-author of the report. “When students pick a major or field of study, they need to be told up front what kind of career it likely leads to and how much money they are likely to make, especially if they have to pay back student loans.”

The Georgetown Center researchers identified several policy changes that would potentially help more of the nation’s 14 million working learners to succeed, including:

  • Funding postsecondary education based, in part, on performance measured by labor market outcomes;
  • Investing in competency-based education programs that teach skills with labor market value; and
  • Bolstering employer tuition-assistance programs to offset growing debt.

The full report for Learning While Earning: The New Normal is available online at

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is an independent, nonprofit research and policy institute that studies the link between individual goals, education and training curricula, and career pathways. The Georgetown Center is affiliated with the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy. For more information, visit: Follow us on Twitter @GeorgetownCEW and on Facebook.

Milestone MOU launched for WIOA

Missouri met one of the first major milestones for implementing WIOA. Missouri’s core workforce partners executed the official state-level MOU showing the commitment to improve collaboration at the state and local levels. This is important to workforce professionals at the local level as the MOU provides the tools to increase collaboration and braid resources locally, according to Amy Sublett, Director for the Missouri Division of Workforce Development.

skydiving-team-integrationThe official purpose of the MOU is to establish a collaborative framework encouraging cooperation, collaboration, communication, policy and technical guidance and governance to assist the efficient and effective participation in the WIOA implementation in Missouri. The partners will collaborate to identify effective services for efficient, consistent customer service delivery. The MOU includes a disclaimer that partners continue to have statutory responsibilities relating to the administration of their respective programs outside of, and not contained in, WIOA.

In Missouri, the core partners representing these programs formed a steering team at the state level to support  efforts taking place at the local level.  Representatives from the agencies include Vocational Rehabilitation, Rehabilitation Services for the Blind, Workforce Development, Employment Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Adult Education and Literacy. While TANF is not specifically mentioned as a core partner in WIOA, Missouri opted to include TANF in this tier in order to gain ground in integration and to achieve the improvements sought in the recently-enacted Senate Bill 24.

Altogether, the MOU, Missouri’s WIOA Implementation Steering Committee, and four new state-level workgroups, are all designed to provide guidance to the staff of Missouri’s local Workforce Development Boards to move forward on WIOA implementation on the ground level. The workgroups include Administration, Service Design and Delivery, Employer Engagement, and Technology, Data, and Outcomes.

  • Administrative
    • Core partner identification and designation
    • Core Partners Interagency Agreement (Local MOUs)
    • Agreements and MOUs with other Agencies/Institutions
    • Confidentiality Policies
    • Cost Allocation
    • Resource Sharing
    • Cross Training and Technical Assistance
    • Region and Local Area Designations (mapping)
    • Equal Opportunity
    • State/local planning
    • Labor Market Information
    • Integrated policies and guidance
  • Service Design and Delivery
    • Referral and follow-up
    • Common intake and enrollment
    • Assessment and Evaluation
    • Internships, Apprenticeships, Trial Work Experience, OJT
    • Education and Training
    • Programmatic Requirements
    • Transition and Youth
    • Assistive Technology Services
    • Products and Services for all customers (including online tools)
  • Employer Engagement
    • Services to Employers
    • Sector Strategies/Career Pathways
  • Technology, Data, and Outcomes
    • I.T. System for Core Programs
    • Confidentiality
    • Data Sharing
    • Data Fields
    • Data Collection Points
    • Common Measures
    • Closure and Exit
    • Performance Verification

Bids sought for sector strategies

The Workforce Investment Board of Southeast seeks the services from qualified individuals and companies to serve as an expert Sector Strategy and Workforce Development consultant to assist Missouri’s fourteen Workforce Development Regions in developing their local workforce plans and provide effective strategies and technical expertise developing regional sector partnerships and career pathways to spur growth, advance workers, and address employer skill needs. To accomplish these tasks, the successful consultant will collaborate with fourteen Local Workforce Investment Boards and twelve community colleges in Missouri’s ten Economic Development Regions.  The RFP is now available for download.

NCRC boosts workforce rankings for states

siteselectionmagjan2015coverThe ACT National Career Readiness Certificate was recently mentioned in an article in Site Selection magazine, a publication devoted to corporate real estate strategy and economic development. The article outlines the need to address the shortage of technically skilled workers in today’s the labor market through economic development and training. It goes on to introduce a system of ranking states according to their efforts in economic development, a key component of which is the ACT NCRC.

Missouri and Kansas placed third and fourth, respectively, in the magazine’s rankings for the West-North-Central section. Oklahoma ranked second for the South-Central section of the nation. To determine which states are the most competitive in preparing their workforce, Site Selection uses three equally weighted criteria, including the number of National Career Readiness Certificates issued. Rankings for each section of the country are provided in the article.

With a circulation of 45,000 subscribers, the magazine is widely used by development agencies and corporate decision-makers in expansion planning. By including the ACT NCRC so prominently in its state-by-state economic development ranking system, Site Selection has put a spotlight on ACT’s Work Ready Communities initiative, highlighting how the NCRC can help states achieve a trained and competitive workforce.

New ACT Work Ready Communities Badge

JasperCWRCBadge2015ACT Work Ready Communities is proud to debut a new badge that promotes and celebrates each county that achieves and maintains certification as a part of ACT Work Ready Communities. One example (pictured left) for the Maintained Status badge is now online for Jasper County.

The ACT Work Ready Communities website will display the badge for each county that achieves certification. The badge features the county name and year the certification was earned, along with the years the certification is maintained.Through a licensing agreement with ACT, each certified county will also have the opportunity to use the badge on its own literature and website to promote participation in the Work Ready Communities initiative. The badge licensing agreement is expected to be available in late March 2015.

USCC launches talent pipeline initiative

White Paper Introduces Innovative Concept that Leverages Lessons Learned from Supply Chain Management, Applies Them to Education and Workforce Partnerships (Press Release)



WASHINGTON, D.C.—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation today announced a partnership with USA Funds and released a white paper detailing an innovative program focused on a new approach to closing the skills gap in America. The white paper, Managing the Talent Pipeline: A New Approach to Closing the Skills Gap, by U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Education and Workforce Senior Director of Policy Jason A. Tyszko, The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy Research Professor Robert G. Sheets, and Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Joseph B. Fuller, introduces the concept of talent pipeline management as a way to transform the relationship between America’s businesses and education and workforce providers.

“We have people without jobs and jobs without people,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation President John McKernan Jr. “There are nearly five million jobs available across the country at a time when almost 10 million Americans are still out of work. Employers large and small attribute much of this to a workforce that lacks the skills necessary for the jobs of the 21st century. Our alliance with USA Funds will help address this.”

Leveraging lessons learned from supply chain management, the white paper offers a fresh way to think about education and workforce relationships that will ensure job prospects for students and a steady flow of qualified workers for employers. The paper also documents leading practices of employers who have been successful in this practice.

“Previous efforts to address employer concerns about lack of available talent have been led by schools, postsecondary institutions, and worker training programs,” said USA Funds President and CEO William Hansen. “This new approach places employers in the driver’s seat and gives them the tools they need to treat education providers as they do other partners in their supply chain becoming integral in developing curriculum and creating work based experiences that enrich the academic preparation.”

Over the next two years the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and USA Funds will work closely with employers, employer-led associations, and receptive education providers in select communities across the country to help close the skills gap so that American jobs do not go unfilled for lack of qualified workers.

To read and download the white paper, visit the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management webpage here.



The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce dedicated to strengthening America’s long-term competitiveness by addressing developments that affect our nation, our economy, and the global business environment.

USA Funds is a nonprofit corporation that supports Completion With a Purpose, building a more purposeful path for America’s students to and through college and on to rewarding careers and successful lives. USA Funds pursues its nonprofit mission through philanthropic activities and partnerships, policy research, and programs and services that enhance preparation for, access to and success in higher education. Learn more

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Targeting middle skill jobs for competitiveness

The demand for “middle-skills” jobs—those that require more education and training than a high school diploma but less than a four-year college degree—remains high, yet the lack of a properly skilled workforce is hindering the ability of American businesses to compete globally. Similarly, a lack of relevant skills is hurting the average American’s ability to earn more and improve living standards. While business leaders, policymakers and educators recognize the problem, millions of job postings go unfilled even as millions of people remain unemployed or underemployed.

In this feature from the Harvard Business School, America’s business leaders are rallied to lead the charge to close the skills gap. By working in collaboration with educators and policymakers, employers can spark a revival of middle-skills jobs in America.

Cover image for Bridge the GapAccording to the report, Bridge the Gap: Rebuilding America’s Middle Skills, employers say it’s a continuous challenge to fill middle-skills positions even though the number of people seeking employment remains high. The research is the first to analyze America’s middle-skills jobs market data with a focus on competitiveness, and provides a framework for business leaders to prioritize jobs that matter for their business, industry, community and region. To close the skills gap, business should first focus on middle-skills jobs that:

  • Create high value for businesses;
  • Provide not only decent wages initially, but also a pathway to increasing lifetime career value for many workers;
  • Are persistently hard-to-fill.

“For too long we have accepted the cliché that America’s jobs machine is broken. Someone has to take the lead in restarting it, and business leaders are in the best position to take decisive steps to end the misalignment in our economy—millions of job postings alongside millions of unemployed. This is the single most important issue to strengthen U.S. competitiveness—and bring back the American dream for our workers,” said Harvard Business School Senior Lecturer Joe Fuller, lead author of the report. “I am very grateful for the support of Accenture and Burning Glass as research partners. Accenture has worked in skills development across the globe and provides invaluable insights into the needs for skills in U.S. businesses of all sizes and across industries. Burning Glass provides us with unprecedented access to unique data on the U.S. jobs market, helping us identify, for the first time, the middle-skills jobs that matter most for America.”

The report, which is part of Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, reveals the middle-skills jobs critical to competitiveness, guides business leaders about where to direct efforts and informs educators and policymakers about the need for closer collaboration with local employers. For example, the analysis shows that occupations in technical sales and sales management (e.g., financial services sales agent) are plentiful and often more rewarding than those that receive significantly more attention in the national dialogue, such as manufacturing occupations (e.g., machinist and tool-and-die makers). Narrowing initial efforts to these specific jobs provides a starting point to stem skills erosion, lift the middle class, and produce workers with in-demand skills.

“The majority of businesses have trouble filling middle-skills jobs due to many underlying issues such as inadequate training and lack of experience,” said David Smith, senior managing director – Accenture Strategy, Talent & Organization. “Businesses must develop a better process to source, develop, deploy and retain middle-skills talent to ensure their long-term productivity and corporate performance.”

The report’s overarching recommendations include:

  • BUSINESS LEADERS must champion an employer-led skills-development system, in which they bring the type of rigor and discipline in sourcing middle- skills talent that they apply to their supply chains. This includes workforce planning to identify skills gaps, ongoing and preferred relationships with talent sources, especially community and technical colleges, and building robust internal training and internship/apprenticeship programs.
  • EDUCATORS from community and technical colleges must embrace their roles as employment partners helping their students realize their ambitions by being attentive to developments in the jobs market and employer needs.
  • POLICYMAKERS must actively foster collaboration between employers and educators, investing in improving publicly available information on the jobs market, revising metrics for educators and workforce development programs so that success is based on placing students and workers in meaningful employment, and championing the crucial role that middle-skills jobs play in a competitive U.S. economy.

“For too long, we have been working in the dark to address the skills gap,” said Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies. “Now that more sophisticated data is available, employers, educators, and policymakers can identify the most critical middle skill jobs, pinpointing the specific skills and qualifications we need to develop to keep America competitive.”

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 305,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeedcorporate citizenship initiative, Accenture is committed to equipping 700,000 people around the world by 2015 with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is

About Burning Glass
Burning Glass’s tools and data are playing a growing role in informing the global conversation on education and the workforce by providing researchers, policy makers, educators, and employers with detailed real-time awareness into skill gaps and labor market demand. A Boston-based labor market analytics firm, Burning Glass provides tools for analysts track job market trends and for students to plan their careers and find jobs. Burning Glass collects and analyzes job postings from close to 37,000 online sources and then deploys advanced proprietary text mining to “read” each job description, allowing us to analyze the specific jobs, experience, qualifications, and skills employers are seeking in real time.

About the HBS U.S. Competitiveness Project
The U.S. Competitiveness Project is a research-led effort by Harvard Business School to understand and improve the competitiveness of the United States – that is, the ability of firms operating in the U.S. to compete successfully in the global economy while supporting high and rising living standards for Americans. The Project focuses especially on the roles that business leaders can and do play in promoting U.S. competitiveness. Current faculty research focuses on improving PK-12 education; closing the middle skills gap; and improving America’s aging infrastructure for moving people, goods, and information. For more information about Harvard Business School’s U.S. Competitiveness Project, please visit: &

A Coming of Age Story for Career Pathways

Pathways Explainer-cover-shotAt the recent National Dialogue on Career Pathways, many federal officials observed that the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) uses the term “career pathways” more than twenty times, signaling a coming of age for this powerful workforce development strategy.  This update from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) offers helpful background on the Career Pathways movement along with the emerging framework in synergy with WIOA.

The career pathway approach connects progressive levels of education, training, support services, and credentials for specific occupations in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals with varying levels of abilities and needs. This approach can benefit well-prepared students, but it’s especially beneficial for more vulnerable populations.

WIOA provides a comprehensive definition of a career pathway program and signals the move toward career pathway system building. While WIOA heavily features career pathway language, new and existing partnerships may still wonder what exactly is meant by “career pathways” and programs and partnerships may need a better understanding of the nuances of career pathways before they’re ready to receive help building systems.

To guide the work ahead, Career Pathways Explained, is brought to you by CLASP and the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a partner-driven initiative with 10 leading states that successfully developed a framework identifying criteria and indicators to define high-quality career pathway systems and metrics to measure and manage success. This visually engaging, web-based tool explains how the career pathways approach helps individuals with limited skills access education and training that leads to employment in occupations and industries that are in high demand. It also provides concrete examples of success in Alliance states. The tool is designed to explain career pathways to people in the field who appreciate this approach but are not steeped in it.