West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the 2014 president of The Council of State Governments, sees education as a key to developing a workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. But he believes states also can do other things to attract jobs.

Technological advancements, particularly in the manufacturing area, mean that workers need more specialized skills to both get and keep jobs. To get to those skilled workers, companies must make a decision: Look for new, qualified employees or retrain their current workforce.

When policymakers think about economic development, it usually involves things like tax exemptions, matching funds or infrastructure development. What happens in classrooms, however, rarely enters into the equation. Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, who is serving as The Council of State Governments’ 2014 chair, believes it’s time to change that.

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Apprenticeships — in which an individual is paid to learn a set of skills through on-the-job training — help meet labor demands of businesses, while offering workers higher wages and better employment outcome. A December report by the Center for American Progress analyzed the effectiveness and return on investment for apprenticeships. These programs, the study found, not only generate a high level of satisfaction among employers, but also lead to significant increases in lifetime earnings for workers — as much as $300,000. The apprenticeship model, however, is not widely used in the United States. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, less than 5 percent of U.S. secondary-school students take part in apprenticeships. But the model has begun to attract the attention of more state lawmakers.

States often compete intensively to attract firms in emerging high-tech or science-focused industries. If leaders can successfully craft policies that entice those industries to relocate or expand in their state, it can mean better jobs and greater prosperity for residents. One obstacle for policymakers, though, is finding a way to link the significant human capital and expertise in state universities and research institutions with private sector companies looking for those same resources. A recent CSG webinar discussed ways to overcome those obstacles through research networking systems and how state economic development agencies can collaborate with the academic community to highlight in-state research expertise to the private sector. 

Christopher Matthews of Time magazine recently posted an interesting piece on an under looked aspect of the economy: worker productivity. His central argument is that rising worker productivity is what allows for either rising wages or more leisure time. However, worker productivity has been declining even before the onset of the recession and the numbers are astounding.

A recent CNNMoney post shows that Americans are actually working fewer hours now than in previous generations despite the perpetual complaint about “not having enough hours in the day.” Indeed the data shows hours worked dropping from 38.2 hours in 1964 to 33.7 hours in 2013.

CSG South

Since the end of the Great Recession, there have been encouraging signs that America’s manufacturing sector is experiencing a renaissance, albeit a muted one. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, and given that the manufacturing sector in the United States has been in a state of decline for a number of decades, a turnaround of this sector’s contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) is most encouraging.  While growth in the nation’s manufacturing sector since the Great Recession remains a very positive development, it also thrusts another challenge to the forefront: creating an adequately trained workforce in the states to staff the increasingly complex positions involved in the 21st century manufacturing process.

Given that a highly trained workforce is a central aspect of a thriving manufacturing sector, states across the country, particularly in the South, have placed a great deal of emphasis on ensuring that their economic development strategies incorporate the workforce development needs of these different companies. This Regional Resource examines the measures taken by the SLC states to create a better trained workforce for the various manufacturing operations in their jurisdictions. 

By 2018, the U.S. will need 22 million new college degrees; the nation will fall short of that number by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees. This means not only lost wages for workers, but also lost job creation for state economies. This workshop addressed opportunities for state policymakers to impact higher education funding, align pathways leading to employment and develop strategies for meeting the demands for a skilled workforce.

By 2018, the U.S. will need 22 million new college degrees; the nation will fall short of that number by at least 3 million postsecondary degrees. This means not only lost wages for workers, but also lost job creation for state economies. This workshop addressed opportunities for state policymakers to impact higher education funding, align pathways leading to employment and develop strategies for meeting the demands for a skilled workforce.

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