Business Leaders United for Workforce Partnerships - BLU

Last Updated: 03/24/2024

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Overview

Business Leaders United is an initiative of the nonpartisan nonprofit, National Skills Coalition. BLU is a free, private business network that promotes inclusive, high-quality skills training policies that build the skilled workforce employers need to grow and thrive. BLU supports business leaders to advocate for effective industry-based strategies and policies that help create effective training pipelines across the country.

Work focuses in 7 policy areas:

  • Industry and sector partnerships that drive industry-specific training and hiring strategies.
  • Career and technical education and work-based learning opportunities (e.g., apprenticeship, on-the-job training) that help businesses develop a productive, highly skilled workforce.
  • Changes to higher education policy that make it easier to access high-quality short-term training so that workers can quickly acquire the necessary skills for a new or current job.
  • Digital skills training that helps workers across industry sectors adapt to rapidly changing technologies in the workplace.
  • Smart workforce data policies that measure whether training programs are effectively and equitably preparing workers with the skills needed by employers.
  • Work supports(e.g., high-quality childcare, transportation) that workers need to participate in skills training programs, get to work, and maximize their productivity.
  • Inclusive skills training policy that purposefully promotes diversity and equity in the workforce so that everyone has what they need to succeed.

BLU advised by an Executive Committee of business leaders.

Example of BLU Initiative

Established in 2019 with funding support from Ballmer Group and J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, the BLU State Affiliate Network is a 15-state based coalition of business and industry leaders committed to advancing skills policy solutions to meet the workforce needs of local employers in those states. The Network was launched because businesses were struggling to find trained workers to fill skilled positions and workers wanted to see greater investment in skills training.

For the first cohort of BLU state affiliates, BLU identified a lead organization to facilitate the outreach and coordination of peer business organizations to develop a shared skills policy agenda representing the needs and perspectives of the state’s diverse industry community around workforce development and skills training.

The BLU State Affiliate Network partnered with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE). The ACCE’s network of over 1300 member chambers across the U.S. enabled bringing industry partners together across each state to engage in coalitions and cultivate skills policy advocates among their respective memberships.

The first cohort of partners in the BLU State Affiliate Network included: California: Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce; Georgia: Douglas County Economic Development Authority; Indiana: Indy Chamber; Michigan: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; North Carolina: Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce; Tennessee: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; and Washington: Association of Washington Business and Greater Spokane, Inc.

The BLU State Affiliate Network worked closely with National Skills Coalition’s Skills State Policy Advocacy Network (SKillsSPAN) to establish a shared skills policy agenda among workforce development practitioners, training providers, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders in the workforce system across the SkillSPAN network.

Key policy priorities addressed by the Network:

  • Expanding apprenticeship and work-based learning. Allowing workers to learn while they earn – building skills that grow their careers while meeting the workforces needs of businesses.
  • Making financial aid available to people seeking skills training. Expanding financial aid for workers who seek high-quality, short-term training programs to improve their job and career prospects and help them attain the skills that employers need.
  • Investing in sector partnerships driven by local businessesLocal partnerships between businesses, human services providers, and the workforce and education systems can help inform more effective training, Career and Technical Education (CTE), and higher education policies. These partnerships also help establish a shared industry skill/credential standard across companies, as well as shared pathways and performance metrics across related programs.
  • Future of Work Re‐SkillingWorkers in about two-thirds of the jobs in the U.S. will need to upgrade their skills in the coming years to keep pace with new technologies. Which means more investments in skills training is needed to prepare workers today for the jobs of tomorrow.
  • Upskilling an entry‐level workforce. Working in partnership with local schools, community organizations, and community colleges to provide businesses with the infrastructure support they need to help entry-level workers grow and succeed.
  • Advancing policies that improve data systems and tools. Every student, family, and worker deserve access to secure, transparent, and easily accessible data that tells them exactly which education programs will give them the best return on investmentExpanding and aligning state data systems and publicly available data tools are key to ensuring that industry, policymakers, and the public know which programs provide workers the skills that industry demands.

In 2024, The Business Leaders United State Affiliate Network is comprised of business coalitions in 14 states. Each affiliate is led by a local, regional, or state chamber of commerce that convenes business leaders to develop and advocate for a skills training policy agenda that will help businesses grow and compete. Each affiliate  collaborates with the State Policy Action Network (SkillSPAN) coalition in their state to advance a select policy agenda. SkillSPAN coalitions are also supported by National Skills Coalition and consist of a range of stakeholders (e.g., colleges, labor, community-based organizations).

The 14 BLU State Affiliates include: Alabama: The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama; California: Unite-LA; Georgia: Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce; Indiana: Indy Chamber; Iowa: The Greater Des Moines Partnership; Louisiana: Louisiana Association of Business and Industry; Massachusetts: Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce; Michigan: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce; North Carolina: Raleigh Chamber of Commerce; Ohio: Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce; Tennessee: Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce; Texas: Dallas Regional Chamber; Washington: Association of Washington Business and Greater Spokane, Inc.; Wisconsin: Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.

Resources

Website: https://businessleadersunited.org

Website: https://nationalskillscoalition.org/

BLU State Affiliates | Business Leaders United

Press release (2019): BLU launches new State Affiliate Network to advance skills policy in key states | Business Leaders United

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