Workforce Development


An apprentice learning in a machine shop Policymakers are seeking strategies that will build a strong workforce and provide students with the skills and confidence to succeed in college, careers and life.

States are increasingly looking to expand education programs that focus on workforce development in both secondary and postsecondary education.

This involves efforts to align investments in postsecondary education with industry needs, as well as engaging industry and employers. States have also expanded CTE programs, which often begin during K-12 and continue into postsecondary institutions. As part of this expansion, states are working to address a shortage of CTE instructors and inform students and parents of potential opportunities.

Integrated systems of postsecondary education and workforce systems can:

  • Serve the needs of students as they transition from school to career.
  • Boost state postsecondary attainment rates.
  • Meet the needs of employers in the current and future economies.

Modifying Governance & Oversight 

 States have worked to structure workforce development governance and oversight to include a variety of agencies, institutions and schools. 
  • Indiana House Bill 1153 (2020) create a comprehensive strategic plan to ensure alignment of the state's early childhood, primary, secondary, and postsecondary education systems with workforce training programs and employer needs.
  • Arkansas Senate Bill 522 (2019) creates a comprehensive statewide workforce development system to coordinate workforce development & education efforts.
  • New Mexico House Bill 7 (2019) creates centers of excellence at higher education institutions to promote workforce development in certain fields including: cybersecurity, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy and bioscience.   
  • Tennessee House Bill 740 (2019) transfers the authority to administer grants for work-based learning programs to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. 

Aligning Education and Workforce Investments With Industry Needs 

Legislators are creating processes and groups to ensure investments in postsecondary education are coordinated to meet future industry needs in their state. They are also passing legislation to utilize economic and labor data in educational institution planning and programs.

  • Kentucky HB 419 (2020) Requires the Council on Postsecondary Education to compile most in-demand jobs in the state along with salary information. Also requires the collection and publication of data from postsecondary institutions including cost of attendance, graduation rates and starting salaries for graduates
  • Virginia House Bill 1006 (2018) requires the Virginia Board of Workforce Development to advise and oversee the development of a strategic workforce dashboard. The dashboard will include information relating to state labor market conditions and projected employment growth and decline.
  • Indiana Senate Bill 198 (2017) offers a variety of strategies for aligning education and workforce systems, including requiring the governor's office to develop a comprehensive workforce development plan with assistance of the Department of Workforce Development, the Commission for Higher Education, and the State Board of Education. Another notable component of alignment is requiring the State Board of Education and the Department of Workforce Development to work together in the development of career-technical education programs.
  • Arkansas Senate Bill 441 (2017) creates a legislative task force to review technical and workforce education programs. The Legislative Task Force on Workforce Education Excellence is charged with finding ways to improve and better align Arkansas’s career-technical education and workforce development programs. 

  • North Carolina Senate Bill 536 (2016) creates a website that uses economic and labor data to students with information regarding salary, completion, and employment rates associated with various majors and institutions of higher education. The website also provides information about projected workforce needs in the state.

Engaging Industry and Employers 

Some states are exploring efforts to further collaborate and engage with private partners and employers. These efforts seek to increase connections between education institutions and workforce partners.

  • Tennessee Senate Bill 1231 (2017) limits employer liability to encourage more employers to participate in Tennessee’s Labor Education Alignment Program (LEAP). It also allows the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission to develop curricula for work-based learning courses in LEAP. LEAP aims to better coordinate key stakeholders at state and local levels to address workforce readiness. LEAP enables Tennessee students enrolled in TCATs and community colleges to participate in technical training developed with input from area employers. LEAP started in 2013 with the passage of HB 1276.
  • Minnesota Senate Bill 1456 (2017) an omnibus jobs and economic growth appropriations bill includes a component requiring the commissioner of labor and industry to convene industry representatives to identify occupational competency standards for work-based learning programs in the areas of advanced manufacturing, health care, information technology, and agriculture. The industry representatives are also charged with identifying, developing, and implementing the work-based learning programs.
  • Nevada Senate Bill 516 (2016) creates the Office of Workforce Innovation and requires the office to explore public-private partnerships. 

Expanding Career and Technical Education 

States are expanding existing career and technical education programs (CTE) with additional funding and resources, while also creating new efforts to allow more students to participate. Generally, states fund CTE programs through grants to institutions or scholarships to students. States have also actively sought to develop new requirements for CTE programs, while creating career pathways for select fields. 

  • Michigan Senate Bill 941 (2018) allocated $100 million for grants to expand CTE programming and create a scholarship for postsecondary students pursuing a CTE program or credential.
  • Utah House Bill 437 (2018) establishes a scholarship program for students participating in a high-demand, targeted career and technical education program.
  • Illinois House Bill 5729 (2016) creates requirements for career-related competencies needed for high school graduation. It also establishes several career pathways in STEM fields.

Changing Teacher/Instructor Qualification Standards

Nearly two-thirds of states reported a shortage of CTE teachers in 2016, prompting many lawmakers to modify certification requirements for instructors and teachers in these high-demand fields. As career and credential education programs continue to expand, many states will continue to need to find ways to incentivize more teachers to enter these fields.

  • Oregon House Bill 4012 (2018) allows a retired member of Public Employees Retirement System to be reemployed as teacher of career and technical education without loss of retirement benefits.
  • Virginia Senate Bill 1583 (2017) permits schools to waive certain licensure requirements for any individual who is seeking to be employed as a career and technical education teacher.

Providing Information and Resources to Students and Families

  • Virginia HB 1276 (2020) Requires each school board to include information in a career plan for career and technical education including: a list of the top professions in the commonwealth by median pay and the education, training, and skills required for each such profession and the top degree programs at institutions of higher education in the commonwealth by median pay of program graduates.
  • Virginia House Bill 399 (2018) requires each school board to implement a plan to notify students and their parents of the availability of internships, externships, apprenticeships, credentialing programs, certification programs, licensure programs, and other work-based learning experiences.
  • Oklahoma House Bill 1693 (2017) adopts a system of career and academic planning into statewide graduation requirements.
  • Idaho Senate Bill 1029 (2017) mandates that school districts provide counseling services regarding the granting of postsecondary credit for career technical courses.

Additional Resources