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Workforce development key to state economic development initiatives

February 20, 2020
By: Ellen Marrison

A report on employment trends from hiring firm Robert Half found that 2020 presents greater challenges for employers looking to expand their workforce as the country’s labor market is near full employment and job openings remain at high levels. When looking specifically at technology hiring, the report reveals that in a survey of IT hiring decision makers, 86 percent reported challenges finding skilled workers. Such conditions have many states seeking new ways to address the skills gap and develop their workforce to attract or keep business. Several recent efforts are detailed below.

Last month, Pennsylvania’s Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center, a public-private partnership created last year by the governor to study workforce development, presented its first report to the Wolf administration. It found five major barriers to employment and a list of 42 recommendations to address those barriers. Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposes investing $14 million to support the recommendations, building on a $124 million investment to fully fund PAsmart, career and technical centers, industry partnerships, and apprenticeships to provide job skills training.

The governor’s budget proposes a $12 million competitive grant program through the Department of Community and Economic Development to address employment barriers and a $2 million increase for WEDnetPA, which helps businesses with training to upskill existing employees.

Legislators in Iowa are considering Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Future Ready Iowa initiative, which connects Iowans to training and education for jobs and has a goal of 70 percent of the Iowa workforce having education or training beyond high school by the year 2025. The Gazette reported that legislative subcommittees gave initial approval to a multipronged measure that includes a child-care challenge grant program for working Iowans, a workforce diploma pilot program, computer science instruction, work-based learning coordinators, apprenticeship training and last dollar scholarships to help a broad range of Iowans find a niche in Iowa’s workforce.

On Feb. 6, Indiana released a draft of the state’s Strategic Workforce Plan for public comment. The plan will serve as the state’s Combined Plan under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for the next four years and will incorporate several federal and state programs that impact the workforce development system in addition to the six “core” formula grant programs authorized under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The plan identifies two overarching goals: having at least 60 percent of Hoosiers attain a quality credential beyond a high school diploma by 2025 and increasing engagement between employers and state and local agencies to identify and address the skills gap with greater responsivity and efficiency.

Ohio has launched an Industry Sector Partnership Grant program that is funded through the state operating budget signed in 2019 and invests $5 million over the biennium. The program strives to ensure Ohioans can be part of the workforce pipeline, meeting the needs of job creators and the local economy. Grant funding will help support the operations of industry sector partnerships, including program coordinators, new tools and programs, and other expenses associated with launching partnerships. Ohio will score applications to prioritize industry sector partnerships that deliver the highest return on investment for local job creators and applicants can apply through March 13 at Workforce.Ohio.Gov/ISP.

To help ensure a pipeline of workers for Tennessee businesses, the state has launched a comprehensive program to raise awareness about the benefits of registered apprenticeships. As part of this initiative, the Department of Labor and Workforce Development has established an apprenticeship organization, which will soon have a regional director in each of the three regions of the state. These apprenticeship directors will work directly with employers, higher education institutions, community groups, trade organizations, and other state agencies to develop and implement new registered apprenticeship programs.

States are trying other initiatives to address critical workforce needs, such as childcare, early childhood education, returning veteran initiatives and those designed to help the formerly incarcerated. SSTI will continue to bring you news on these efforts, both through our Tech Talkin’ Govs series, as well as details on pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship, STEM and retraining programs in the coming weeks.

Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennesseeworkforce, states