Legislative Wrap-Up: States Dedicate Funds to Address Skills Mismatch

June 19, 2013

For several states, this year's legislative session resulted in continued austerity toward new investments and level funding for established tech-based initiatives producing good results. Workforce initiatives seemed to be the exception, garnering greater attention from state leaders eager to boost employment numbers — especially in high-tech fields. While the existence of a STEM worker shortage has been a hotly debated topic among policy groups (see the May 22, 2013 issue of the Digest), some state leaders, including lawmakers in California, Indiana and Michigan, have prioritized high-tech job training to produce more skilled workers through increased funding for new or established programs in the recently enacted budgets.

In California, lawmakers dedicated $15 million over the next five years for job training as part of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (Proposition 39) approved by voters in November 2012. The budget allocation complements a measure to establish a training program in the California Workforce Investment Board to prepare disadvantaged veterans and youth for the state's growing sector of green economy jobs. The bill, AB 114, recently passed in the Assembly and is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate on July 2. Funds are distributed through the state's community colleges, which were allocated $47 million in the FY14 budget from the Clean Energy Job Creation Fund to support energy efficient projects and workforce development training. The voter-approved measure made changes to corporate income taxes and provided for the transfer of $550 million annually over five years to promote energy efficiency and clean energy jobs.

A two-year old workforce training program targeting high-demand industries in Indiana received a $5 million infusion of state funds in the 2013-15 biennial budget signed into law last month by Gov. Mike Pence. The program previously was funded by “dwindling” federal discretionary funds, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Under WorkINdiana, participants can earn a career certification along with their high school equivalency. More than 30 programs are offered in high-wage industries such as advanced manufacturing, information technology and health care.

Michigan's FY14 budget funds a new $10 million Skilled Trades and Training program to address job-to-talent mismatches. In the governor's proposed budget, the program is described as a new initiative to help employers design training models that align with their specific talent needs while also providing employment opportunity for qualified individuals. State funding will be leveraged with employer contributions and other sources. Under the program, representatives from the Michigan Strategic Fund, Michigan Works! agencies, local economic developers and community colleges will work together to identify and prioritize eligible employers and participants.

California, Indiana, Michiganstate budget, workforce