At Jobs for the Future (JFF), we’re taking a moment as 2022 comes to a close to celebrate our progress in shaping national policy that aims to transform education and workforce systems and build an economy that works for all. In this year-end policy and advocacy blog, we proudly share our efforts to advance nonpartisan, practice-informed policy solutions in five crucial ways:
Cultivating Insights From the Field
As part of our ongoing efforts to keep track of what’s working and what needs to change in education and workforce development, we did the following in 2022:
- Convened Practitioner Task Force on Career Navigation: Our Policy team kicked off 2022 by forming and convening a new task force of leading practitioners to develop policy recommendations for strengthening career services and navigational supports for workers, jobseekers, and students. The JFF Task Force for Modernizing Career Navigation Policy published its key policy considerations in the report Modernizing Career Navigation in the United States.
- Launched the Workforce Transformation Policy Council: In partnership with the National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB), we held the inaugural meeting of the Workforce Transformation Policy Council, a select group of workforce development leaders who are working with JFF and NAWB to gather practitioner insights about policies that could help transform the nation’s workforce development system, especially with regard to the reauthorization and reform of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
- Studied Racial and Gender Differences for Income Share Agreements (ISA): The JFF Research and Financing the Future teams conducted a study examining gender and racial equity in innovative education finance models and published their findings in a report titled Exploring Racial and Gender Differences in ISA Contract Terms and Repayment Patterns. Our researchers used ISA contract holder record data to analyze differences in contract terms and repayment patterns across demographic groups, ultimately finding no consistent and significant favorability toward one racial/ethnic or gender group over another.
Developing Policy Recommendations
In 2022, we drew on field insights and evidence to recommend federal and state policy changes for the following critical issues:
- Racial Equity in Pathways: In November, we released the JFF State Policy Framework for Building Equitable Pathways, a resource for state policymakers and advocates on how policy can help close educational achievement gaps and disrupt occupational segregation while reinforcing pathways to economic advancement. Developed with input from the Building Equitable Pathways Community of Practice, the framework covers 12 state policy issues and serves as a resource for policymakers and advocates as they prepare for the 2023 legislative sessions.
- Career and Technical Education: In January, we published No Dead Ends: How Career and Technical Education Can Provide Today’s Youth With Pathways to College and Career Success, a report debuting a new policy agenda designed to promote the inclusion of career exposure and preparation activities in all educational pathways. Authored by the JFF Policy Leadership Trust, the agenda discusses the critical role of career and technical education in helping young people develop their career identities.
- Poverty Alleviation: Over the summer, we partnered with the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) to recommend policy reforms to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to strengthen pathways out of poverty. In a recent blog co-authored with ASPHA, we offer actionable solutions and state-level examples for effectively aligning TANF and workforce development systems.
- Consumer Protection: Over the past year, our Financing the Future team has worked with federal and state policymakers on proposals to clarify and strengthen the regulatory treatment of income share agreements (ISA). This step is necessary because, too often, it’s unclear which laws apply to ISAs and how ISA providers should comply with them. Moreover, the unique nature of ISAs creates new opportunities for policymakers to build a greater level of protection than what student loan borrowers experience.
We engaged in the following activities as part of our ongoing efforts to advise policymakers in their deliberations and efforts to design new strategies.
- Site Visits for Congressional Staffers: In April, we held our first in-person site visit for the JFF Congressional Staff Network for Economic Advancement (CSN) since the COVID-19 pandemic began. House and Senate legislative staffers joined us on a visit to the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia to learn how education, workforce, and economic development leaders collaborate to meet the talent needs of in-demand employers and ensure economic advancement for individuals and families in the community. The CSN’s second site visit took place in Boston and highlighted innovative training programs and promising efforts to address the city’s stark racial wealth gap.
- Executive Branch Cross-Agency Policy Forums: In the spring, we relaunched the JFF Executive Branch Network for Economic Advancement (EBN) and held the first EBN forum under the Biden administration, focusing on expanding access to in-demand jobs through high-quality apprenticeships. EBN activities include educational meetings and forums at which core senior executive branch officials meet with leading practitioners in the country’s learn and work ecosystem to discuss issues related to education, workforce development, and poverty alleviation in an informal, confidential environment.
- Testifying Before Congress: In September, Deborah Kobes, interim vice president of the JFF Center for Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning, presented testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Businesses Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development. She outlined the value of youth apprenticeship for small businesses, the challenges they face in implementation, and potential solutions.
- Sector Strategies Policy Forum: In October, the JFF Policy team convened its Executive Branch Network and Congressional Staff Network for two forums on evidence-based sector strategies, hosted in partnership with the National Skills Coalition. The conversations covered a range of issues, including how workforce systems can partner and pursue new federal investments such as those available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act.
Building Momentum for Change
We joined forces with policymakers, experts, and advocates to advance the conversation about transforming America’s education and workforce systems through activities like these:
- Partnering With the White House: As a partner in the first phase of the White House Talent Pipeline Challenge, we committed to convening 400 employers and training providers, helped lay the groundwork for the next phase of this initiative, and served as a resource for best practices in creating equitable skills-based programs in industries such as broadband, construction, and electrification (which includes projects related to electric vehicle charging infrastructure and battery manufacturing). So far, JFF's work on the Talent Pipeline Challenge has resulted in 56 businesses signing JFF's DEIA pledge, including 24 employers/unions.
- Convening State Advocates to Advance the “Big Blur”: We hosted a series of events called State Advocacy Action Labs to bring together nonprofit advocacy and intermediary organizations who share a commitment to state policy reforms aligned with JFF’s vision for restructuring grades 11-14, which we call the “Big Blur.” At the action lab in December, we introduced a new cohort of state policy advocates to our Big Blur vision and discussed specific policy problems that each new participating organization is working to address in its respective state.
- Championing Today’s Students: In April, we joined fellow members of the Today’s Student Coalition in calling on Congress to invest in crucial child care, financial assistance, and mental health programs for college students. We also endorsed a Reconnecting Youth Campaign letter requesting robust funding—at least a 20% increase over fiscal year 2022—for programs serving young people ages 16-24 who are not engaged in work or school.
Leading the National Conversation
Throughout this year, we weighed in on various topics of national interest in the education, workforce, and economic policy arenas. Here are just a few examples:
- Diving Into the Conversation: Throughout 2022, we remained at the forefront of critical national policy conversations, publishing a statement in August outlining recommendations for Congress following President Joe Biden’s announcement of a student loan debt cancellation proposal, and issuing another statement commending Biden’s October decision to pardon all prior federal marijuana possession offenses. And in a recent op-ed published in Fortune, JFF CEO Maria Flynn urged policymakers to embrace the rhetoric of economic mobility over economic security, especially given the platform on “good jobs” touted by many candidates during this year’s midterm elections.
- Outcome-Based Financing: The JFF Financing the Future (FTF) team has worked to improve accountability, access, affordability, and equity in our education and workforce training systems by highlighting outcome-based financing solutions that are designed to ensure that student learners only pay for educational programs that lead to career success. FTF has authored a variety of blogs, op-eds, and reports this year on the role that these financing solutions can play, focusing on topics such as how to “de-risk” postsecondary education, the evolution of regulatory treatment of ISAs, and how rigorous research coupled with clear and thoughtful protections can give these models a chance to prove their value.
- Policymakers on Non-Degree Programs: This fall, JFF and American Student Assistance commissioned surveys of employers, Generation Z students, and policymakers for a report on innovative education-to-career pathways and another report on perceptions of funding for non-degree, career-connected programs. A survey of Washington, DC-based policymakers found broad support for the use of federal funds for non-degree career programs. According to the report based on that survey, Non-Degree Pathways: A DC Insider’s Perspective, a majority of those polled also said they would be in favor of an increase in legislative support for expanding such programs over the next five years, although they differed on approaches for ensuring the quality of the programs. In an October announcement of the survey results, we detailed a 10-point policy plan for expanding non-degree pathways.