The NCSL Blog


By Jessica Hathaway

As another year of legislative sessions is underway, it may be of interest to take a look at 2015 Workforce Development enactments that were signed into law across the states.

workforce group During the 2015 legislative session, more than 130 measures related to workforce development were enacted. With workforce being a priority issue for many states to consider, it is no surprise that all states considered workforce related bills—and as a result, 47 states and the District of Columbia passed relevant legislation.

So what does workforce development look like these days? The states are focusing on how to address unemployment, tackle the inability of businesses to find appropriately trained workers, implement the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—and do all of this as the effects of the Great Recession linger. A number of resulting themes were considerable including efforts to:

  • Respond to industry demand.
  • Invest in efforts to employ specific populations such as veterans, people with disabilities, foster youth, individuals with limited education and people with criminal backgrounds.
  • Utilize tax credits and other business incentives for workforce development.
  • Invest in dual enrollment programs for students to complete high school and take college courses simultaneously.
  • Increase experiential learning opportunities to gain relevant skills while on the job
  • Increase transparency and coordination among government agencies. 

If it sounds like the states are tackling workforce development from a number of angles, it’s because they are. How? Well, here are a few notable legislative examples from 2015:

  • Ten states—Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming—extended in-state tuition benefits for a variety of higher education programs to veterans and often, their spouses and children.
  • Twelve states—Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah—passed legislation that allows employers to establish hiring and promotion preference policies for veterans.
  • Arkansas will require its Department of Workforce Services to prepare an economic security report of employment and earning outcomes for degrees and certificates earned at all state-supported higher education institutions. This report must include information about average earnings, student loan debt and employment data and be made available to the public and students at state-supported institutions before the student registers for classes.
  • Colorado created the Innovative Industries Workforce Development program to reimburse small businesses in innovative industries up to half of the expenses they spend on providing internships.
  • Georgia expanded their Move on When Ready Act to be offered to all high school students, beginning in the ninth grade. Georgia will also allow high school diplomas to be awarded to students who previously dropped out but are now completing coursework at a postsecondary institution.

Please take a few moments to review the 2015 Workforce Development Enactments report to see how the states are working hard to make sure our workforce can do the same.

If you are interested in Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act specific legislation, we also have a database of 2015 enactments and an accompanying report.

Jessica Hathaway is a research analyst with NCSL’s Family Opportunity Project. Email Jessica

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About the NCSL Blog

This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.