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“It’s Game Time” 2024 Skills Summit, Wrapped

May 20, 2024

If the 2024 Skills Summit had a watchword, it might be “opportunity”. More than 450 skills advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. last week – and the potential in the room felt palpable. It’s no wonder why – it’s a promising time for skills advocates.

In his opening remarks, NSC’s new CEO Robert Espinoza talked about the outlook for skills advocacy. Earlier this year, Congressional leaders introduced the Digital Skills for Today’s Workforce Act, a bill that would narrow the digital skills divide. Partly motivated by our research that shows that 92% of today’s jobs require digital skills the bill seeks to address this critical need. At the same time, a bill to reauthorize WIOA is on the move in Congress, though it requires enhancements such as increased funding and a focus on industry partnerships. The clean energy sector is also abuzz with talk of skills training, thanks to investments from recent legislation. The expansion of Pell Grants to high-quality, short-term, training programs is so popular on Capitol Hill that there are multiple pieces of legislation that include similar language.

New NSC polling, released at the Summit, shows voters overwhelmingly support all these policies ideas, with 82% of voters saying they want to increase government funding for skills training and 90% endorsing access to digital skills training for workers to they can adapt to new technologies. These numbers affirm what we already know: skills training is fiercely bipartisan.

Rachel Unruh, Chief of External Affairs at National Skills Coalition and author of the “Public Perspectives” report series discussed the research in each plenary, saying, “Concerns over jobs leaving the country and new technology replacing workers highlight the critical importance of expanding skills training programs. We must equip all workers in America with the tools and skills to harness and work alongside new technologies to compete amid our ever-evolving job landscape.”

Driving Change through Public Policy: Influence and Advocacy


Advocates gathered from 41 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico for NSC’s largest event of the year. During the three-day Summit, they learned about critical federal skills policy and its ties to racial equity, job quality, and an inclusive economy. They met with their legislators on Capitol Hill and members of the Biden Administration to share their expertise and influence the direction of federal skills policy. Attendees left the event equipped to advocate for investments in inclusive, high-quality skills training alongside our coalition throughout the year. This advocacy aims to ensure that more people have access to a better life and more local businesses experience sustained growth.

“The NSC Skills Summit plays a crucial role in empowering education- and workforce-minded people with the tools they need to impact critical policy decisions,” said Ja’Bette Lozupone, Director of Student Affairs at Montgomery College. “You walk away better understanding key policies, your role in advocacy, and how to make a significant impact at the state and federal level.”

The 2024 Skills Summit also marked the debut of NSC’s new Student Advisory Council – a group of workers and learners who will help inform and provide policy solutions as part of our Making College Work Campaign and our larger Voices for Skills network.

Part of what makes NSC’s policy advocacy so influential on Capitol Hill, and with Republican and Democratic administrations over the last decades, is that our work has long been grounded in our broad networks representing businesses, colleges, community organizations, public officials, and advocates – who we engage as we craft policy proposals and mobilize to advocate for and win concrete changes in skills policy. Now, workers and learners will also be at the forefront of this broad network, reflecting NSC’s commitment to illuminating the real needs and experiences of students pursuing career-focused programs and pathways.

“This was my first experience with direct advocacy, and it was great to meet professionals in the field from across the country and make those valuable connections” said John Glover, Director of Adult Education at Norwich Regional Adult Education.

Inspiring Speakers

We were joined by both U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo and Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su. Both leaders issued inspirational clarion calls to our network. Secretary Raimondo spoke about the importance of skills training to commerce, about caregiving, and women in the workforce, saying “If we don’t have women in the workforce, we won’t have diversity or a strong economy. And you can’t do that without affordable childcare.” She also instructed us to “Keep our eyes on AI and digitization – because it’s coming really fast.” Acting Secretary Julie Su drove that same message home saying, “This is our time to make sure no one gets left behind. This is the moment for the work that you all do. This is our time. It’s your time. It’s game time.”

Susie Feliz, Assistant Secretary, Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce joined us to share Agency Perspectives: Scaling and Sustaining Industry Partnerships.

Click here for more about NSC’s People-Powered Infrastructure Campaign.

Nicole Barcliff, Senior Policy Director at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Allison Dembeck. Vice President of Education and Labor Advocacy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Eric Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, Policy and Advocacy at Unidos US all work in Government Affairs roles in their respective organizations and are in routine conversation with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill. They shared their insider knowledge of the advocacy environment in Washington during the View from Inside the Beltway: Advocating for Inclusive Skills Training plenary. The discussion shared the realities of Congress’ capacity to advance policies this year, the impact of new leadership in the House on setting a Congressional agenda, and whether bipartisanship is even possible in the year before a Presidential election. Attendees also heard remarks from several members of Congress who championed skills training as a bipartisan issue and drove home the importance of our shared advocacy.

“This was my first NSC Skills Summit and I embraced the opportunity to gain perspective on a collaborative workforce development effort for positive system change,” said Goren Dillard, Senior Director of Workforce Development at the Urban League of Greater Cleveland. “The issues discussed were not simple for legislators and policy makers operating at the intersection of labor and education. However, all advocates seemed energized, unified, and fearless about the work that needed to be done. As U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said during her interview ‘this work is easy to talk about and hard to do."

The opening plenary, Bipartisanship in an Election Year explored the political realities of legislators’ ability to work across the aisle, the places where there is consensus, where policymakers are working together on bipartisan solutions, and what it will take to advance bipartisan solutions in 2024. Katie Spiker, Managing Director of Government Affairs at NSC moderated a panel discussion featured Keith Allred, Executive Director, National Institute for Civil Discourse, Liam deClive-Lowe, Co-Founder & Co-President, American Policy Ventures, and Dr. Girard Melancon, President, Durango Works.

A plenary on Centering Care: The Ripple Effect of Quality Care Worker Training examined perspectives on the care economy and how public and private leaders can prioritize skills training and job quality within the care workforce to strengthen jobs and create a stronger economy. NSC CEO Robert Espinoza moderated the panel featuring Helen Adeosun, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, CareAcademy; Kevin Coughlin, Policy Initiatives Advisor – Executive, Wisconsin Department of Health Services; Jason Resendez, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving; and Dr. Kezia Scales, Vice President of Research and Evaluation, PHI.

From Capitol Hill to kitchen tables across the country, people are talking about the role of AI and its impact on the workforce. The AI, Worker Voice, and Industry Transformation plenary investigated perspectives on AI and why workers’ expertise is essential to shaping AI in the workplace. Chike Aguh, Senior Advisor at the Project on Workforce at Harvard University, Allyson Knox, Senior Director of Education and Workforce Policy at Microsoft, and Daniel Bustillo Deputy Executive Director at 1199SEIU Training and Employment Funds explored how public policy can support workers’ skill needs and access to quality jobs as AI changes practices across industries in this plenary moderated by NSC’s Chief Strategy Officer, Brooke DeRenzis.

Finally, Melissa Johnson, NSC’s Managing Director of State Strategies moderated a panel featuring Michael Collins, Vice President for Racial Economic Equity, Jobs for the Future, Blair Corcoran de Castillo, Vice President, Policy, Opportunity@Work; Michael O’Bryan, Founder and CEO, Humanature; and Dane Linn, Senior Vice President, Corporate Initiatives, Immigration, Business Roundtable took to the main stage for a plenary entitled “From Education to Hiring & Advancement: An Equity & Skills-Based Framework” to discuss how companies and government agencies can implement skills-based hiring along with equity advancing policies that support hiring and career advancement for workers of color and other underrepresented groups.

On the third day of the Summit, while attendees held meetings with their Senators and Representatives, NSC held two briefings for Congressional policy staff. One briefing: Reimagining Workforce – Building Opportunities and Breaking Barriers was held in the House of Representatives and featured Alex Carmardelle, Vice President, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative, Ian Record, Ph.D., Policy and Research Consultant, Workforce Grantmaking in Native Nations and Communities, and Jina Krause-Vilmar, President & CEO, Upwardly Global. Another briefing Workforce Partnerships and Pathway – Supporting Quality Education and Training Opportunities through Employer Engagement was held in the Senate and featured Celeste Granger, Senior Vice President of Programs & Initiatives at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, Angie Barksdale, Chief Operating Officer, West Michigan Works! and Carol Philips, Executive Director, WV Women Work.

Click here for a full list of state leads.

Skills Champions

NSC awarded several of our coalition with awards for their work to advance skills. Luis Sandoval, Executive Director, Building Skills Partnership was named as the 2024 recipient of the Dr. Alma Salazar Bridge Builder Award. The award is given to a member of NSC’s network who exemplifies Dr. Salazar’s commitment to bringing together uncommon allies in support of inclusive skills policy.  

As the leader of Building Skills Partnerships, a nationally recognized labor-management training partnership, Luis has been instrumental in creating the Skills for California coalition, a member of NSC’s SkillSPAN network. Luis has built bridges across business and worker organizations, creating a multi-stakeholder state network. The coalition has successfully advocated for policies to increase the number and diversity of workers on a path to good jobs and meet the labor needs of local employers, including through the advancement of high-road training partnerships and workforce literacy training programs serving immigrants, refugees, and English Language Learners.

Dalila Wilson-Scott, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation & Comcast NBCUniversal Foundation was named the 2024 recipient of the Founder’s Circle Award. Dalila has overseen direct investments in NSC’s research, communications, and technical assistance to ensure states can leverage billions of dollars in generational federal investments to close the digital skill divide and create equitable economic opportunity. In addition, Dalila has leveraged her own influence and relationships as well as Comcast’s world-class media platforms to bring greater attention to NSC’s foundational research about the digital skill divide and proven solutions. Working with NSC, Comcast joined over 70 companies, including ten Fortune 500s, in putting forward a set of principles that provide a roadmap for public and private leaders to advance digital equity. Dalila’s virtual Fireside Chat with NSC’s CEO garnered over 5 million impressions bringing an unprecedented level of reach and visibility to NSC’s research, its network, and its efforts. 

Click here for a full list of this year’s awardees.

The 2024 Skills Summit was made possible by our Champion Sponsors: Comcast NBC Universal, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, JP Morgan Chase and Co.Lumina Foundation, and Walmart.

Check out all photos of the event on our Flickr Page. And join the conversation on LinkedIn using the hashtag #NSCSummit2024.

And Save the date for next year! May 5 – 7, 2025 at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

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