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States try to boost workforce through variety of programs

December 12, 2019
By: Ellen Marrison

Advancing programs to increase students’ tech skills, raising awareness of the skilled trades, attracting out of state workers by paying moving expenses, and creating a Governor’s Workforce Council, were just a few of the new programs across the states dealing with current and looming shortages in the workforce. This week SSTI takes a look at some of the different workforce development initiatives that surfaced in 2019 as part of our ongoing coverage of innovation programs that were implemented this past year. Other stories in the year-end series include information on  stories on entrepreneurial support and capital accessnew university incubators, accelerators and funds launched in 2019research universities and their partnerships with industryhigher education and commercialization programsfree tuition offeringsclimate changeclean energy; and broadband.


A public-private partnership in Alabama will give access to a STEM career awareness system through a joint venture of the Alabama Department of Commerce, the governor’s office and the Boeing Company. As part of its 2019 global engagement grants, Boeing awarded $525,000 to Alabama communities in support of educational STEM programs for students and workforce development programs for transitioning military, veterans and their families. 


Arkansas is piloting a workforce development initiative — Future Fit — that state economic development officials hope will begin building a steady stream of entry-level workers to meet the needs of manufacturers across Arkansas. The Future Fit initiative was developed by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission in collaboration with manufacturing industry executives, front-line plant workers and educators. AEDC plans to expand the program next year to community colleges across the state with industry-specific training for each region. 


Earlier this year Gov. Ned Lamont signed three bills that work to expand education and workforce development. New legislation was passed that will include computer science instruction in the public school curriculum, along with requiring the state to incorporate coding training into teacher-preparation programs and develop a computer science certification program. Lamont also signed legislation that establishes a tax credit for employers that make certain education loan payments for employees. Students who attended the Connecticut State College University systems, or received loans through that body, are eligible for loan relief. Another bill will create a program that will assist veterans with starting manufacturing careers.

Gov. Ned Lamont also named the state’s first chief manufacturing officer, a job created by state lawmakers earlier this year to coordinate state and private-sector efforts to educate and support the next generation of skilled manufacturers. And in November the governor launched a workforce council that is a public private partnership with CEOs, state government officials and educators working on a strategy to improve education and skills training in the state.


In May, Gov. Brian Kemp signed a budget that included funds to support life sciences education in rural school systems through the Georgia Department of Education and Georgia Youth Science & Technology Centers, which will include new training for teachers administered by Georgia Bio.


Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) expanded its “XternSemester” program, which bundles summer internships at Indianapolis companies with senior-year part-time jobs as well as special training and networking opportunities. The new program goes beyond the summer experience, extending in to the fall semester and allowing the students to work 20-plus hours per week with IUPUI granting students academic credit for their work. The program, run with TechPoint, was facilitated by the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, which was created in 2018.


Gov. Kim Reynolds announced over $16 million in new funding for the Future Ready Iowa Act this year. Of that, $13 million is allotted to the state’s Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship, with over $6.6 million being in awards for the fall semester to more than 5,800 students. The Last-Dollar Scholarship focuses on meeting business and industry workforce needs in four key areas: health care and biosciences; information technology; advanced manufacturing production, installation and maintenance; and, construction and engineering. Another $1 million goes to the Future Ready Iowa Grant program to provide stipends to Iowans who left college after earning at least half the credits toward a four-year degree in a high-demand field, and who return to complete a degree. And $1.2 million is designated for the Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund, a grant opportunity for employers and other partners to collaborate and carry out innovative initiatives to address local workforce issues. A state matching grant is available to qualifying applicants.


The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is administering a new pilot program that awards grants to large under-resourced school districts to support STEM education across multiple schools. In May, the Baker-Polito administration announced nearly $1.14 million in STEM equipment and professional development funding to be distributed across 36 public middle schools and high schools in five school districts.


In May, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, along with leaders in business, education and workforce development, announced a $3 million advertising campaign to raise awareness of Michigan’s skilled-labor shortage, projected to be half a million jobs by 2026.


Missouri One Start was signed into law in July and is intended as a comprehensive workforce program and works as a customized training program that provides eligible companies with resources to train or upskill their employees according to specific workforce needs. In November, Gov. Mike Parson announced the award of more than $7.8 million to 226 projects across Missouri for training assistance through the program.

Missouri also launched the Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant, a new financial aid program that addresses workforce needs by encouraging adults to pursue a certificate, degree, or industry-recognized credential in an area designated as high need. Fast Track is primarily for adults 25 years or older, and those awarded a grant must work in Missouri for three calendar years or the grant would convert to an interest-bearing loan the student would have to repay.


In March, Gov. Pete Ricketts approved legislation allowing early childhood infrastructure development and early childhood care and education programs to be added to the list of projects available for economic development grants or loans, which was intended to help attract businesses and workers.

New Jersey

In November, Gov. Phil Murphy announced his Computer Science for All State Plan, including $2 million in state grants, to help schools establish advanced, high-quality computer science programs. To help implement the plan, Murphy also announced three “Expanding Access to Computer Science” grant opportunities for $2 million in computer science funding for FY 2020. 


In February, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, which is to serve as an incubator for innovative ideas to build a skilled workforce and address worker shortages.  The public-private partnership brings together the commonwealth, labor and business leaders in one setting on a weekly basis to address workforce issues with real-time solutions. Building on last year’s launch of the PAsmart initiative (a strategic approach to education and workforce development), in November the governor announced another $20 million in grants to prepare students in STEM fields and computer science.  

This month, $4.6 million in grants was made available to Pennsylvania businesses that want to form partnerships to improve the quality of worker education and workforce development through the PAsmart Next Generation Industry Partnership Grant. The program is designed to address the state’s deficit in adequately trained workers in industries such as advanced manufacturing, health care and agriculture.


Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved $25 million in the governor’s budget to incentivize collaboration at the local level among stakeholders such as higher education institutions, K-12 and economic development partners. In November, Gov.  Bill Lee announced projects receiving funding through the Governor’s Investment in Vocational Education (GIVE) program which prioritizes learning opportunities in rural counties and enhances career and technical education statewide.


In March the Utah Legislature approved $3.15 million for the governor’s Computer Science Master Plan, and in September Gov. Gary Herbert’s Office of Economic Development unveiled a plan that aims to bring computer science courses to every school in the state by 2022.


Gov. Phil Scott signed H. 533 in June, which provides $2 million in funding to expand workforce recruitment initiatives, including incentives of up to $7,500 per family to new workers who move to the state to work for a Vermont company. The legislation also appropriates funds to the Department of Labor to work with training providers, employers, and other state agencies to help unemployed youth, New Americans, individuals in recovery and former offenders re-enter the workforce.


In November, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Virginia will invest in the commonwealth’s tech talent pipeline to create 31,000 new computer science graduates over 20 years, under agreements he signed with 11 universities.

West Virginia

In August, Gov. Jim Justice signed an executive order establishing a new task force — called the Governor’s Downstream Jobs Task Force — which will work to bring downstream manufacturing opportunities to West Virginia ahead of an anticipated expansion of the petrochemical industry in Appalachia.


State leaders awarded more than $500,000 in Fab Lab grants to 20 Wisconsin school districts in May. The goal of the Fab Labs Grant Program is to support the growth of a talent pipeline in the state of Wisconsin. For FY 2020, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is continuing the Fab Labs Grant Program as part of its overall program offerings, with $750,000 budgeted.

workforce, states