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States boosting workforce efforts through skills training

January 30, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

More states are employing different efforts to boost their workforce and to seek the best solutions to workforce dilemmas. The National Governors Association (NGA) recognized that governors are exploring ways to guide development and expansion of youth apprenticeship programs and has issued a white paper that explores three strategies governors can use to expand on such programs. In a separate effort, the National Skills Coalition has selected coalitions from 10 new states to join SkillSPAN, a national network of state coalitions expanding access to skills training through state policy changes that support all workers.

The NGA white paper notes that today’s high school graduates with no postsecondary or industry-recognized credentials can face a bleak future. Additionally, when states have a less-skilled workforce, it is more difficult to attract business investment and requires greater funding for social services for the state’s unemployed and underemployed youth.  Youth apprenticeships combat that and connect more young people to career paths at an earlier age and help fill business workforce needs, authors Kristin Baddour and Kimberly Hauge assert.

Several strategies along with case studies are outlined in the paper. The three main strategies governors are encouraged to enact include: acting as a public champion by setting a statewide vision and convening stakeholders to implement it; allocating and using dedicated funding to start and expand youth apprenticeship programs; and, implement policies that provide long-term support for high-quality programs.

The authors report strategies have been used successfully by governors in Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland and North Carolina, and the paper presents case studies from those states that offer insights “to inform other governors’ efforts to expand youth apprenticeship and further connect high school education to workforce preparation and high quality employment opportunities.”

While governors continue to expand their workforce options, the Skills State Policy Advocacy Network (SkillSPAN) is doubling the number of coalitions in the network from 10 to now 20, with new coalitions joining from Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin. Convened by a lead organization, the coalitions include policy and research organizations, community-based organizations, businesses, unions, community colleges, workforce boards, state and local agencies and others advocating for a shared skills agenda.

This year SkillSPAN coalitions will focus on skills training policies across a range of issues including apprenticeship, postsecondary education, upskilling and supportive services.

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