Workforce Development Collaborations Discussed Among Postsecondary Education, Business Leaders

Postsecondary education representatives, business leaders and policymakers continued a conversation about workforce development Dec. 10 spurred by the August release of The Council of State Governments’ report, “A Framework for State Policymakers: Developing Pathways to Ensure a Skilled Workforce for State Prosperity.” The report outlines recommendations for state-level policies that help ensure students are prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.

“This is just a framework,” said CSG Executive Director David Adkins at the Career Pathways and Innovative Delivery Models in Postsecondary Education policy academy during the 2015 CSG National Conference in Nashville, Tenn. “What we want to do at The Council of State Governments is now give life to this.”

Adkins introduced Tom Plath, vice president of human resources for global businesses at International Paper. Plath said he would “throw open the doors of International Paper” to show session attendees workforce development issues at his company, such as transferring knowledge from a generation that will be retired within the next decade to the upcoming workforce.

Brian Sponsler, director of the Education Commission of the States’ Postsecondary and Workforce Development Institute, said workforce development is getting a lot of attention in legislatures across the states. The commission provides resources and advice to education policy leaders.

Legislative activity generally focuses on four areas: fiscal incentives for institutions and individuals, targeted programs and pathways, longitudinal data systems, and the establishment of working groups.

Sponsler highlighted programs and actions in several states. In Louisiana, the Workforce and Innovation for a Stronger Economy fund provided $40 million to help universities and community and technical colleges train students for high-demand fields. In Kentucky, the Office of Education and Workforce Statistics was created to collect statewide education data.

Stephen Tremaine, vice president of early colleges at Bard College in New York, said policymakers should look at—and fund—early college to aid in workforce development.

Early colleges allow students to focus on higher education two years earlier than usual. Students can earn associate degrees as they work toward their high school diplomas. College credits are earned at the high schools.

 “You get to teach students like adults and support them like teenagers,” Tremaine said.

 Honda supports early colleges through its EPIC program in Ohio, said Scot McLemore, technical workforce development manager at Honda North America Inc. The EPIC program also engages middle school students to get them interested in manufacturing jobs.

“We are all about innovative solutions, and we think this is pretty innovative,” McLemore said.