Workforce development is a topic of perennial interest in state legislatures. Whether testing out new solutions to meet state workforce needs or reauthorizing tried-and-true methods, legislators continue to debate policies intended to boost their state’s workforce each session. Read on to learn more about trends in workforce development enactment we saw in 2019 and to see examples of legislation in each category.
Focusing on Workforce Systems
States continued a trend we’ve seen in recent years by continuing to work on making improvements to their workforce development systems. The examples below from Alabama and Arkansas focus more on studying their state’s current systems at large and making recommendations, whereas the Connecticut legislation is honed in to specifically target the apprenticeship piece of their system. Whatever the focus, these enactments are examples of relatively sweeping pieces of legislation making significant changes to the state’s current workforce system.
- Alabama Senate Joint Resolution 31: Creates the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on 21st Century Workforce. The Commission, which will be comprised of 6 members of the legislature and the Lieutenant Governor, is charged with studying and making recommendations to the legislature on workforce development programs and the coordination of those programs across state government.
- Arkansas Senate Bill 522: Creates a comprehensive, statewide workforce development system and helps coordinate existing workforce programs. The legislation established a workforce development board composed of members from diverse industries in the state to study the current workforce resources available and to develop a strategic plan and road map for meeting current and future workforce demands. The workforce development board is also tasked with making recommendations to the legislature and the governor on how best to streamline and improve the workforce development system in the state.
- Connecticut Senate Bill 356: Requires the state’s Labor Commissioner and Commissioner of Education to partner and establish a committee to coordinate and modernize apprenticeship training programs in the states. The legislation requires the Commissioner of Education to identify potential pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training programs that can be integrated and leverage funding of CTE programs with high schools and higher education intuitions for careers in various industries. The committee is directed to report their analysis and recommendations on the state’s current apprenticeship training programs as well as any improvements that could be made to the General Assembly.
Targeting Specific Groups
States also continued to target workforce development policies towards certain population groups that may substantially benefit from additional incentives and opportunities. Veterans and individuals with criminal records were two groups a number of states focused their workforce development legislation on in 2019. Other states enacted legislation in order to diversify their workforce programs and bring populations who may have been traditionally overlooked into the fold.
- Alaska House Bill 49: Large bill tackling many aspects of the state’s criminal justice system. Among other things, requires the state Commissioner of Corrections to work with the Department of Labor to provide access, after release, to job training and employment assistance and any other job-related reentry services available for individuals come out of incarceration.
- California Assembly Bill 1019: Builds off existing workforce development framework in the state by adding two positions to the Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship to specifically bring a voice for workers with disabilities to the committee and to encourage greater participation for the disabled in apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. The legislation also required the Interagency Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship to create a subcommittee to address apprenticeship for the disabled community.
- Connecticut Senate Bill 968: Establishes a Military-to-Machinists job training program within the state Department of Labor for veterans. The legislation tasks the Department of Labor in partnership with Workforce Development Boards in the state to run a pilot program to assist any veteran in earning an advanced manufacturing certificate from a qualifying program and securing employment in the field.
- Illinois House Bill 2896: Establishes the Diversity in Health Care Professions Task Force to diversify the healthcare workforce in the state of Illinois. The legislation requires the task force to work with policymakers to design programs and recruitment activities that support and advocate for a “full spectrum of diversity” across race, ethnicity, culture, language and religion.
Maryland House Bill 1167: Establishes the Apprenticeship Career Training Pilot Program for formerly incarcerated individuals. The program requires the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation to establish certain standards under which employers may be eligible to receive grant funding, related to their hiring and training of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Texas House Bill 696: Establishes the Operation Welcome Home Program in the state to help expedite entry of veterans and military service members into the workforce through the use of enhanced employment services related to education, career technical training and entrepreneurship. Ultimately, the legislation intends to ensure veterans searching for employment in the state have access to these career and employment services.
Policies incentivizing either individuals or businesses to participate in workforce development programs continued to be popular among state legislatures. Legislation in this category includes more traditional, tax-based incentives for businesses as well as newer approaches states are testing out such as college graduate retention programs and student loan repayment assistance.
- Indiana House Bill 1002: Establishes the Career Coaching Grant Program and Fund. States that the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet will administer the grant program and fund allowing eligible employers in the state to spend the grant funding on qualifying new hires, on current employees who are working towards a postsecondary credential, a nationally recognized industry credential or specialized company training and for increasing wages.
- Indiana Senate Bill 607: Creates the Workforce Diploma Reimbursement Program and related fund to allow the state’s Workforce Cabinet and the Department of Workforce Development to provide payments to eligible program providers that assist adults in developing employability skills. Eligible program providers can assist adults in a variety of ways to develop employability skills including in developing career technical skills and obtaining high school diplomas.
- Maryland Senate Bill 581: This legislation both extends the termination date of the state’s More Job for Marylanders Program and extends some of the benefits of the program specifically for businesses that choose to locate or expand in state opportunity zones. Businesses that choose to locate or expand in state opportunity zones will be eligible for additional tax incentives under the legislation.
- Mississippi Senate Bill 2447: Provides career and technical education grants through the State Board of Education and the State Workforce Investment Board to schools for each student who earns a qualifying industry certification.
- North Dakota House Bill 1171: Tasks the state board of higher education to adopt policies and procedures to develop, implement and administer a skilled workforce student loan repayment program. The state, in cooperation with the Bank of North Dakota can receive assistance with student loan repayment when they complete a degree program related to a high-demand, skilled career and meet certain other requirements.
- New Hampshire SB 12: Establishes the New Hampshire college graduate retention incentive partnership. The partnership provides financial incentives to college graduates who are hired by participating employers. College graduates can receive $1,000 for each of their first four years working with a qualifying employer in the state.
Finally, apprenticeships continued to be a hot topic as legislators discussed policies to better train and prepare their workers for jobs in high-demand sectors. In 2019 some states were working to align their apprenticeship programs with the major standards and requirements defined by the Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program, while others considered apprenticeship and training programs to bolster the supply of skilled workers in specific industries.
- Alabama Senate Bill 295: Sweeping apprenticeship bill that tackles a number of related topics. Creates the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship, develops the Alabama Registered and Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program and provides a variety of tax incentives to employers who hire apprentices. This legislation helps align apprenticeship programs in the state with the US Department of Labor’s Registered Apprenticeship program definitions and requirements. This legislation continues a trend we’ve seen over the past few years of states ensuring their own apprenticeships are officially covered and recognized by USDOL.
- New Jersey Senate Bill 372: Requires the state Commissioner of Education, in collaboration with the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development, to develop guidelines to encourage high school students to participate in apprenticeship training. The guidelines are to be used by high school counselors to coordinate services with representatives of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council to help engage students in apprenticeship opportunities.
- New Mexico House Bill 315: Creates the New Mexico Agricultural Workforce Development Program, intended to create internship and apprenticeship opportunities in the state in agriculture-related professions through local employers. Participating agricultural businesses are eligible for reimbursements tied to the number of apprentices they hire.
Iris Hentze is a policy associate in the Employment, Labor & Retirement Program