Most states are seeing evidence of economic growth with an increase in job creation and overall decrease in unemployment. However, too many individuals remain unemployed, the skills gap dividing workers’ technical skills and those capabilities needed by business and industry continues to grow, and the lack of opportunities to advance exists for numerous employees. Training workers with the skills and competencies needed to sustain employment will help provide for their family and will assist American businesses grow the economy. In 2015 state policymakers and executive branch officials will focus on job-driven training, reducing the skills gap, aligning systems and targeting the hard-to-employ.

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in education policy for 2015, including school readiness, experiential and work-based learning, academic success for at-risk populations, innovative state accountability systems, and advance attainment of degrees, certificates and other high-quality credentials. 

CSG Director of Education Policy Pam Goins outlines the top five issues in workforce development policy for 2015, including job driven-training, reducing the skills gap through the use of career pathways, alignment of education and workforce development systems, services for the hard-to-employ, and veterans' employment.

On Thursday, Nov. 20 a group of state legislators and education officials met with staff from the White House Intergovernmental Affairs and representatives from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.  An update on the Administration's priorities, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and critical early education initiatives were discussed.

The language of workforce development is changing and the federal government’s shift in focus presents both some big opportunities and challenges for states. In July, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—also known as WIOA. It was a reauthorization of the legislation formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The act requires regional and statewide collaboration between workforce development programs, industry leaders and educators. Each state will be required, beginning July 1, 2016, to submit a four-year unified strategy that identifies skills gaps with employers and how the state is going to close those gaps.

President Barack Obama in July signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, which is designed to help individuals seeking employment access the needed education, training and support services to be successful in the labor market. This complimentary CSG eCademy session offers an overview of the federal law and its impact on states and explores innovative career pathway programs currently in place.

On October 1-3, 2014, the Policy Academy on Using Education Data to Improve Workforce Development brought together stakeholders from key states to facilitate discussion about the potential benefits of engaging with the research community when enacting and implementing state policy. The goal was to engage in nonpartisan conversation to utilize education data in creating effective policy to help students graduate with the skills to be workforce-ready.  

Education data and workforce data are both important for state workforce development efforts, but Dane Stangler believes getting people to recognize that is difficult. “How do we persuade people, how do we talk to people about why data is important?” Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, said during a recent CSG policy academy, “Using Education Data to Improve Workforce Development.”

The Department of Labor has awarded $14,837,785 in grants to six states - California, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and South Dakota - to improve employment opportunities for adults and youth with disabilities as part of the Disability Employment Initiative. The initiative awards grants to help increase the participation of adults and youth with disabilities in existing career pathway systems and other programs that bring together educational insitutions, the private sector and disability advocates. 

The recent New York Times article entitled “Seeking New Start, Finding Steep Cost” portrays the Workforce Investment Act – recently reauthorized as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – in a rather negative light, claiming that “many graduates wind up significantly worse off than when they started.” After extensive review of public records and interviews, the Times article presents a compelling case for greater accountability at the federal and state level for workforce training programs.

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