Connecting Education to the Workforce

Written by:
Written by: Jeremy Anderson
Sept. 19, 2019

Researchers project that 85% of the jobs that will comprise the workforce in 2030 don’t currently exist today.

Developing a workforce that will not only thrive in this unknown, but also have access to the education and training that align with those needs, is top of mind for policymakers, economists and workers themselves.

It is one of the reasons why federal policymakers declare this month, September, as National Workforce Development Month.

It is one of the reasons policymakers in 49 states this year introduced more than 250 bills related to workforce development in their respective states.

It is why at least 35 governors mentioned current or future workforce demands in their State of the State addresses earlier this year.

And it is why we continue to support all of you with the research and technical assistance you need to make the best decisions for your state. Along with state initiatives and task forces, we have seen an increase in legislation related to workforce development, highlighting a movement toward codifying processes, roles, goals and progress as it relates to educating and training the future workforce.

Last year, we interviewed officials in four states about their challenges in forming aligned systems and connecting postsecondary outcomes with workforce needs. From that, we identified five emerging themes among aligned state workforce development systems. In Texas, for example, they created the Tri Agency Workforce Initiative, requiring the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, Texas Workforce Commission and Texas Education Agency to align efforts and clearly articulate that alignment externally. And states like Georgia, Indiana, Iowa and Utah have begun to designate task forces, boards and councils to focus solely on workforce development and bring together the range of perspectives and stakeholders that can unify that work statewide. (We have information on the composition of workforce boards and councils in all 50 states and the District of Columbia here. And we look at other ways states are connecting education to the workforce in this 50-State Comparison.)

Additionally, the federal reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act last year opened new opportunities for states to apply funding toward expansion and development of programs, particularly as they relate to CTE. We have a four-part blog series that explores these new opportunities for states and their efforts to strengthen the connection between education and industry. Another four-part blog series looks specifically at work-based learning — how states are defining it, expanding it to middle school and using new flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act to scale this type of hands-on learning for students.

At a time when public opinion is questioning the connection between postsecondary education and training, the onus is falling, in part, on state leaders to make that connection for their constituents. Already, 41 states have educational attainment goals, with many — like Maine — linking directly to workforce needs. The work is happening, and we are here to support it.

Author profile

Jeremy Anderson

Jeremy Anderson

President at Education Commission of the States |

As the eighth president of Education Commission of the States, Jeremy leads a team of more than 55 education policy experts that serve policymakers in all 50 states through research, reports, convenings and counsel. Prior, Jeremy served many elected officials in Congress, governors' offices and state legislatures across the country. When he is not racing from airport to airport to serve state education policymakers, Jeremy enjoys running, mountain biking, skiing and time with his wife, son and two daughters. Jeremy truly believes that the best education policy happens when policymakers are able to learn from each other.

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