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50-State Comparison: Education and Workforce Development Connections (archive)

While the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act plays a role in workforce development, state policymakers actively seek ways beyond WIOA requirements to connect education with workforce development. This resource provides an overview of education’s role within state workforce development systems, processes for identifying high-demand occupations and financial aid to support workforce education.

Click on the metrics below for 50-State Comparisons showing how all states approach these policies. Or view a specific state’s approach by going to the individual state profile page.

Workforce Development Systems

In compliance with WIOA, all states have a statewide workforce development board or council. However, some states have gone beyond the requirements in federal policy to expand the board’s membership to include additional members within the education system, such as state superintendents of education and chancellors of postsecondary institutions. Additionally, some states have developed policies that expand the responsibilities or charges of the board to include explicit connections to education in both K-12 and postsecondary settings. This comparison identifies each state’s workforce board and council, education representatives and entities identified in state policy that are required members of the board or council and additional charges of the board outlined in state policy that connect education and workforce development.

Identifying High-Demand Occupations

As states work to align their workforce needs with appropriate education and training, they frequently do so by identifying high-demand occupations and the training necessary to enter the occupations. For the purposes of this comparison, high-demand occupations are defined as those identified in the state as being in need within the state economy or where employee shortages exist. This comparison identifies states that define high-demand occupations within statute, the process used to identify the occupations and if a state publicly displays these occupations and required training or credentials.

Workforce Education and Training Financial Aid

To support access to workforce specific postsecondary programs, at least 26 states have adopted financial aid programs to incent completion. Through workforce focused postsecondary financial aid programs, aid is generally offered to students seeking a postsecondary credential in fields that have been designated as high need or high demand. Determinations for high need or high demand are identified in different ways, including within the program policy itself, through another state agency or through a collaboration between state agencies.

For the purpose of this comparison, targeted grant or loan repayment programs specifically for educators or medical professionals were not included. This 50-State Comparison focuses on aid programs that were intended to incent enrollment and/or completion in a broader set of workforce fields.


Workforce Systems

  • What is the state workforce board or council?
  • What education entities or representatives are required to be members of the state workforce board or council?
  • Beyond the requirements of WIOA, what is the charge of the state workforce board or council that connects education to workforce development?

Identifying High-Demand Occupations

  • Does the state have policy that defines high-demand occupations?
  • Does the state outline the process for identifying high-demand occupations?
  • Does the state publicly identify and publish high-demand occupations and required credentials for the occupations/jobs?

Workforce Education and Training Financial Aid

  • Is the program a grant, a grant with an employment/repayment stipulation or a forgivable loan?
  • Is the program based on financial need?
  • Does the program allow students to enroll full or part time?
  • Is a maximum age cap for program participation in place?
  • Is eligibility for the program linked to when the student completed high school?
  • Does the program include two-year programs?
  • Does the program include programs that take less than two years to complete?
  • Does the program cover costs beyond tuition and fees?
  • Does the program require collaboration between state postsecondary and workforce development agencies?

Key Takeaways

  • At least 23 states and the District of Columbia explicitly outline additional responsibilities or charges of the state board or council that connect education and workforce development in state policy.
  • At least 27 states and the District of Columbia define high-demand occupations through state statute.
  • At least 26 different programs leverage the postsecondary financial aid system to incent completion of a high-demand program across states.

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Oct. 5, 2020

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